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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 FOUR

The next morning Stella, tired but evidently content after a night of love, lies peacefully in bed. Blanche expresses dismay over last night's brawl, but Stella objects. It's scarcely worth speaking of. Anyway, all is forgiven because Stanley felt ashamed afterwards.

Stella admits to her sister that Stanley's brutish manner appeals to her. In fact, it's rather thrilling. Stella recounts the excitement of her wedding night when Stanley charged around the apartment breaking lightbulbs with the heel of her shoe. How might Blanche have reacted in a like situation?

You've already seen Blanche treating Stella tactlessly. But now she becomes downright cruel. Stanley is a madman, she says, and if Stella had any sense, she'd leave him immediately.


To understand Stella, you might ask why she chooses to stay with her ill-tempered husband. Is she a model of broad-mindedness? Or is she a weakling? Or has she become a fatalist, that is, someone who just accepts her lot in life? As you'll see later, Stella's personality and values will help to seal Blanche's fate.

Blanche urges Stella to come away with her. She proposes opening a shop of some kind with money provided by Shep Huntleigh, a rich acquaintance. Although Shep may be only a figment of her imagination, Blanche starts to write him a telegram: "Sister and I in desperate situation...." In truth, of course, the despair is all Blanche's.

For Stella most of life's anxieties and troubles are made trivial by what she calls the "things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark." Stella calls it love, but Blanche terms it "brutal desire" and begins to address Stella on the subject of Stanley's bestiality. Blanche, as though a spokesman for civilization, talks of man's noble accomplishments in art and poetry. All that, she says, has passed Stanley by. Blanche ends with a passionate plea: "Don't-don't hang back with the brutes!"

NOTE:

Blanche's speech illustrates one of the play's major conflicts, a symbolic clash between civilization and barbarism. By the end of the scene, you'll be able to chalk up a victory for one of them.

After Blanche finishes, Stanley reveals that he'd overheard the whole conversation. Stella's moment of decision has come. Will she be swayed by Blanche's eloquence? Stanley's grin of triumph, flashed at Blanche over Stella's shoulder, suggests that it was really no contest.

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