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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 SEVEN

After four months Blanche and Stanley are still at odds. Is there any doubt which of them will win in the end?

Stella is setting up for Blanche's birthday celebration when Stanley comes home elated. "I've got th' dope on your big sister, Stella," he says. A supply man who's been driving through Laurel for years has told him the X-rated story of Blanche DuBois. Her daintiness and squeamish ways are nothing but a big act.

Stella refuses to believe the outrageous story, but Stanley insists that Blanche had been told to leave town for being a hotel whore and for seducing one of the seventeen-year-old boys in her class.

As Stanley tells the story, Blanche soaks in the tub and cheerfully sings "Paper Moon," a pop tune about a world that's "as phony as it can be."

NOTE:

The stage directions often prescribe playing background music that relates to the action. In Scene Six, as Blanche recalled her husband's suicide, you heard "The Varsouviana" a polka that was played at the Moon Lake Casino on the night Allan shot himself. You'll soon hear it again.


Stella urges Stanley to be kind to Blanche, who needs understanding because of her tragic marriage. But Stanley won't relent. Moreover, he's already informed Mitch about Blanche's sordid past. Stanley claims that he felt obliged to warn Mitch that Blanche is a fraud, but you might suspect other reasons for his action.

Blanche's marriage to Mitch is now out of the question. To compound the injury, Stanley has bought Blanche a bus ticket back to Laurel. What's to become of Blanche, Stella wonders. Stanley's answer shows how little he cares.

Emerging from the bathroom, Blanche reads distress on Stella's face, but Stella won't disclose the reason. That task belongs to Stanley.

SCENE EIGHT

Naturally, Mitch doesn't show up for the birthday dinner. Blanche tries vainly to keep up her spirits and tells a joke. Stella laughs weakly, but Stanley remains stone faced. As he reaches across the table for another chop, Stella calls him a "pig." She orders him to wash his greasy face and fingers and to help her clear the table.

Stanley throws his plate and cup on the floor. "That's how I'll clear the table!" he bellows.

NOTE:

Audiences watching Streetcar often laugh at Stanley's table-clearing technique. While Stanley's action contains humor, it also has its frightening aspect. When he allows himself to be dominated by violence, he has the potential to do unspeakable damage.

Stanley berates Stella. Since Blanche arrived, he's been a second-class member of his own household. As you watch Stanley reclaim his position as "king" of the roost, he reveals that he's embittered by the wedge that Blanche has placed between him and Stella. Perhaps you can sympathize with him on that score.

After Stanley stalks out, Blanche tries to phone Mitch to find out why he stood her up. Meanwhile, Stella goes to Stanley on the porch and starts to weep. Stanley embraces and comforts her. He assures her that Blanche's departure will set things right once more. They'll make love using the colored lights again, and they'll make all the noise they want.

Suddenly, you hear Steve and Eunice's shrieking laughter upstairs. It serves as a reminder that Elysian Fields is a type of jungle, where primitive impulses and instincts prevail.

To bring the so-called party to an end, Stanley presents Blanche with a birthday gift. Blanche perks up in surprise, but when she sees that it's a bus ticket to Laurel, she gags in anguish. Can you find any justification for Stanley's cruelty? However you view Stanley, he seems determined to drag Blanche's life to a tragic conclusion.

As the scene ends, Stella's labor begins, and Stanley rushes her to the hospital.

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