Study Guide

A Streetcar Named Desire Scene Nine

By Tennessee Williams

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Scene Nine

  • Later that night, Blanche is sitting alone in the bedroom wearing a satin robe. We hear the polka music playing in her mind, and she’s drinking heavily “to escape it.”
  • Mitch arrives at the front door, unshaven and wearing his work clothes.
  • Blanche hears him arrive and rushes to hide the liquor, put on some makeup, and clean herself up. She goes to the door, excited to see him. She offers him a kiss, but he refuses it and pushes past her into the house.
  • Blanche tries to flirt, but Mitch is having none of it. He refuses a drink on the grounds that he doesn’t want to drink up Stanley’s liquor.
  • Blanche mentions the polka music playing, which is weird for Mitch because the music is in her head. (As the audience, we get to hear it, too.) A gunshot is heard in the distance, and then the music stops. Blanche is relieved; it always stops after the gunshot, she says.
  • Mitch is weirded out now, but that doesn't get in the way of his being really angry.
  • Blanche chooses not to notice his anger. She pretends to search for the liquor bottle and ramble about how nice she’s made the place look since she got there.
  • When she finds the bottle and offers him a drink, Mitch again refuses Stanley’s liquor. This time he tells Blanche to lay off it, too, since Stanley said she’s been lapping up his booze all summer long.
  • Then he looks around, notices that it’s dark again, and tells Blanche he’s never gotten a good look at her in the light. He rips the paper lantern off the bulb and says he wants to be realistic here.
  • Blanche flips out. “I don’t want realism. I want magic!” she says. She begs him not to turn the light on.
  • Mitch turns the light on anyway. He grabs Blanche and holds her face close to the naked bulb. Letting her go, he says bitterly that he doesn’t mind her being older than he thought. It’s the rest of what he’s heard that’s really getting to him.
  • Blanche insists that Stanley was lying, but Mitch says he confirmed the tales with a merchant friend of his who also passes through Laurel. Blanche tries to squirm out of it, but it’s clear she’s caught.
  • So she makes a clean confession of it. She refers to the Flamingo Hotel as “The Tarantula Arms,” the place where she, a “big spider,” brought her “victims.” “Yes,” she says, “I had many intimacies with strangers.” She explains bitterly that, after her husband killed himself, this was all she had to turn to for comfort. She also admits to the affair with the seventeen-year-old boy.
  • Blanche continues. When she met him (Mitch), she decided he was “a cleft in the rock of the world that [she] could hide in.”
  • Mitch is just angry that she lied to him (and pretended to be “old-fashioned” as her reason for only every letting him have a goodnight kiss).
  • While Blanche protests this accusation (“I never lied in my heart!”), a Mexican Woman comes through the streets selling flowers for the dead. Blanche rushes to the door, where the woman meets her and asks if she wants to buy any flowers. Blanche freaks out, tells her “no,” and rushes back inside.
  • (This is actually a pretty eerie scene. You can see a great rendering of it in the 1951 movie.)
  • Blanche starts rambling maniacally about all the horrible things that happened to her in the course of her life, like when her family ran out of money at home and she had to change linens herself instead of getting a servant to do it.
  • Worst of all, she says, death was always so close by. The opposite of death, she claims, is desire. She remembers when the soldiers would set up camp outside of Belle Reve, and at night they would come by and call her name up to her balcony.
  • Mitch finds this to be an opportune time to try and get in bed with Blanche. He takes her by the waist.
  • Blanche cries out that if he wants that, he should marry her.
  • Mitch is all, “No, thanks,” which probably got his message across, but, just to be clear, he adds that Blanche isn’t clean enough to be in the same house as his mother.
  • Blanche yells at him to leave the house before she screams. When Mitch stands around dumbly, Blanche yells “Fire!” a few times, after which he skedaddles.
  • Alone in the house, she falls to her knees as the sound of the "blue piano" rises.

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