A Streetcar Named Desire

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Varsouviana Polka Symbol Analysis

Varsouviana Polka Symbol Icon
Blanche associates the polka with her young husband’s suicide. Blanche and her husband were dancing the polka when she lashed out at him for his homosexual behavior, and he left the dance floor and shot himself. The music plays when Blanche is reminded of her husband in specific or when she is particularly disturbed by the past in general. The polka continues until some event in the real world distracts her or until a gunshot goes off in her memory. Although the polka plays in Blanche’s mind, and she is the only character onstage who hears the tune, the audience also hears the polka when she hears it.

Varsouviana Polka Quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire

The A Streetcar Named Desire quotes below all refer to the symbol of Varsouviana Polka. 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 11 Quotes

Please don’t get up. I’m only passing through.

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Related Symbols: Varsouviana Polka
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

When Blanche tells the men playing poker in the kitchen to remain seated when she walks through, she reveals her assumption that since she is such a dignified lady, and since they are all refined gentlemen, they would automatically stand up out of respect when they see her. However, the scene that Blanche is actually entering is a very different one than she believes she is in. Although Blanche is going to be taken away to the asylum, she believes that she is going to start a new life with Shep, a wealthy suitor from her past. Her admonition to the men to stay seated represents the last gasp of Blanche’s delusion. To this point, she still thinks, or is still letting herself think, that Shep is coming to get her. But as soon as she tells the men to stay seated, she recognizes that the world she wants to enter and the reality she is in do not cohere.

Blanche’s utterance is one of extreme pathos. Stella is heartbroken over her sister’s illness, but she believes that she is doing the right thing for everyone by sending Blanche away. The audience recognizes that Blanche is living in a completely self-deluded world. The men take pity on Blanche, because they know she is having a nervous breakdown. Everyone sees Blanche for who she is except for Blanche herself.

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Varsouviana Polka Symbol Timeline in A Streetcar Named Desire

The timeline below shows where the symbol Varsouviana Polka appears in A Streetcar Named Desire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
...in Mississippi. Stella is still in the bathroom. When Stanley asks Blanche about her marriage, polka music plays faintly in the background. Blanche tells Stanley that “the boy died” and sinks... (full context)
Scene 6
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
...out to a casino together. But while Blanche and her husband were dancing the Varsouviana polka, she erupted, telling him that he disgusted her. Her husband, who she refers to as... (full context)
Scene 8
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
The Varsouviana polka rises in the background. Blanche tries to smile and laugh, but she crumples and rushes... (full context)
Scene 9
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...that night. Blanche is sitting in her red satin robe in the bedroom. The Varsouviana polka music can be heard from offstage. The stage directions say that the music is playing... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Mitch, unshaven and disheveled, rings the doorbell. The polka stops. Blanche hurriedly puts on powder and perfume and hides the liquor before letting Mitch... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
...to know what is the matter, but says she won’t press Mitch about it. The polka music begins again, and she is agitated. Blanche says that the music always stops when... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...para los muertos” (flowers for the dead). Blanche is frightened and slams the door. The polka music begins again, and the Mexican Woman’s voice can still be heard from outside. (full context)
Scene 11
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...when she comes out of the bathroom. She appears in the red satin robe. The polka music plays in the background. Stella and Eunice murmur appreciatively over Blanche. Blanche asks if... (full context)
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
...is calling for Blanche, but Blanche says that she is not quite ready yet. The polka plays faintly in the background, and drums also begin to play softly. (full context)
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
...she has forgotten something. Lurid reflections and shadows appear on the walls again, and the polka music plays distortedly, accompanied by noises of the jungle. (full context)