A Streetcar Named Desire

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Alcohol and Drunkenness Symbol Analysis

Alcohol and Drunkenness Symbol Icon
Both Stanley and Blanche drink frequently throughout the play. When Stanley gets drunk, his masculinity becomes exaggerated: he grows increasingly physical, violent, and brutal. Stanley makes a show of drinking, swaggering and openly pouring himself shots. Blanche hides her alcoholism, constantly claiming that she rarely drinks while secretly sneaking frequent shots. She uses drinking as an escape mechanism.

Alcohol and Drunkenness Quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire

The A Streetcar Named Desire quotes below all refer to the symbol of Alcohol and Drunkenness. 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 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. 

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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.

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Alcohol and Drunkenness Symbol Timeline in A Streetcar Named Desire

The timeline below shows where the symbol Alcohol and Drunkenness appears in A Streetcar Named Desire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...bed for Blanche, and the bedroom. Suddenly, Blanche springs up to the closet, finds a whiskey bottle, and quickly takes a drink. After replacing the bottle and washing the glass, she... (full context)
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...the physical and social surroundings slip into her effusive greetings. She asks Stella for a drink to calm her nerves, though simultaneously insisting that she’s not a drunk. Once the drink... (full context)
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...that Stella does not have a maid in the two-room flat, and she takes another drink. (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
...makes small talk with Blanche, who is stiff and a little hectic. Stanley pulls the whiskey bottle out to take a drink, noting its depletion. (full context)
Scene 3
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
...green shade, the men are dressed in bright colors, and they are eating watermelon and drinking whiskey. The men deal out yet another hand of poker. Mitch worries that he should... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...there, and as he waits he and Blanche begin to flirt. Both are a little drunk. (full context)
Scene 5
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
A while later, Stanley comes in and says that Eunice is getting a drink at the Four Deuces, which Stella says is much more “practical” than going to the... (full context)
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
...morbidly. Blanche asks for a shot of alcohol in the Coke, and Stella pours some whiskey into a glass, insisting that she likes waiting on her sister. Blanche hysterically promises to... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
...collecting subscriptions for the Evening Star newspaper. Blanche flirts with the boy, offering him a drink, and attempts to seduce him, calling him a young Arabian prince. She kisses him on... (full context)
Scene 9
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...stage directions say that the music is playing in Blanche’s mind and that she is drinking to escape it. (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...the doorbell. The polka stops. Blanche hurriedly puts on powder and perfume and hides the liquor before letting Mitch in. She greets him with a hectic and excited chiding and offers... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
Mitch asks Blanche to 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... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Blanche pretends to happen upon the liquor bottle in the closet and pretends that she doesn’t know what Southern Comfort is. Mitch... (full context)
Scene 10
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
It is still later that night. Blanche has been drinking steadily since Mitch left. She has dressed herself in a white satin gown and her... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
...slams the door, and gives a low whistle when he sees Blanche. Stanley is also drunk. He says that the baby won’t come until morning, so the doctors sent him home... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Unable to find a bottle opener, Stanley pounds a beer bottle on the corner of the table and lets the... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
Stanley continues to advance toward Blanche. She smashes a bottle on the table and waves the broken end of the top at him. He springs... (full context)