Summary • Revealing of Blanche’s past by Stanley • Conflicting with her perception of victory over Mitch • Destruction of Blanche’s future by Stanley • Conflicting audience perceptions as Stanley is the egalitarian and loyal to Mitch, but Blanche too is victimized and wanting to move away from her soiled past which has been destroyed.
Themes • Lies and deceit • Cleansing • Welding of past and present • Foreshadowing of Blanche’s decay and death
Setting • Mid - September • Autumn is decaying of life as it leads into the coldness of winter • This foreshadows Blanche’s decay and death • Birthday supper – Blanche’s birthday • This should have been her rebirth into a new life, accompanied by her constant bathing, however, because of Stanley, ironically, he has destroyed her last chance at rebirth. • The decorations, cake, flowers seem incongruous with the destruction that is about to occur
[Blanche is singing…a saccharine popular ballad which is used contrapuntally with Stanley’s speech] • Saccharine is an artificial sweetener, this represents her fakeness, her pretend sweetness especially with Mitch • Contrapuntally refers to overlapping between Blanche’s perceived victory through her lies and Stanley’s exposure of the truth. This further implies the conflict between Blanche’s need for illusion and Stanley’s need for truth. • There is also the aspect of Blanche’s past displacing her present and her destroying her future
‘It’s a Barnum and Bailey world, Just as phony as can be, But it won’t be make-believe If you believed in me.’ - Blanche • ‘Barnum and Bailey is a circus act, which reflects Blanche’s admission of creating and living in an illusion – just an act. • But second line refers to her believing in her illusion as truth • This is also her victory song. The use of ‘you’ implies that she feels that she has full control over Mitch, he has believed her illusion and has fallen into her trap.
‘Even the management of the Flamingo was impressed by Dame Blanche.’ - Stanley • Ironic and mocking reference to Blanche’s superior aristocratic attitude despite her very un-aristocratic behaviour by Stanley • ‘Dame’ could also be an allusion to a pantomime dame in British theatre which is a female character played by males in drag and in a melodramatic fashion
‘Sister Blanche is no lily’ - Stanley • This statement is fraught with irony and sarcasm • ‘Sister’ is referring to a nun and their chastity which is clearly absent in Blanche • ‘Blanche’ means ‘white’ which symbolises purity • Lilies are revered by the Greeks as a symbol of purity, as well as a symbol for the Virgin Mary
‘she’s been feeding us a pack of lies’ - Stanley • Use of pack is a gambling reference to a pack of cards – Blanche is gambling her way to a better life with her lies • ‘feeding’ implies the passivity of Stanley and Stella in buying her lies, this suggests her power over others which Stanley as an alpha male abhors.
[little breathless cries and peals of laughter are heard as if a child were frolicking in the tub] • Simile comparing Blanche to a child creates audience sympathy for her despite the sordid details that Stanley recited • This also refers to her rebirth after cleansing herself through bathing • Occurs after Stanley tells of her affair with a 17 year old – somehow, Blanche wants to return to her past love, that she wants the happiness she once had as a child
‘But when she was young, very young, she had an experience that – killed her illusions’ – Stella • Directly offering a different perspective of Blanche being a victim when she was just a child with implications of innocence • While, her husband’s suicide did kill Blanche’s belief in love – from the previous scenes – it did fuel her creation of other illusions, which is a return to her past and its grandeur
‘Hey, canary bird! Toots! Get OUT of the BATHROOM!’- Stanley • Canary birds were used in mining to detect traces of poisonous gasses, they would sing before they die, which foreshadows Blanche’s death after her song • Stanley forcibly cuts short Blanche’s rebirth and cleansing literally and metaphorically severs her hope
‘A hot bath and a long, cold drink always gives me a brand-new outlook on life!’ – Blanche • Dramatic irony as we know that Blanche’s new outlook on life had just been destroyed by Stanley • Returns to bathing as cleansing herself of her past
[The distant piano goes into hectic breakdown] • The blue piano represents sexuality – this is a breakdown of sexuality through the breakdown of Blanche and Mitch’s relationship • It is also signifying the breakdown of Blanche’s life and mentality leading to her death