A Streetcar Named Desire

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Themes and Colors
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
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Sexual Desire Theme Icon

Many critics believe that Williams invented the idea of desire for the 20th century. The power of sexual desire is the engine propelling A Streetcar Named Desire: all of the characters are driven by “that rattle-trap street-car” in various ways.

Much of Blanche’s conception of how she operates in the world relies on her perception of herself as an object of male sexual desire. Her interactions with men always begin with flirtation. Blanche tells Stella that she and Stanley smoothed things over when she began to flirt with him. When Blanche meets Stanley’s poker-playing friends, she lights upon Mitch as a possible suitor and adopts the guise of a chaste lover for him to pursue.

Blanche nearly attacks the Young Man with her aggressive sexuality, flirting heavily with him and kissing him. Blanche dresses provocatively in red satin, silks, costume jewelry, etc: she calls attention to her body and her femininity through her carefully cultivated appearance. Blanche clings to her sexuality more and more desperately as the play progresses. To Blanche, perhaps motivated by her discovery that her first husband was in fact homosexual, losing her desirability is akin to losing her identity and her reason to live.

Stella’s desire for Stanley pulls her away from Belle Reve and her past. Stella is drawn to Stanley’s brute, animal sexuality, and he is drawn to her traditional, domestic, feminine sexuality. Stella is pregnant: her sexuality is deeply tied to both womanliness and motherhood. Even though Stanley is violent to Stella, their sexual dynamic keeps them together. When Blanche is horrified that Stanley beats Stella, Stella explains that the things that a man and a woman do together in the dark maintain their relationship.

Stanley’s sexuality and his masculinity are extremely interconnected: he radiates a raw, violent, brute animal magnetism. Stanley’s sexuality asserts itself violently over both Stella and Blanche. Although he hits Stella, she continues to stay with him and to submit to his force. While Stella is at the hospital giving birth to his child, Stanley rapes Blanche: the culmination of his sexual act with Stella coincides with the tragic culmination of his destined date with Blanche.

Throughout the play, sexual desire is linked to destruction. Even in supposedly loving relationships, sexual desire and violence are yoked: Stanley hits Stella, and Steve beats Eunice. The “epic fornications” of the DuBois ancestors created a chain reaction that has culminated in the loss of the family estate. Blanche’s pursuit of sexual desire has led to the loss of Belle Reve, her expulsion from Laurel, and her eventual removal from society. Stanley’s voracious carnal desire culminates in his rape of Blanche. Blanche’s husband’s “unacceptable” homosexual desire leads to his suicide.

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Sexual Desire Quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire

Below you will find the important quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire related to the theme of Sexual Desire.
Scene 1 Quotes

They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Streetcar
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Blanche DuBois has just arrived in New Orleans, where her sister, Stella, lives with her husband, Stan Kowalski. The neighborhood she arrives in is seedy but also exciting, with heated, sexual tension in the air. Blanche, dressed all in fancy white clothes and delicately fluttering like a moth, appears very out of place in the rough, blue-collar atmosphere. Blanche approaches Eunice and a black woman, who are sitting on the stoop of the Kowalski’s apartment, and says these lines. They are her first lines in the play, and situate her arrival both literally and metaphorically.

On the one hand, Blanche gives the literal directions through New Orleans, since these are the names of the streetcars that she would have used to travel to the actual neighborhood. Yet the directions also illustrate the allegorical journey that Blanche has taken throughout her life that has led her to this spot. In Greek mythology, the Elysian Fields are the final resting place of heroic and virtuous souls. Blanche’s pursuit of her taboo desires (which at this early stage of the play have not yet been revealed) has led her through a kind of death, that is, her expulsion from her hometown, Laurel, Mississippi. Now, Blanche has landed in a kind of afterlife, where she hopes she will be able to put aside her past and begin anew—but, of course, this is soon revealed to be a delusion.

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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.

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.

After all, a woman’s charm is fifty percent illusion.

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

When Blanche tells Stanley that illusion is fifty percent of a woman’s charm, she is, ironically, speaking to him directly for the first time. Stanley has declared his impatience with Blanche’s coy maneuvers and indirect flirtations, so Blanche changes tactics. Rather than play the innocent ingénue figure, she acts as though she is being open with Stanley, putting all her cards on the table and having a frank conversation rather than continuing her coquettish dance.

Yet Blanche is still continuing to hide behind illusions, even when she says that she is speaking entirely openly. She acts as though she is completely open with Stanley, yet she still snatches away the love letters from him. She also begins to faint and flutter at the merest mention of mortgages and money, playing the weak woman for Stanley’s benefit, as well as for her own, since she does not want to face ugly financial truths. Not only does Blanche create illusions to charm Stanley, she also uses illusion to hide from reality herself. Blanche also leaves unanswered the other half of her statement: if illusion is only fifty percent of a woman’s charm, there must be another fifty percent made of something else.


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. 

Red-hot!

Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

When Blanche and Stella are sitting on the steps together, and Blanche explains her version of the discussion between Stanley and herself, a tamale vendor yells “Red-hot!” in the background. Blanche tells Stella that she and Stanley had a nice, lighthearted conversation, and that she had even flirted with Stanley – all in the name of good fun, of course. Though Blanche jokes about her flirtation, her description of the events in hindsight is quite different than what actually occurred between herself and Stanley. She paints the scene as to appear genteel and aristocratic, rather than tinged with violence and lust.

The cry “Red-hot!” in the background is, on one level, innocent, since the shout comes from a vendor who is trying to hawk tamales to customers. However, the phrase also symbolically suggests the accelerating sexual tension between Stanley and Blanche. Although Blanche might try to pretend to Stella that she is still the delicate, untouched ingénue, Blanche herself has animal desire lurking just below the surface, and things are not as calm and cool as she might want them to appear to be.

Scene 3 Quotes

The kitchen now suggests that sort of lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colors of childhood’s spectrum.

Related Symbols: Shadows
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

On the one hand, the kitchen shows the vibrant nature of New Orleans life, which glitters in the dark with fun and games. On the other hand, the harsh lights also seem hellish, presentinf no opportunity for escape. The description of the kitchen as childish and too brightly colored shows the contrast between vivid New Orleans and decaying Belle Reve. From Blanche’s perspective, the kitchen appears to be garish, in contrast with her own aristocratic upbringing. The bright lights and vivid colors do not allow Blanche to conceal herself in shadows, or to pretend that anything unpleasant isn’t there. Stanley turns the night into day by forcing the kitchen into the brilliant artificial light.

Color is a very important symbolic element throughout the play. Blanche’s name means ‘white,’ and she wears all white to suggest her purity and innocence. However, Blanche’s white attire is a mask, hiding her sordid past and her inner lust, which is anything but innocent. The loudly colored kitchen represents Stanley’s domain. Stanley puts all his cards on the table at all times, and he does not cultivate many nuances in his personality. Rather, like a child’s drawing in simple, primary colors, Stanley operates on a primarily physical level.

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. 

What you are talking about is brutal desire–just–Desire!–the name of that rattle-trap street-car that bangs through the Quarter.

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Stella Kowalski
Related Symbols: The Streetcar
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

The streetcar named Desire that provides this play with its title is both the name of a streetcar in New Orleans and a metaphor for the powerful and often dangerous emotion that propels the characters in the play. Even though each character might choose to step onto the streetcar, he or she does not necessarily know where the streetcar will go, or how long the ride will be, or whether or not he or she will be able to get off. Desire is the engine that powers New Orleans in Williams' play. As the streetcar rumbles through the streets, everyone is reminded of its constant, inescapable presence, and of the fact that this force is what governs everyone in the city.

Blanche is scornful about desire because she fears it. Desire, to Blanche, signifies a raw, animal energy that she cannot pretend to ignore. Blanche also knows that desire is the passion that drove her to New Orleans in the first place. Allegorically, succumbing to illicit desire drives Blanche out of her hometown, and then Desire literally drives Blanche to Stella and Stanley’s apartment.

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 5 Quotes

Young man! Young, young, young man! Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Prince out of the Arabian Nights?

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Related Symbols: Paper Lantern and Paper Moon
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

Blanche flirts with the boy who comes to collect money for subscriptions to the newspaper, which is called the "Evening Star." By calling him a prince from the Arabian Nights, Blanche sweeps the boy into her world of fantasy and illusion. Blanche wants to create a fairy-tale world around her so that she doesn’t have to face any consequences of her actions, but Blanche is also very aware of her seductive powers throughout her flirtation with the paper boy, deliberately turning his innocent words into sexually charged statements. When the boy reveals that he has just had a cherry soda, Blanche lingers on the flavor, drawing attention to its sensuality. Her emphasis on the word “young” also foreshadows the information Stanley reveals about Blanche later in the play, that is, that she was exiled from her hometown for her sexual relations with boys. (And her attraction to youth is presumably also connected to her fear of her own aging self.)

The idea of the Arabian Nights contrasts with Blanche’s slurs against Stanley. Although she refers to Stanley as a “Polack” in a condescending way, she uses the illusion of foreignness to deepen her fantasy of the young boy. The name of the paper, the "Evening Star," is another symbolic name that becomes both a real-life signifier and an allegory throughout the play. Blanche far prefers the night to the day, and starlight to sunlight, because she never wants to face the full truth. The Evening Star also riffs on the “Paper Moon” song that Blanche sings throughout the play: the Star paper and the paper moon form a false, alternate reality. 

Scene 6 Quotes

Sometimes–there’s God–so quickly!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

Despite acting as though she is laying the whole truth bare to Mitch, Blanche is still pretending to be innocent when she flirts with him. Blanche divulges the story of her failed marriage, but she tells the story in such a way that she is the one who deserves pity and help. Even though she acts like she is opening up to tell Mitch her darkest, most sordid secrets, she disguises her confessions in a cloak of romance that makes her appear in a favorable light.

In the context of the scene, it is unclear whether or not Blanche’s exclamation is addressed to Mitch or to herself. If it’s addressed to Mitch, she is still playing the sweet, innocent victim, and the exclamation comes as a sign of her desire to ensnare him through her guiles. If the exclamation is addressed to herself, it could signal a crack in her façade, showing a moment of genuine relief that someone is there to pay attention to her and to give her comfort and acceptance. 

Scene 7 Quotes

It’s only a paper moon, Just as phony as it can be–But it wouldn’t be make-believe If you believed in me!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bathing, Paper Lantern and Paper Moon
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

“It’s Only a Paper Moon” is a jazz standard written in 1933 that became popular in the 1940s, with versions sung by Ella Fitzgerald and the Nat King Cole Trio. In the context of the play, the song becomes a symbol for the delusion that Blanche attempts to live in, rather than facing reality. Blanche sings “Paper Moon” from the bathroom offstage, while onstage, Stanley tells Stella the true story that he has discovered about why Blanche had to leave Laurel, Mississippi.

The sentimental song is used as a counterpoint to Stanley’s rant against Blanche. The lines are interwoven, as though the two are singing a duet, yet the narratives of this duet run directly in counterpoint against each other. While Blanche sings this sentimental song about living in a paper world, waiting for love, Stanley reveals to Stella the sordid realities of Blanche’s life. As Blanche sings and Stanley rants, the lyrics come to seem more and more ironic. The song presents the singer as an innocent person caught in a false world who can only be saved by being loved. Yet Blanche, Stanley’s tirade reveals, is the one who has been creating these falsehoods.

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.

I don’t want realism. I want magic!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Related Symbols: Paper Lantern and Paper Moon
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

When Mitch rips the paper lantern off the lightbulb, Blanche cries out against this action. She pretends to be making a melodramatic joke in the moment, but her outcry portrays Blanche’s fear of reality and the make-believe world she clings to more and more desperately as the play proceeds.

Blanche claims that she doesn’t want Mitch to see her in the light of day because she is ashamed of how old she actually is. Blanche cloaks herself in shadows and wears makeup to act as though she is younger than she really is, but she is not the maiden that she pretends to be. However, Blanche’s outcry against Mitch goes deeper than a literal request made about the lightbulb. Blanche is terrified of facing the truth, both about her sordid past and her future prospects. Ultimately, Mitch’s and Blanche’s worlds are incompatible with each other. Mitch lives in the real world, and though he might be charmed by Blanche’s flirtations, he is too firmly grounded in the light of day to be taken in by her magic forever. 

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

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.

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. 

Whoever you are—I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Doctor
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

Blanche’s final line in the play demonstrates that she has fully descended into madness. Stanley and Stella have realized that Blanche has lost her grip on reality, and they commit her to a mental institution. Blanche deludes herself into believing that her long-lost lover, Shep, is coming to sweep her away. When she realizes that the doctor and the matron from the asylum are the ones escorting her out of the apartment, Blanche initially puts up a struggle, and the matron grabs her roughly. But when the doctor treats Blanche more gently, offering his arm as though he were a suitor, rather than a doctor, Blanche relaxes back into her delusion, playing the part of a genteel Southern belle.

Blanche’s final line is poignant because of its apparent innocence. Her surrender to faith in others has a religious tinge to it as well: Blanche submits herself to a higher power. Blanche is also playing a very melodramatic part here. She casts herself as a martyr figure, relying on the kind nature of others. Yet the statement further demonstrates that Blanche does need psychiatric help, as she cannot understand her own delusions and does not know the difference between dream and reality. Blanche’s pronouncement line also underscores Stella’s guilt regarding the treatment of her sister. Stella knows that she has to deceive Blanche in order to help both herself and her family, but Stella also feels as though she is betraying Blanche by sending her away.