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Scene V, Blanche: “Come in”-“Ahhh Merciii” Discuss this extract in relation to the rest of the text paying attention to structure, form and use of language. The ending section of scene five of Tennessee Williams’s play ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ has provoked much confusion and debate as to the writer’s motives in regards to the portrayal of Blanche. One school of thought on the matter is that, in spite of the fact that Williams largely based the character of Blanche upon himself his primary aim in the play is to punish her for her failure to show empathy towards her homosexual husband Allan.
Williams was of course a homosexual himself, living in a largely homophobic world where gayness was not a talked about subject. He often brought the issue up in his other works such as ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ where the characters Brick and Skipper and both portrayed as possible homosexuals. Blanches lack of empathy and compassion are highlighted once again in this extract when she totally fails to take into account the feelings of a second young man, and instead uses him to live out her fantasies of desire for her late husband.
During the exchange between Blanche and the young man she is portrayed as seductive and dominant “I want to kiss you” making it clear that she is the one initiating the situation, this is a dramatic contrast to her normal persona around other men such as Mitch and Stanley where she makes herself out to be both innocent and pure. This extract is one of the places where her illusion starts to slip and her past actions are hinted at to the audience.
Blanches reaction to you young mans mention of cherry soda “you make my mouth water” has a strong sexually reference, a cherry being a metaphor for virginity, which probably only Blanche is aware of. This shows that she is simply playing games with the young man using him for her own enjoyment. In the next scene Blanche treats Mitch in a very similar way, after discovering that he does not speak French she says “Voulez-vous couches avec mo ice soir? ” meaning ‘would you like to sleep with me this evening?
‘ which is the call of a French prostitute. The lack of consideration that Blanche shows towards both men and the way she appears to be using them both (The young man for a thrill and Mitch for security) hints not only towards the fact that in the past she has sought remedies for her loneliness with strangers but also supports the metaphor presented later in the play of Blanche being a tarantula trapping her victims in a web of illusions “Yes a big spider! That’s where I brought my victims”.
Another example of how Williams is using this scene to condemn Blanches can be found by looking at the actions of the young man. During the scene he speaks nervously and makes frequent glances towards the door portraying his wish to escape form Blanches and making it obvious that he is uncomfortable with the situation. “Well I’d better be-“. When describing the young man Blanche repeatedly uses the word young and also calls him lamb, this not only enforces his youth to the audience but also the fact that Blanche is aware of how much younger than her he is.
The final and perhaps most damming piece of evidence towards Blanche is her reaction towards Mitch at the end of the scene, where, having just kissed a young boy she greets the man she is hoping to marry with open arms, reverting back to her old illusion of purity. This shows her as uncaring and manipulative towards both parties, in the she takes on the roll of two completely different people to get what she wants. It also presents a hint that Blanche is lying about her sexual history.
Blanches actions in this extract could also be seen as an example of deliberate cruelty, in so far as she is willing to take advantage of a confused and reluctant young man just for her own pleasure. Blanche has of cores been guilty of deliberate cruelty in her past when she spoke of her revulsion towards Allan “I know. I saw. You disgust me. ” leading to his suicide. Deliberate cruelty is something that Blanche states that she despises and has “Never been guilty off” making her seam rather hypocritical.
Some might argue in fact that Williams is in fact using this extract to elicit the audience’s pity towards Blanche as opposed to their condemnation. Throughout the play reference has been frequently made to Blanches declining mental state, such as when Stanley takes the letters written by Allan away from her and she becomes hysterical. Williams gently reminds the audience of this in numerous ways throughout the extract.
For a start, in reference to the lighter Blanche uses the word “Temperamental”, which is a very unusual description and probably intended to reflect upon her mental state. During the later part of the scene the convocation is accompanied by the Blue Piano, a recurring sign of Blanche’s guilt, misery and mental declination. It features at many points in the play, usually during periods of anguish for Blanche such as when she is reminiscing about the loss of Bell Reve to Stella.
Blanche’s crumbling mental state is not helped by her alcoholism, another one of Williams’s personality traits that feature throughout his plays, such as with Brick in ‘Cat on a hot tin Roof’. Although Blanche isn’t actually drinking in this extract the audience knows that she has drunk earlier in the scene “a shot never does a coke any harm” and are shown how drink can make people do things be the actions of the drunken Negro woman just before the young man arrives. “The negro woman cackling hysterically, swaying drunkenly comes around the corner. ”
Williams may also have been trying to make the audience sympathise with Blanche’s paranoia about her appearance and desperation to feel young again. Earlier is the scene the audience sees Blanche looking in the mirror she is later to smash, showing emphasising her fragility about her looks. She also talked to Stella about her fading appearance “I – I’m fading now”. The audience has also been privy to Blanches hatred of light “I can’t stand a naked light bulb” and her need to hear positive remarks about her appearance “I was fishing for a compliment Stanley”.
Another factor that must be considered is that previously in the scene Stanley has begun to tear down the illusions Blanche weaves to protect herself be hinting that he knows about her past actions (Again hinting that Blanche is lying about her past) “Shaw is under the impression that he met you in Loral” leaving her exposed and in a state of hysteric shock shown by her frequent pauses in sentences and trembling “her hand shakes so it almost slips form the glass”.
Perhaps the most likely explanation for this why this scene seems to show Blanche is two contradictory lights however is that Williams is deliberately leaving it ambiguous, allowing the audience to decide upon their own feelings towards Blanche, and that the true purpose of this scene is to prefigure the revelations about Blanches past, particularly her relationship with the 17 year old boy that lost her her job.