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Free Barron's Booknotes-A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

SCENE THREE

The poker game is still underway when Blanche and Stella return from their night out. Stanley, on a losing streak, lashes out at Mitch for wanting to go home. He also snaps at Blanche, whacks Stella on the thigh, and orders the two women to leave the men to their game.

Alone with Stella in the other room, Blanche observes that Mitch had seemed noticeably more courteous and sensitive than the other men. When Blanche and Stella laugh aloud, Stanley shouts, "You hens cut out that conversation in there." But Stella protests. In her house she'll do as she pleases.

Does it seem as though a row is about to begin? When Blanche turns on the radio, Stanley demands that it be turned off. When she refuses, he does it himself. The poker players, like nervous animals before a storm, become restless with Stanley's antics. When Mitch drops out of the game, Blanche seizes the chance to talk with him. Observe Blanche in conversation with Mitch. She's a study in deception. She knows just how to charm him. She talks of the beauty of sick people. (Stella has told her that Mitch is devoted to his sick mother.) She playfully slurs some words, pretending to be slightly drunk. She tells him that Stella is her older sister (a lie), and that Stella's need for help has brought her to town (another lie).

Blanche asks Mitch to cover a naked light bulb with a colored paper lantern, bought earlier that evening. Mitch obliges, unaware of Blanche's intention to hide her real age and, when you consider her other deceptions, perhaps a lot more than that. At any rate, Blanche's wiles work on Mitch. He is won over instantly, hypnotized by her charm.


Blanche clicks on the radio. You hear a beautiful waltz. Caught up in the music, Blanche dances gracefully. Mitch imitates her awkwardly, like a dancing bear.

NOTE:

The waltz, Wien, Wien, nur du allein, is a sentimental expression of love for old-time Vienna, the city of dreams. The song conjures up images of elegance and splendor that contrast with the run-down apartment of the Kowalskis. Ironically, at the time A Streetcar Named Desire was written the beauty of Vienna existed only as a memory. The city lay in ruins from heavy bombing during the war. Watch for other discrepancies between reality and illusion in the play. - 10}

Stanley, in a rage, stalks into the room, grabs the radio and throws it out the window. Then he charges Stella and strikes her. Before he can land another blow, the other men rush forward and pin his arms behind him. He suddenly becomes limp, as though exhausted by his tantrum. To sober him up, his friends drag him to the shower.

Meanwhile, Blanche, distraught and frightened, has organized a hasty escape upstairs to Eunice's with Stella in tow.

Soon Stanley emerges dripping. Somehow his meanness has vanished. Now he's like a vulnerable little boy almost in tears, crying for his baby, his Stella. Half dressed, he stumbles outside to the front pavement and howls again and again, "Stella! Stella!" Eunice warns him to leave her alone, but after a time Stella comes out the door and slips down the stairs to Stanley. The two embrace. Stanley then lifts her and carries her into the dark flat.

Does it surprise you to see Stella return to Stanley so soon after he abused her? Obviously, she loves him desperately. Perhaps she is aroused by Stanley's bestiality.

NOTE:

Williams learned a good deal about uninhibited sexuality from the writings of the English novelist D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930). An artist-rebel, Lawrence scorned conventional sexual behavior. Williams, himself a sexual nonconformist, admired both Lawrence and his work. One of Williams' plays, I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix, is based on the last days of Lawrence's life.

Blanche seems shaken by Stanley's outburst. Mitch returns and tries to comfort her. Together, they smoke a cigarette. Apparently still dazed and confused by what she had witnessed, Blanche thanks Mitch for his kindness.

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