A Streetcar Named Desire: Novel Summary: Scene 9
Later that evening, Mitch comes round. He is unshaven and in his work clothes. Blanche has been drinking, but hides the bottle in a closet. She greets Mitch in a forgiving manner, but he ignores it. He too has been drinking. Blanche fetches a bottle of liquor, pretending that she has just discovered it. Mitch says he wants none of Stanley’s liquor, and adds that Stanley told him she had been lapping it up like a wild cat all summer. Blanche won’t even respond to the accusation. Mitch then says he wants to see her in the light. He has never seen her in the light before (because Blanche does not want him to see how old she is). Over her protests, he switches the light on. She covers her face, and he switches the light off again. He says he doesn’t mind that she is older than he thought, but he does mind that she pretended to have such old-fashioned ideals. He has heard the stories about her not only from Stanley but from others too. Blanche admits that after her husband’s suicide, she was so distraught and lonely she did have intimate relations with strangers. She admits also to the affair with the seventeen-year-old at the school. Mitch accuses her of lying to him, but she denies it, saying she never lied in her heart.
A blind Mexican woman comes around the corner selling flowers for the dead. Blanche opens the door and says she does not want any flowers. But the woman has reminded her of death and the tragedies of Belle Reve. She goes back inside and is lost for a few moments in disturbing thoughts from the past. She also recalls her Saturday nights in Laurel with the drunken soldiers. Mitch places his hands on her waist, and tries to embrace her. Blanche says that if he wants her, he should marry her. But he says he no longer wishes to marry her. Her last hope crushed, she tells him to go away, but he remains there staring at her. She rushes to the window and calls out “Fire!” Mitch leaves quickly as Blanche falls to her knees.
The musical symbolism continues with the polka tune, which shows what is going on in Blanche’s mind. As the stage directions state, a “sense of disaster [is] closing in on her.” The tune stops when Mitch arrives, symbolizing her brief revival of hope, but she cannot keep it out of her head for long. The moment when Mitch tears the paper lantern off the light bulb is also a symbolic moment. It represents the final unveiling and destruction of the illusions about herself that Blanche has been trying to maintain.
The entry of the blind Mexican woman selling flowers for the dead,
Blanche’s reflective comments on death, and the recurrence of the polka music all work together to emphasize yet again the theme of death that runs through the play. The opposite of death, as Blanche herself points out, is desire. Desire is what makes Stanley and Stella such a vibrant couple together, and it is desire that lies at the heart of Blanche’s promiscuity after the death of her husband. It was just her desperate attempt to keep the spark of life alive.