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Later in the evening, the Varsouviana can still be heard as Blanche, alone in the apartment and poorly dressed is drinking heavily to drown the music in her head. The doorbell rings, and she sees that it is Mitch, unshaven and in dirty work clothes. Blanche, who is slightly drunk, hides the liquor bottle and powders her nose to appear decent and attractive. After Mitch enters, she reprimands him for having treated her shabbily; but she admits she is glad he has come, for his arrival has stopped the `Varsouviana' tune that has been playing in her head. She offers him a drink, but he refuses to have Stanley's liquor. She knows that something is wrong with Mitch, and, as if to avoid hearing what it is, she will not let him get in a word. Blanche apologizes for being improperly dressed and asks him if he forgot the dinner invitation.
The agitated Mitch notices that the apartment is dark and wants to turn on some lights. Blanche protests. She does not want truth and brightness; she does not want Mitch to see her in full light. The darkness creates an illusory world for Blanche where she can hide the truth of her age and the truth of her past. But Stanley has already "turned on the light" for Mitch; now he wants to see it for himself. He tears off the paper lantern covering the bulb and takes a close look at Blanche's appearance. She is much older than she has led him to believe, but Mitch could have accepted this fact. What he cannot accept is the truth about her immoral past and the lies she has told to cover it up. He lets her know he has heard about the affairs and the Flamingo Hotel. When Blanche realizes that Mitch truly knows all about her tainted past, she breaks down. She explains that after Allan's death, only intimacies with strangers seemed to satisfy her. When she came to New Orleans, she was desperate. Then she met Mitch, who is lonely like she is; she feels that they could make each other happy, give each other stability. In order to win his love and admiration, she has hidden the truth; but she claims that in her heart, she has never lied.
Just then, a blind Mexican vendor passes by, selling artificial flowers for the dead. She reminds Blanche of the many deaths she has faced in the past. Now, there is a new death; without Mitch, she has no prospects for the future. Suddenly, Mitch tries to draw her near; anxious for the sex she has been withholding all summer. She stops his advances and asks him to marry her; he tells Blanche she is not good enough for him. Angered by his cruelty, Blanche tells Mitch to leave. When he stands immobile, she starts screaming "fire!" Mitch hurries out, and with him goes Blanche's last chance for stability in her life.
The Varsouviana is playing in Blanche's head again. With Mitch's arrival, the polka music stops. As soon as Blanche senses that all is not well with Mitch, she chatters endlessly to postpone the moment of confrontation. That she prefers illusion and not realism is highlighted throughout the play. In this scene, she acknowledges that truth and says, "I don't want realism." She wants to live in a make-believe world because it is not so painful. That is why she does not always tell the truth. She only tells what ought to be the truth, and in her mind that is not really lying. Blanche wanted to retain her southern aristocratic lifestyle, but she was unable to accomplish that. She also wanted to remain a pure woman who lived and died for Allan, but that was not to be either.
She seeks her last refuge with Stella. In a society where youth and good looks hold great importance, Blanche is fighting a losing battle. She turns to drinking in order to blot out some of the misery. It is ironic that the liquor bottle she finds is called 'Southern Comfort'. Blanche has arrived in the southern part of America for some comfort, but neither the liquor nor the stay seem to be giving her that. Thus, Tenessee Williams' details reinforce Blanche's tragedy.
This scene the significance of the play's title is brought out. Surrounded by the memories of her dead husband and the dying members of the family at Belle Reve, Blanche had felt so afraid of Death's proximity that she sought the opposite: Desire. For her, Desire symbolized life, youth, and everything that is pleasant. She gave herself freely in order to experience life; ironically, Blanche dies inside as a result of her moral decay. When she loses her job and all respectability in Laurel, she comes to New Orleans seeking a new life. It is important to remember that upon her arrival, she first takes a streetcar named Desire, which leads to a streetcar named Cemetery (Death). Blanche's desires have led to her "death".
This scene shows Mitch as he really is and how different he is from Blanche. He lacks refinement. He hails from a different class in society. For all his sensitivity and earnestness, he has a limited understanding of the world. He, like Stanley, judges the world in simplistic terms; life is either black or white, a truth or a lie. After he learns the facts of Blanche's past from Stanley, he judges her as a lie; she is all black to him now. He is incapable of understanding her gray areas. He fails to realize that she could easily surrender to strangers because they were strangers. In the eyes of the people she considers close, she wants to remain the pure and good Blanche.
More important, in Blanche's mind she is good, for she never lied in her heart. It is as if she has split herself into two different persons: the hussy for the stranger and the innocent for her friend. She has kept her inner-self at a distance when she has gone to bed with strangers. Therefore, in her mind, she has remained pure since she had not given of her soul. Mitch is unable to understand this finer difference; therefore, Blanche has lost him and her last chance for stability.