A Streetcar Named Desire: Novel Summary: Scene 7

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It is late afternoon in mid-September. The table is set for Blanche’s birthday supper. Blanche is in the bathroom, and Stanley makes hostile remarks to Stella about her. Stanley then tells his wife that he has found out some unsavory details about Blanche’s life in Laurel. She is not the refined woman she claims to be. She used to live at the disreputable Flamingo Hotel, but Blanche was too much even for that hotel. She was asked to leave. This was about two weeks before she arrived in New Orleans.
Stella says there is no truth in such a story, but Stanley insists he has proof. He says that everyone in Laurel thought Blanche was crazy. Even the soldiers at the nearby army camp had been told not to go near her, and the mayor of Laurel had practically run her out of town. Stanley also claims that Blanche will not be going back to teach at the school. She was kicked out of her job because she had an affair with a seventeen-year-old boy.
Stella still insists that not all the stories are true, but admits there may be some truth in some of them. Blanche had always been flighty. Stella tells Stanley about Blanche’s marriage to the man who committed suicide. Then it comes out that Mitch, who had been invited to the birthday party, will not be coming, because Stanley passed on the stories about Blanche to him. Stella reproaches him, pointing out that Blanche was hoping Mitch would marry her. Stanley says there is no chance of that now. He explains that he has bought Blanche a bus ticket back to Mississippi for Tuesday. Stella is horrified, because she does not know what Blanche will do if she is forced to leave.
Blanche emerges from the bathroom saying she feels so good after her long bath. But she knows immediately from Stella’s look that something has happened.
Analysis
Blanche spends almost the entire scene in the bathroom. Bathing for her seems to have a kind of ritualistic significance, as if it can make her whole and pure once more. The theme of the naïve popular song she sings is the illusory nature of life, except when it can be redeemed by love. It’s an appropriate song for Blanche, and the juxtaposition of her singing with Stanley’s ruthless demolition of her character in his words to Stella is dramatically extremely effective. The veil has now been torn from Blanche, and her chances of surviving the disclosure are slim.

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