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MonkeyNotes-A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
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Scene 10

Summary

After Mitch departs, Blanche continues to drink heavily. She makes a last attempt at make-believe in order to forget the events that have just occurred. She dresses up like a bedraggled princess in a faded gown. On her head is rhinestone tiara. She murmurs excitedly to imaginary admirers about a moonlight swim. Her hand trembles as she lifts the hand-mirror, for she fears to see her reflection. She is stunned at her appearance and slams the mirror down with such force that the glass cracks.

Stanley arrives to say that Stella is admitted to the hospital and the baby will not arrive until the next day. He takes off his shirt and opens some beer bottles. He asks Blanche to have a few drinks with him to celebrate his expected baby. She refuses. Stanley then takes out his silk pajamas from the bureau, the ones he had worn on his wedding night. He questions Blanche about her attire. She tells him that Shep Huntleigh has just invited her to go on a Caribbean cruise. She also says that Mitch came over, begging forgiveness, but she sent him away. She explains that "deliberate cruelty is not forgivable," ironic words spoken to a man who is about to rape her. But Stanley knows the truth about Mitch and attacks her lies.

When Stanley enters the bathroom to change, she tries to phone Shep, but she does not have his long-distance number. Meanwhile, shadows on the rear wall indicate what is to come. A prostitute is pursued by a drunkard in the street outside. There is a struggle, which a policeman breaks up. This is a parallel to Blanche`s situation with Stanley, except for her there will be no policeman.

Stanley emerges from the bathroom in his brilliant silk pajamas. This attire is so symbolic of the virile male with animalistic intentions that Blanche guesses his frame of mind. Blanche crouches as a locomotive roars past. When she tries to get by Stanley, he leaves no place for her to move. He ignores her warning not to move a step further in her direction. She smashes a bottle on the table and clutches the top to defend herself. It is an effort to fight off Stanley, but more importantly, she is fighting off everything that is coarse and common in life. But in the struggle that follows, she is overpowered; although she tries to strike him, he catches her wrist. She moans and sinks to her knees. He lifts her lifeless figure and takes her to bed. Obviously what follows is a brutal rape. Stanley has proved his maleness again. He justifies his action by thinking she is just a prostitute whose services he has paid for with the liquor she has drunk all summer and the food she has eaten at his house. Because Blanche has refused to be subservient to him like Stella and because she has almost ruined his marriage, he has no remorse for the violence he has inflicted on her.


Notes

The final showdown between Stanley and Blanche results in his victory over her; the hunter has grabbed his prey, and the climax of the play occurs. Since Stanley cannot master Blanche emotionally or intellectually, he resorts to the only thing he knows and understands -- sex and violence. As he physically overcomes her, Stanley is crushing more than her frail body. Her rape is symbolic of the fact that the older, more cultured and aristocratic way of life has been overcome by a crass, materialistic one, where the survival of the fittest is what counts.

The pathos of the scene is heightened further in light of Blanche's words about herself. She tells Stanley that "deliberate cruelty is unforgivable"; part of her problem stems from the fact that she feels she was cruel to her late husband and has never forgiven herself. Instead, she has repeatedly punished herself through cheap affairs and immoral behavior. In spite of her actions, she is aware of the good qualities she is endowed with, and she thinks it is a pity that she has squandered them on unrefined people like Stanley and Mitch (by flirting with Stanley and by pursuing Mitch). She knows that she is a cultivated and cultured woman who can enrich a man's life. It is a sad thing to her that nobody appreciates her invaluable qualities: beauty of mind, richness of spirit, and softness of heart, qualities that she believes increase as the years go by. It is even more pitiful that rich as she is in such qualities, she is still destitute; men have no use for her finer qualities. This is abundantly proven when Stanley assaults her.

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