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MonkeyNotes-A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
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Scene 5

Summary

The scene opens with Blanche composing a letter to Shep Huntleigh, the old admirer, and laughing at herself for being such a good liar. She fools herself and Shep by saying that she has led a very social life in New Orleans with "a continued round of entertainments, teas, cocktails, and luncheons". When she is reading her letter to Stella, a fight breaks out upstairs in the Hubbells' apartment. Eunice accuses Steve of chasing women at the local pub. After several roars, thuds, and crashes, Eunice rushes down the stairs threatening to call the police. Like Stella, however, Eunice makes up with Steve.

Stanley comes in and Blanche registers his arrival with nervous gestures. He is not in a good mood, slams drawers, and irritates Blanche intentionally. Reacting to his behavior, she inquires about his astrological sign and learns it is Capricorn, the Goad; Blanche is a Virgo, the sign of the Virgin. Appropriately, both signs are sex symbols. Stanley then asks Blanche whether she knows a man named Shaw. Her face pales instantly, and she makes guarded responses. Stanley says that Shaw claims to have met her at a hotel called Flamingo. Blanche lies and replies that, with its bad reputation, she would not be seen there. He subtly threatens Blanche by saying that Shaw is often in and out of Laurel, so the matter can easily be checked out. Blanche almost faints from fear of being exposed. Stanley, aware of her uneasiness, leaves for bowling.

Blanche, now in a panic, asks Stella if they have heard rumors and tries to rationalize her past behavior. Stella tries to change the subject, but Blanche continues. In financial straits after the loss of Belle Reve, Blanche admits she sometimes gave to strangers what they demanded - physical pleasure. Stella does not care to listen to her sister's tales and stops the conversation by giving Blanche a soft drink. Blanche spills the drink on her skirt and lets out a piercing cry. She explains that she is nervous because she has a date with Mitch later in the evening. She tells Stella she has lied to Mitch about her age and her primness, for she wants him to really like her. Blanche, who has already been at the Kowalskis for three months, also promises her sister that she will not overstay her welcome.

Stanley arrives to take Stella bowling with Steve and Eunice. Soon after they leave, a young man rings the doorbell. He has come to collect for the newspaper subscription. Blanche tells him she is not the owner but offers him a soft drink. He politely refuses and begins to leave. She calls him back, tells him he is handsome, and kisses him on the lips. When he hurries away, she reminds herself that she should "keep my hands off children." Mitch then arrives with a bouquet of roses, which she accepts with a curtsy.


Notes

Blanche's lie about leading a grand and social life in New Orleans reinforces her weakness for illusion. She seems to dream about happy things in order to alleviate the harshness of her everyday life.

The fight that breaks out at the Hubbell's apartment and their subsequent making up is a flashback to the closing of Scene 3. It also serves as a reminder of the kind of life considered normal between a married couple in this class of society; violence and physical passion dominate their lifestyle, and uncultured behavior is their creed. The reader realizes to what extent Blanche is a misfit here. (Remember that in Scene 1, Stella had warned that their friends were not refined.) It also indicates what a married life with Mitch may possibly be like and the amount of compromise she may have to make if she chooses a New Orleans husband.

The nervous gestures that Blanche begins to make upon Stanley's arrival and the fact that they continue until the end of the scene foreshadow the revelation of her tragic past. It is in this scene that Blanche drops the mask of respectability and confides in Stella of her promiscuous ways. Very aptly, Stanley as Capricorn the Goat emerges as the hunter; and Blanche, born under the sign of Virgo the Virgin, is the hunted. The dramatist uses these explicit sexual symbols to foreshadow the fact that Stanley will physically conquer Blanche. In this scene, his hunt has begun. Blanche's world shows further signs of disintegration under Stanley's ruthlessness.

Both, Blanche's rationalization of her promiscuous actions and her statement to Stella, "But honey, believe me, I feel things more than I tell you" are desperate appeals to be heard. Her liaisons with strangers were, in part, attempts to be recognized as an individual, to have her existence acknowledged. Now her youth and good looks are fading. She is faced with the harsh reality of her existence, and she does not like what she sees, just as she does not like the harsh brightness of the light bulb. She covers the light bulb with a paper lantern, just as she covers the truth about herself with lies.

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