A Streetcar Named Desire: Novel Summary: Scene 6
At 2 a.m. the following morning, Mitch and Blanche return from their date. They are both aware that they did not have a very enjoyable time together. Blanche blames herself because she was not sufficiently entertaining. She invites Mitch into the kitchen for a night-cap, and then tells him to go into the bedroom. She brings in some drinks and a lighted candle. She takes his coat, and the conversation gets round to Mitch’s weight. He prides himself on his physical fitness since he joined the New Orleans Athletic Club. He tells her he weighs 207 pounds, and then he asks her what she weighs. She allows him to pick her up, and he exclaims that she is light as a feather. He puts her down but keeps his hands around her waist. Blanche politely tells him to remove them, although she emphasizes that she does not want him to think she is a severe old maid. She says she has old-fashioned ideas. She then asks Mitch whether Stanley talks about her and what his attitude to her is. Mitch diplomatically replies that he thinks Stanley does not understand her, to which Blanche responds that Stanley is common and extremely rude to her. Mitch changes the subject by asking her how old she is; his mother asked him, and he was not able to give an answer. On questioning from Blanche, it transpires that his mother will only live a few more months and she wants him to settle down. Blanche says he will be lonely when she dies, and adds that she knows what loneliness feels like. She then explains something from her past. She fell in love at sixteen and married. A sensitive man, her husband was somehow in need of help but was unable to articulate what he needed, and she was unable to provide it. Blanche believes she failed him in that respect. Then one day she discovered that her husband in a sexually compromising position with his friend, an older man. They all pretend that nothing has happened, but at the dance that night, her husband goes outside and shoots himself. Blanche believes he did it because on the dance floor she had told him that she knew what he had been doing, and she was disgusted by it. Mitch draws her to him, and they embrace. Mitch expresses the hope that they can find love together.
Mitch is a shy man, possibly with little experience of women, who does not see through the image Blanche projects. He is perhaps a little overawed by her, conscious of the difference in their social backgrounds, and of course Blanche is carefully cultivating her desired image of a refined women with old-fashioned ideals and high moral standards. The fact that Mitch is caught up in a certain image of Blanche, perhaps even infatuated with her, is clear when Blanche complains that Stanley is rude to her. Mitch replies that he does not see how anyone could be rude to her. He is idealizing her. Mitch is a man who is still very attached to his mother. He has not have the maturity to have a relationship with Blanche that is based on something other than superficial attraction and stereotyped notions.
Blanche’s speech in which she explains to Mitch what happened in her marriage reveals the doomed romanticism that is so common in Tennessee Williams’s plays. Falling passionately in love lights up the world like nothing else can. And yet this kind of love cannot survive in the world and is always accompanied by tragedy.
Music symbolism enters in this scene in the form of the polka music that reminds Blanche of that fateful night when she and her husband danced the Varsouviana. This music will return at key points in the remainder of the play. As a reminder of death, it serves as a contrast with the music that has been heard up to this point, that of the “blue piano” that can be heard coming from the bar round the corner. This music, as the stage direction at the beginning of the play states, “expresses the spirit of the life which goes on here.”