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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
Blanche, of course, has told Stella about the rape. As a new mother, Stella looks to the future with hope and refuses to believe Blanche's story. At the start of this scene Stella tells Eunice, "I couldn't believe her story and go on living with Stanley." Eunice concurs: "Don't ever believe it. Life has got to go on. No matter what happens, you've got to keep on going."
Even if Stella and Eunice secretly believe Blanche's story-you can't tell whether they do or don't-they've chosen to deny its validity. Stella has probably convinced herself that Blanche invented the rape to avoid going back to Laurel. Also, after Mitch threw her off, Blanche lost touch with reality, so Stella has arranged a "rest" for Blanche at an insane asylum in the country. Some critics have observed that Stella sends Blanche away as an act of revenge for all the abuse she's taken from her older sister. On the other hand, Stella may have Blanche's best interests in mind.
Blanche has confused her trip to the country with the cruise on Shep's yacht,
and as this scene opens, Blanche is preparing her wardrobe. Stella caters
to Blanche's every wish, hoping to keep her sister calm before she leaves.
She's also feeling remorseful about having committed Blanche to an asylum.
When the time comes for Blanche to be taken away, Stella cries out in
despair. Perhaps she still harbors doubts about the alleged rape.
During this scene Stanley and his friends are back at the poker table. This time Stanley is winning. It seems fitting that he should be ahead. This is the day he resumes his position as king of his castle.
Blanche's voice diverts Mitch's attention from the game. You can't be sure what Mitch is thinking, but his gaze is preoccupied, as though he's pondering what might have been.
Soon the car from the asylum arrives. When Blanche sees that the doctor is not Shep Huntleigh, she returns to the apartment, pretending to have forgotten something. The matron follows and prepares a straitjacket in case Blanche balks or grows violent. Distressed, Blanche begins to hear voices as reverberating echoes. Then you hear the polka playing in the distance. The same lurid reflections you saw on the night of the rape begin to dance on the apartment walls.
All through the play Williams has used sound and light to focus attention on something he wants you to remember. It is a technique you'll find in the works of other American playwrights, like Eugene O'Neill and Thornton Wilder. The montage of images sweeping across the stage in this scene of Streetcar demonstrates how vividly the technique can portray characters' emotions.
Stanley and the matron approach Blanche, who becomes increasingly panic-stricken. Stanley tells her cruelly that she hasn't forgotten anything of value unless she means the paper lantern, which he tears off the lightbulb and hands to her. Blanche cries out as if the lantern were herself. She tries to run, but the matron grabs her. Outside, Stella moans, "Oh, God, what have I done to my sister?"
Finally the doctor speaks kindly. Blanche responds with relief and takes his arm. While being escorted to the waiting car, she tells the doctor, "Whoever you are-I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."
Stella is distraught. Stanley comes to her aid. As Blanche is driven away, Stanley puts his hand inside Stella's blouse. It appears that life will soon return to normal for the Kowalskis and for the other residents of Elysian Fields.