A Streetcar Named Desire

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Stanley Kowalski Character Analysis

Stella’s husband, is full of raw strength, ferocity, violent masculinity, and animal magnetism. He wears lurid colors and parades his physicality, stripping off sweaty shirts and smashing objects throughout the play. His extreme virility is a direct contrast to Blanche’s homosexual husband who committed suicide. Stanley loves Stella––she is the soft, feminine foil to his violent ways. Their connection is indeed, as Blanche says derisively, “sub-human”: their physical relationship creates a deep bond between them. However, Stanley is drawn to Blanche, and in the play’s climax, he rapes her while Stella is in the hospital having the baby.

Stanley Kowalski Quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire

The A Streetcar Named Desire quotes below are all either spoken by Stanley Kowalski or refer to Stanley Kowalski. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New Directions edition of A Streetcar Named Desire published in 2004.
Scene 1 Quotes

Sit there and stare at me, thinking I let the place go? I let the place go? Where were you! In bed with your–Polack!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Stanley Kowalski, Stella Kowalski
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Blanche lashes out against Stella for choosing to leave the family estate of Belle Reve for a lower-class lifestyle. From Blanche’s perspective, Stella appears to have rejected the family’s aristocratic background in favor of a marriage to a man that she sexually desires.

But Stella is not embarrassed to be married to Stanley. Rather, Blanche is projecting her own feelings of shame onto Stella. Blanche cannot face her own guilt over letting Belle Reve collapse into both social and financial ruin. Instead, she makes herself feel morally superior by blaming Stella rather than herself. The word “Polack” demonstrates Blanche’s desperation to cling to social hierarchy: she uses racial slurs to cast down Stanley and to make herself feel as though she is of a higher class.

Blanche is also jealous of Stella’s freedom. Blanche has become an outcast in her hometown, Laurel, Mississippi, because of her scandalous behavior. She envies Stella’s relationship with her husband, and she envies Stella’s ability to live a happy and fulfilled life rather than being burdened with the ghosts of the past. Blanche cannot bear to face her own wrongdoings, and so she instead attempts to make Stella feel guilty for leaving, casting herself as the martyr rather than admitting her mistakes.

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Since earliest manhood the center of [Stanley’s] life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependently, but with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens.

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

When Stanley enters the kitchen, Stanley and Blanche are in the same physical space for the first time in the play, and the stage directions commemorate this occasion by describing not only Stanley’s literal presence but also his symbolic appearance. Stanley’s power, especially his sexual power, is described as animal behavior, emphasizing his raw physicality and brute force. Animal metaphors are frequently used in the play to signify lust, and this symbolic dimension highlights the tense, sexually charged current between Stanley and Blanche.

Throughout the play, Blanche attempts to draw a contrast between herself and Stanley by emphasizing her delicate, aristocratic nature and highlighting his bestiality. But the animalistic description of Stanley ultimately draws Stanley and Blanche together. When Blanche comes to New Orleans, she is also described as an animal, since the stage directions depict her as looking like a fluttering moth. As much as Blanche sees Stanley as a beast, she also recognizes that he is a magnet for women, and that she is hardly immune. Indeed, even though she pretends to be disgusted by Stanley, Blanche has been looking at pictures of Stanley before he enters. The animal metaphors draw Stanley and Blanche together on a symbolic level long before they have any physical interaction.

Scene 2 Quotes

I never met a woman that didn’t know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and some of them give themselves credit for more than they’ve got.

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bathing
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Blanche attempts to flirt with Stanley by fishing for compliments about her looks, but Stanley cuts straight through her coy banter. Blanche has just come out of the bath, and she wants to believe that she has washed herself clean and made herself fresh and young again. Blanche derives her power over men through being coy and indirect: she flutters her eyelashes and acts innocent in an attempt to draw men toward her. Stanley, however, asserts his own sexual power by refusing to play Blanche’s game. Blanche always wants to cloak herself in innuendos, masks, shadows, and other disguises instead of facing reality. Stanley operates in the physical present. He declares that he isn’t charmed or distracted by glamorous trappings. Stanley’s declaration that some women give themselves credit for more than they have is also a jab at Blanche herself.

Not only does Stanley assert his dominance by cutting through Blanche’s flirtatiousness, and thus undermining her source of power, but he also makes Blanche nervous about her own beauty. Blanche’s aging is her Achilles’ heel: she believes that as she grows older, she is losing her sexual attractiveness to men, so she grows more and more frantic to maintain this power through distraction and flirtation. Stanley shifts the power dynamic to put himself at the center, rather than Blanche. 


Now let’s cut the re-bop!

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski (speaker)
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

Although Stanley lets Blanche talk coquettishly and indirectly with him for a little while, eventually he gets irritated with her coyness and demands that they speak plainly. At first, Blanche becomes even more flirtatious, since she thinks that this is Stanley’s way of taking their flirting to the next level, and she sends Stella out of the house so that she can focus her attentions on Stanley without being inhibited or chaperoned by her sister. However, as the conversation proceeds, Blanche realizes that Stanley’s anger isn’t just foreplay: he’s actually suspicious that Blanche is hiding money from Stella and, therefore, from him. Stanley wants to take control over everything that he thinks rightfully belongs to him, and that includes both Blanche’s property and Blanche herself. “Re-bop” is a word borrowed from jazz culture, not from Blanche’s aristocratic background, and the term makes Stanley, rather than Blanche, in control of the terms of the conversation. Rather than engaging with her vocabulary, Stanley shouts with his own slang, forcing the conversation into his idiom.

Oh, I guess he’s just not the type that goes for jasmine perfume, but maybe he’s what we need to mix with our blood now that we’ve lost Belle Reve.

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Stanley Kowalski
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

When Stella returns home, Blanche tells her that she and Stanley have discussed the matter of Belle Reve and their family’s finances, and that they’ve settled things out. To Stella, Blanche describes her conversation with Stanley lightly, assuring her that everything is fine. In this depiction of events, Blanche suggests that even though she and Stella come from a higher class than Stanley, sometimes people like Stanley can help balance them out and ground them in real life.

When Blanche shows Stanley the mortgage papers to prove that Belle Reve, the ancestral home, has indeed been lost, and that the cause of the loss was bad investment by several generations of ancestors, Stanley becomes sheepish and says that he is so concerned because Stella is going to have a baby. Upon learning that Stella is pregnant, Blanche switches from painting Stanley as a brute who is unworthy of Stella’s love to portraying Stanley as a raw, untamed man who will benefit from Stella and Blanche’s generosity in opening their family to him. 

Scene 3 Quotes

STELL-LAHHHHH!

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski (speaker), Stella Kowalski
Related Symbols: Alcohol and Drunkenness
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

Stanley, in a drunken rage, has just hit Stella, and so she has gone to the upstairs neighbor’s apartment for a safe haven. When Stanley realizes that Stella is gone, he becomes extremely mournful. All his rage melts away, and he longs for Stella to return. The only way he knows how to assert his mastery is through physicality. Rather than try to apologize with reason and with a conversation, he instead yearns for Stella to return so that he can make up to her with his actions. The stage direction calls for Stanley to shout “with heaven-splitting violence,” and in the original version of A Streetcar Named Desire, the actor Marlon Brando, who played Stanley, made this line famous for doing just that.

Stanley’s shout comes as a distinct contrast to Blanche’s repetition of Stella’s name. Blanche emphasizes the fantasy and beauty that Stella’s name evokes, referring to Stella as “Stella for star.” However, Stanley turns Stella’s name into a primal yell. Stanley’s roar drowns the meaning of Stella’s name, and the shout becomes a mating cry. Indeed, Stella finds herself drawn back to Stanley magnetically. And When Stella returns to Stanley, he does not apologize verbally to her. Instead, he caresses her tenderly, showing his feelings physically rather than telling them. 

Scene 4 Quotes

There are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark–that sort of make everything else seem–unimportant.

Related Characters: Stella Kowalski (speaker), Stanley Kowalski
Related Symbols: Shadows
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

After Stanley hits Stella, Blanche insists that Stanley is too dangerous, especially because Stella is pregnant, and that Stella must leave Stanley. However, even though Stella recognizes that Stanley’s aggression is wrong, she is also thrilled and aroused by his bestial nature. Stanley’s power does sometimes come out in a violent way, but other times, his passion emerges through tenderness and through sexual energy. Blanche claims that she wants to shield Stella from the world, but Stella is much more experienced and pragmatic than Blanche is. Blanche wants to cast herself in the role of savior by swooping in to save Stella, but Stella asserts her own power by declaring that she doesn’t need saving.

Stella’s demureness and roundabout way of discussing sexual relations (couching it in the language of shadows and euphemism) around Blanche is ironic in the context of what is later revealed about Blanche’s history. Although Blanche pretends to be very prim and proper, she was expelled from Laurel, Mississippi for her promiscuity. Blanche may pretend to be innocent and naïve about carnal desire, but she is no stranger to sexuality. 

Don’t–don’t hang back with the brutes!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Stanley Kowalski, Stella Kowalski
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

Blanche tells Stella that Stanley is an uncivilized animal, and that when Stella associates herself with him, she is turning her back on the world of culture and art that they came from. Yet Blanche’s tirade against Stanley is ultimately not so much a warning for Stella, but a demonstration of Blanche’s own anxiety and her resulting defense mechanisms. Blanche fears Stanley’s power because she can’t control it, and she looks down on Stanley because he comes from a lower class than Blanche and Stella. Blanche is also anxious about her own sexual attraction to Stanley. Her admonition to Stella and her rage against Stanley serve as Blanche’s warning to herself.

Blanche’s characterization of Stanley as a brute also carries prejudiced overtones. Throughout the play, Blanche refers to Stanley in a derogatory way as a “Polack,” equating his ethnic heritage with associations of low culture and ape-like qualities. She puts down Stanley to try to lift herself and her own background up by comparison.

Scene 9 Quotes

I told you already I don’t want none of his liquor and I mean it. You ought to lay off his liquor. He says you’ve been lapping it up all summer like a wild-cat!

Related Characters: Harold Mitchell (Mitch) (speaker), Blanche DuBois, Stanley Kowalski
Related Symbols: Alcohol and Drunkenness
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout the play, metaphors of beasts and animality are used throughout the play to refer to physical lust and raw sexuality. Blanche calls Stanley a “brute” and a “beast.” The stage directions refer to Stanley as a rooster preening among female hens. Here, Mitch’s use of the term “wildcat” for Blanche foreshadows Stanley’s outcry later in the play, when Stanley calls Blanche a “tiger” just before raping her. Calling Blanche a “wildcat” also symbolically pulls Blanche from the realm of magic into the physical world.

Mitch also proudly differentiates himself from Stanley in this exclamation. Stanley is the alpha male throughout the entire play. However, in this outburst, Mitch declares himself to be self-sufficient, and therefore, by implication, a sexual partner worthy of Blanche’s attention on his own terms. Blanche treats Mitch as a sympathetic and gentle character, but in this outburst, Mitch tries to reclaim some of the sexual energy that Stanley exudes.

Scene 10 Quotes

Tiger–tiger! Drop the bottle-top! Drop it! We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning!

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski (speaker), Blanche DuBois
Related Symbols: Alcohol and Drunkenness
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

Stanley aggressively attacks Blanche, insisting that their carnal lusts have both led them to sleep with each other. Stanley calls Blanche a “tiger,” emphasizing the raw, animal power of desire present in both people. Stanley demonstrates his violent passion for Blanche in this scene, yet Blanche is not wholly guilt-free, as she also desires him, and has been physically attracted to him since the beginning of the play (her "willingness," however, depends on the production of this scene). Although Blanche likes to pretend throughout the play that she is a delicate, coy, innocent maiden who has never had more than a gentle flirtation with a man, Stanley has discovered Blanche’s more sordid sexual history, and he is not afraid to present her with the truth. Blanche wants to create illusions and live in a world of her own fantasy, but Stanley is only interested in the present moment and in reality.

Stanley’s admonition to her to drop the bottle has several layers of significance. Blanche is holding a broken bottle at Stanley in threat, so he wants her to let go of the weapon and surrender to her carnal passion. Stanley also wants Blanche to let go of the security blanket of alcohol. Rather than drowning her feelings in liquor, and drowning the present in her memories of the past, Stanley insists that she occupy the harsh, merciless present.

Scene 11 Quotes

You left nothing here but spilt talcum and old empty perfume bottles–unless it’s the paper lantern you want to take with you. You want the lantern?

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski (speaker), Blanche DuBois
Related Symbols: Paper Lantern and Paper Moon
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

Blanche attempts to stall her trip to the asylum, which signifies her forced acceptance of reality, by desperately pretending that she has left items behind. Stanley yells at her roughly, asking if she wants the paper lantern that she has placed over the bare bulb. Stanley’s question is literal, on the surface: Blanche bought the paper lantern, so the object does belong to her. But the line is less important for its literal than its symbolic meaning. On one level, the lantern shows how far Blanche has fallen: she's gone from a wealthy, cultured upbringing to owning nothing but a piece of paper. Furthermore, throughout the play the paper lantern has signified Blanche’s mania for hiding reality in illusion and cloaking the harsh truth with fanciful stories. By thrusting the paper lantern at her, Stanley rips off Blanche’s final delusions and fantasy life.

The talcum bottles and paper lantern also symbolize the false effects of the theater itself. A stage set is created through illusions and magic, and it provides an escape from the real world. When Blanche exits, the play ends: she is the glue that holds the illusion of the play itself together. 

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Stanley Kowalski Character Timeline in A Streetcar Named Desire

The timeline below shows where the character Stanley Kowalski appears in A Streetcar Named Desire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1
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...and the river in New Orleans. The neighborhood is poor but has a “raffish charm.” Stanley and Stella Kowalski live in the downstairs flat, and Steve and Eunice live upstairs. The... (full context)
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Eunice and a Negro Woman are sitting on the front stoop when Stanley and Mitch come around the corner. Stanley bellows for Stella, and when she comes out... (full context)
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Blanche worries that Stanley will not like her and that she will have no privacy from him in the... (full context)
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...plans for poker the following evening. Blanche nervously flutters around the apartment as they speak. Stanley enters, exuding raw, animalistic, sexual energy, and he sizes Blanche up at a glance. Stanley... (full context)
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Stanley pulls off his sweaty shirt in front of Blanche, asking her about being an English... (full context)
Scene 2
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...day, at six o’clock in the evening. Blanche is taking a bath offstage. Stella tells Stanley that she and Blanche are going out to the French Quarter for the evening since... (full context)
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Stanley turns the subject back to the loss of Belle Reve. Insistent on seeing papers from... (full context)
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Stanley thrusts open Blanche’s trunk and digs through her clothes, searching for the bill of sale.... (full context)
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...in a red satin robe and lightly closes the curtains to dress. When she asks Stanley to do up the buttons in the back of her dress, he gruffly brushes her... (full context)
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Stanley breaks the banter by yelling bluntly, “Now let’s cut the re-bop!” Stella rushes in to... (full context)
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Blanche hands Stanley all the papers from Belle Reve, and he realizes that that the estate was indeed... (full context)
Scene 3
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...the men barely look up. When Stella suggests that they stop playing for the night, Stanley slaps a hand on her thigh, and Stella, offended, goes into to the bedroom with... (full context)
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...in silhouette. Blanche says that Mitch seems “superior to the others,” and Stella says that Stanley is the only one likely to move up in the world. (full context)
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Stanley yells at Blanche and Stella to be quiet. Blanche turns on the radio, but Stanley... (full context)
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...Stella, and she asks Mitch to hang a Chinese lantern over the naked electric bulb. Stanley, in the kitchen, seethes at Mitch’s absence from the game. (full context)
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...bathroom, Blanche turns the radio back on, and she and Mitch clumsily begin to dance. Stanley leaps from the table and throws the radio out the window. Stella yells at him,... (full context)
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The men force Stanley under the shower to sober him up, but as he continues to lash out at... (full context)
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...Mitch appears and tells her not to worry, that this is just the nature of Stanley and Stella’s relationship. He offers her a cigarette, and she thanks him for his kindness. (full context)
Scene 4
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...is relieved to find Stella safe, but horrified that she has spent the night with Stanley. Stella explains that Stanley gets into violent moods sometimes, but she likes him the way... (full context)
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...says that she is broke, and Stella gives her five dollars of the ten that Stanley had given her that morning as an apology. (full context)
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Stella says that Blanche saw Stanley at his worst, but Blanche replies that she saw him at his best. Blanche claims... (full context)
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Blanche bursts into a rant against Stanley, calling him an ape-like, bestial creature. “There’s even something––sub-human” about him, she cries, telling Stella,... (full context)
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Under the cover of a train’s noise, Stanley slips out and re-enters. Stella leaps into his arms, and Stanley grins at Blanche as... (full context)
Scene 5
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A while later, Stanley comes in and says that Eunice is getting a drink at the Four Deuces, which... (full context)
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Stanley and Blanche make tense conversation: she attempts to banter lightly, while he is more than... (full context)
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Stanley asks if Blanche knows anyone named Shaw in Laurel. Blanche blanches, but tries not to... (full context)
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...glass, insisting that she likes waiting on her sister. Blanche hysterically promises to leave before Stanley kicks her out. Stella tries to calm her as she pours the Coke, but accidentally... (full context)
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...she sees him as her way to rest and to get out of Stella and Stanley’s apartment. (full context)
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Stanley comes around the corner and bellows for Eunice, Steve, and Stella. Stella tells Blanche that... (full context)
Scene 6
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When Mitch asks where Stanley and Stella are, Blanche explains that they are out with Eunice and Steve. Mitch suggests... (full context)
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Blanche launches into a somewhat hysterical rant against Stanley, and also bemoans her impoverished state. Mitch interrupts to ask how old she is. Blanche... (full context)
Scene 7
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It is an afternoon in mid-September. Stanley comes into the kitchen to find Stella decorating for Blanche’s birthday. Blanche is taking yet... (full context)
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Stanley sits Stella down to tell her all the details he has heard about Blanche. Shaw,... (full context)
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Stanley also reports that Blanche was not taking a leave of absence from school on account... (full context)
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Stella is dazed. At first, she doesn’t believe Stanley, making the excuse that Blanche has always been “flighty.” She explains away some of Blanche’s... (full context)
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Stanley says that he has bought a one-way bus ticket for Blanche to go back to... (full context)
Scene 8
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Stanley, Stella, and Blanche are finishing the dismal birthday supper. There is an empty fourth place... (full context)
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...phone to call Mitch, even though Stella tells her not to. Stella goes out to Stanley on the porch, and he holds her in his arms, telling her that things will... (full context)
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Stella goes inside and begins lighting the candles on Blanche’s birthday cake. Blanche and Stanley join her. Blanche reproaches herself for calling Mitch. Stanley complains about the heat from Blanche’s... (full context)
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The telephone rings, and Blanche expects that it is Mitch, but it is one of Stanley’s friends. When Stanley returns, he tells Blanche that he has a birthday present for her... (full context)
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...to smile and laugh, but she crumples and rushes into the bathroom, gagging. Stella reproaches Stanley for treating Blanche so harshly, saying that Blanche is a soft creature who has been... (full context)
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Stella demands to know why Stanley has been so cruel to Blanche. He says that Stella thought that he was common... (full context)
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A sudden change comes over Stella, and she tells Stanley to take her to the hospital––she has gone into labor. Stanley instantly leaves with her,... (full context)
Scene 9
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...turn off the fan. She offers him a drink. Mitch says that he doesn’t want Stanley’s liquor, but Blanche replies that she has her own. She wants to know what is... (full context)
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...that she doesn’t know what Southern Comfort is. Mitch again refuses a drink, saying that Stanley says she has been drinking his liquor all summer. (full context)
Scene 10
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Stanley enters the apartment, slams the door, and gives a low whistle when he sees Blanche.... (full context)
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Stanley asks Blanche why she is so dressed up. Blanche says that an admirer of hers,... (full context)
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Unable to find a bottle opener, Stanley pounds a beer bottle on the corner of the table and lets the foam pour... (full context)
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...a cultivated gentleman, as opposed to the “swine” she has been casting her pearls to. Stanley’s good humor suddenly disappears at the word “swine.” (full context)
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Blanche claims that Mitch had arrived that night with roses to beg her forgiveness. Stanley asks if Mitch came before or after the telegram, and Blanche is caught off guard.... (full context)
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Stanley mocks Blanche for dressing up in her glitzy attire, saying that he’s been on to... (full context)
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...telegraph Shep, saying that she is “caught in a trap,” but she breaks off when Stanley emerges from the bedroom in the silk pyjamas. (full context)
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Stanley grins at Blanche and replaces the phone on the hook. He steps between Blanche and... (full context)
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Stanley continues to advance toward Blanche. She smashes a bottle on the table and waves the... (full context)
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The bottle top falls. Blanche sinks to her knees. Stanley picks up her limp body and carries her to the bed. A hot trumpet and... (full context)
Scene 11
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...where the atmosphere is raw and lurid again. Eunice comes downstairs and into the apartment. Stanley is bragging about his good poker luck, and Eunice calls the men callous pigs. (full context)
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Upon hearing Blanche’s voice, Mitch’s face and arms sag, and he lapses into a daydream. Stanley yells at him to snap out of it. The sound of Stanley’s voice startles Blanche.... (full context)
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...all stand tensely for a moment. Blanche tries to go back into the bedroom, but Stanley blocks her way. She rushes past him, claiming that she has forgotten something. Lurid reflections... (full context)
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The Doctor sends the Matron in to grab Blanche. The Matron advances on one side, Stanley on the other. The Matron and Stanley’s voice echo around the room. Blanche retreats in... (full context)
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Stanley says that the only thing Blanche could have forgotten is the paper lantern. He rips... (full context)
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Stanley joins Stella on the porch. She starts to sob “with inhuman abandon,” and he holds... (full context)