A Streetcar Named Desire

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Bathing Symbol Icon
Blanche takes frequent baths throughout the play to “soothe her nerves.” Bathing is an escape from the sweaty apartment: rather than confront her physical body in the light of day, Blanche retreats to the water to attempt to cleanse herself and forget reality. Blanche’s constant washing is reminiscent of Lady Macbeth’s famous hand-washing scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which the queen tries and fails to wash the blood from her guilty hands. Blanche also seeks rejuvenation, as though the bathwater were a Fountain of Youth. But although bathing may provide a temporary respite, she can never escape the past. In contrast with Blanche’s use of bathing to escape reality, the men dunk Stanley in the shower to sober him up so that he face the real world.
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Bathing Symbol Timeline in A Streetcar Named Desire

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bathing appears in A Streetcar Named Desire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 2
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
It is the next 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... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
Blanche emerges from the bath in a red satin robe and lightly closes the curtains to dress. When she asks... (full context)
Scene 3
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
Blanche is about to take a bath when Mitch emerges from the bathroom. Mitch is sheepish and awkward, and Blanche looks at... (full context)
Scene 7
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...into the kitchen to find Stella decorating for Blanche’s birthday. Blanche is taking yet another bath to soothe her nerves, which Stanley mocks. Throughout the scene, Blanche’s singing of the popular... (full context)
Scene 8
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
...begins to cry. Blanche asks her again what Stanley had said while Blanche had been bathing, but Stella refuses to tell her. (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
...join her. Blanche reproaches herself for calling Mitch. Stanley complains about the heat from Blanche’s bath, and she retorts that a “healthy Polack” couldn’t understand about having delicate nerves. Stanley heatedly... (full context)
Scene 11
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
It is several weeks later. Stella is packing Blanche’s things. Blanche is in the bath. The men are playing poker in the kitchen, where the atmosphere is raw and lurid... (full context)