A Streetcar Named Desire: Novel Summary: Scene 3
The following night, Stanley, Mitch, Steve and Pablo gather for poker in the kitchen. Mitch is the only single man out of the four. He lives with his sick mother, and is clearly lonely. Stella and Blanche return from a show, and Blanche fusses about her appearance. Stanley does not really want them around, and they go to the bedroom.
Outside the bathroom, Blanche encounters Mitch, and Stella introduces her to him. After Mitch returns to the kitchen, Blanche remarks that he seems superior to the other men. Stella agrees, and Blanche makes several inquiries about him. Stella tells her that Mitch has an insignificant job in the spare parts department of the company for which Stanley works as a mechanic. Stella says that of all the men, Stanley is the only one who will get anywhere in his career, because he has drive.
Stanley complains that they are talking too loudly, and then complains again when Blanche switches on the radio. He gets up and switches it off himself. Then Steve and Pablo start arguing about the card game, and all three men take it out on Mitch with some cruel humor at his expense. Mitch, who has already risen from his chair at the first insult from Stanley, strikes up an awkward conversation with Blanche. He asks her for a cigarette, and she gives him one. She notes that there is an inscription on his cigarette case, from a sonnet by Elizabeth Browning. Mitch tells her that it was given to him by a dying girl. Blanche expresses sympathy and says that sorrow is a virtue because it makes people sincere. Mitch is charmed by Blanche and asks her about the origins of her last name, DuBois. She asks him if he will do her a favor by putting a colored paper lantern over the light bulb. He is pleased to oblige. Continuing his inquiries, Mitch finds out that Blanche is not married and is a schoolteacher. He inquires further, and she tells him she teaches English. She turns the radio on again and waltzes to the music, while Mitch clumsily tries to imitate her.
Then Stanley, who is drunk, hurls the radio out of the window, and when Stella protests he chases her. Offstage, there is the sound of a blow and a cry, as he hits her. Two of the men drag him off Stella, and Blanche takes her upstairs to their neighbors. The men try to sober Stanley up and there is another brief struggle. The men leave. Stanley begins to sob and calls out for Stella to return. He stands outside the building and calls up to Eunice to return Stella. Eunice tells him Stella will not come, and yells abuse at Stanley. Stella returns and she and Stanley embrace passionately. He carries her back to the flat.
Blanche is terrified by what has happened. She encounters Mitch, but he tells her there is nothing to be scared of. Stanley and Stella are crazy about each other. Blanche thanks him for being so kind.
This scene highlights the theme of loneliness, in the characters of Mitch and Blanche. They are drawn to each other through their strong mutual need.
The theme of death emerges again, and is linked in the minds of both Mitch and Blanche with romance. This is seen in the inscription on Mitch’s cigarette case, and his story about the dead girl he appears to have loved. Blanche’s sympathetic response again calls attention to the hints that have occurred in both preceding scenes, about her tragic marriage.
There is a telling symbolic moment when Blanche asks Mitch to put the colored paper lantern over the light bulb. Blanche is frequently anxious to avoid light, because of how it might reveal her age, and the covering of the light with the lantern suggests how she takes refuge in illusions. The light of life itself is too much for her, so she tries to soften it with a pretty disguise. But even so, Blanche cannot stop revealing herself, at least to the audience, who will notice another of her little white lies when she tells Mitch that Stella is her older sister. The truth is the opposite.