Study Guide

A Streetcar Named Desire Scene Four

By Tennessee Williams

Scene Four

  • The scene is early the next morning. Stella is lying on the bed in a “tranquil” state, her hand resting peacefully on her belly. There’s a book of comics in her other hand. The kitchen table is strewn with the remains of Stanley’s breakfast, and his pajamas are similarly tossed across the floor.
  • Blanche appears in the doorway, exhausted from a sleepless night. As Williams says, “her appearance entirely contrasts with Stella’s.”
  • Blanche rushes in to her sister’s side, frantic and asking if Stanley has left.
  • Stella thinks that nothing is wrong and can’t understand why Blanche is so frantic. She explains that Stanley went to get the car greased.
  • Blanche wants to pack and get them out of there as quickly as possible, preferably before he gets home.
  • She also wants to know why in the world her sister went back to her husband last night after what he did.
  • Stella explains that he was “as a good as a lamb” when she came back, and that’s he’s really “very, very ashamed” of the way he acted when he was drunk.
  • Besides, she says, Stanley is always smashing things around like that. On their wedding night, she says, he took one of her slippers and went around their new place smashing all the light bulbs with it.
  • Stella still finds this amusing.
  • Blanche does not. She wants to know if Stella ran or screamed.
  • No, she says—she was “sort of thrilled by it.”
  • Blanche insists that her sister is married to a madman. She herself is in a jam in her life, but at least she’s trying to get out of it. Stella isn’t.
  • Stella tries once again to explain that she’s happy and doesn’t want to get out of anything. She does grumble a bit about the mess left from last night’s poker party, but brushes it off by concluding that “people have got to tolerate each other’s habits.”
  • She takes a broom and begins to clean the mess, which irks Blanche, who doesn’t want her sister cleaning up after Stanley (not that she’s willing to do it herself, as Stella so aptly points out).
  • Blanche decides that what they really need is money. She explains that she ran into Shep Huntleigh last winter when she was in Miami for Christmas. (Apparently Shep is an old boyfriend of hers from college.)
  • She only went on the trip to try and meet a millionaire, she says, and she did. Shep has made a heap of money from oil in Texas.
  • Not that she cares about money, she says. Just what money can do for you. (Is there a difference? That is, those who care about money aren’t exactly wild about green paper, right?)
  • Anyway, the point is that she thinks Shep could set them up with a shop somewhere, and the cost would be nothing to him, especially considering how much he spends on his wife.
  • Stella: “He’s married?”
  • Blanche doesn’t seem to think this is an issue. She picks up the phone and begins to dial, but then changes her mind. She decides to write out a message first, which starts by declaring her sister and her own “desperate situation.”
  • Stella thinks this is ridiculous.
  • Blanche scraps that message, deciding that “you never get anywhere with direct appeals.” (In other words, lying is always your best bet.)
  • She searches through her purse and realizes she has no money. Stella explains that Stanley doesn’t give her much money because he likes to pay the bills himself, but that she got ten dollars from him this morning on account of his being so mean the night before. She offers five to Blanche, but doesn’t understand how her sister came to be without any cash at all.
  • “Money just goes—it goes places,” Blanche says.
  • Blanche continues to insist that she cannot stay here in the room next to Stanley.
  • Stella defends her husband, saying that Blanche simply saw him at his worst.
  • “On the contrary,” says Blanche, “I saw him at his best! What such a man has to offer is animal force and he gave a wonderful exhibition of that!” The only way to live with someone of his caliber, she says, is to sleep with him—and that’s Stella’s job, not her own.
  • They argue some more; Blanche can’t understand how Stella could love a man like Stanley. Stella explains that “there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark—that sort of make everything else seem—unimportant.”
  • That’s only desire she’s talking about, says Blanche, the name of the streetcar that bangs up and down the narrow alleys.
  • Stella wants to know if she’s ever ridden in that streetcar; “It’s what brought me here,” answers Blanche.
  • They continue to argue about Stanley, who conveniently arrives within listening distance outside the door, just in time to hear Blanche call him “common” and Stella agree with this assessment.
  • Blanche doesn’t stop with one adjective. She goes on to call her brother-in-law “bestial,” “sub-human,” “ape-like,” and “bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle.”
  • Progress has been made since the Stone Age, she continues. The world has things like art and poetry and music, and Stella should embrace these advancements rather than “hang back with the brutes.”
  • At that, Stanley enters “stealthily.” Once inside the house, he calls out to Stella.
  • She goes to meet him at the front door. He’s covered in grease from the mechanic's shop. Stella embraces him, “fiercely, with both arms, and full in the view of Blanche.”
  • Stanley laughs, clasps her to him, and looks over her head to grin at Blanche.
  • The “blue piano” music rises.

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