'A Streetcar Named Desire' Quotes

"I don't want realism. I want magic."

In A Streetcar Named Desire, protagonist Blanche DuBois arrives at her sister's apartment jobless, homeless, and penniless. Despite her situation, the former Southern belle insists on maintaining a snobbish attitude, with her upper-class-like affectation and her patrician manners. Her worldview and progressive unraveling lead the action of the play, as illustrated in the following quotes dealing with appearances, social status, and sexuality.

Quotes About Appearances

They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields

Blanche utters these words to Eunice, the Kowalskis’ neighbor and landlady, as she explains her befuddlement over the appearance of her destination—she thinks she’s in the wrong place.

The names chosen by author Tennessee Williams for the streetcar and the street are not random. Blanche, we learn as the play progresses, is a sexually depraved woman who, guided by desire, seduced young men in a seedy hotel after her gay husband’s suicide. In Greek mythology, the Elysian Fields were the afterlife, and Blanche reaches that place after experiencing “societal” death. With its "raffish" charm, the Elysian Fields in New Orleans appear like a Pagan afterlife, pulsing with sexual energy and characters that have nothing to do with Blanche’s traditionally Southern affectation. This is further emphasized when the Mexican woman wants to hand her flores para los muertos during her confrontation with Mitch.

I never was hard or self-sufficient enough. When people are soft—soft people have got to shimmer and glow—they’ve got to put on soft colors, the colors of butterfly wings, and put a—paper lantern over the light ... It isn’t enough to be soft. You’ve got to be soft and attractive. And I—I’m fading now! I don’t know how much longer I can turn the trick. 

Blanche offers this explanation to her sister to justify her less-than-virtuous behavior in the past two years. Even though Stella is not hard on her sister after she prods her to reveal if any gossip about her had transpired, Blanche is eager to explain herself without actually revealing any tangible information.

At that point, Blanche had been seeing Mitch for a while, but their relationship had been platonic. “Mitch—Mitch is coming at seven. I guess I am just feeling nervous about our relations,” Blanche tells Stella. “He hasn’t gotten a thing but a goodnight kiss, that’s all I have given him, Stella. I want his respect. And men don’t want anything they get too easy.” She is mostly concerned that her beauty is fading with age, and that, as a consequence, she could face a future of loneliness. 

When we first met, me and you, you thought I was common. How right you was, baby. I was common as dirt. You showed me the snapshot of the place with the columns. I pulled you down off them columns and how you loved it, having the colored lights going! And wasn’t we happy together, wasn’t it all okay till she showed here?

Stanley speaks these words to Stella to plead his case for his tense relationship with Blanche. He had just gifted Blanche with a return ticket to Laurel, which causes Blanche a lot of distress, since she feels like she is being kicked out of the only safe place that remains to her. Stella reproaches her husband for his insensitivity, though he claims he did it to safeguard their marriage.

Shortly before, Stella had berated Stanley for revealing Blanche’s past to Mitch. As a result, Mitch did not show up for a rendez-vous, which upset Blanche. Stanley promised to sexually satisfy his wife after Blanche is gone to make it up to her.

Stanley is convinced that everything was fine in their marriage until Blanche came along and described him “as an ape.” In these interactions with Stella, Stanley emphasizes their sexual connection. Both Blanche and Stella are sexual characters, but, unlike the “depraved” Blanche, Stella found a way to be a sexual woman in her marriage with Stanley. After this tense exchange, Stella goes into labor. 

Quotes About Fantasy

I don’t want realism. I want magic! [Mitch laughs] Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me damned for it! Don’t turn the light on!

Blanche tells Mitch her motto after he pleads for her to be “realistic” with him. Ever since they started dating, he had never seen her in direct light, but always concealed by the muted light of dusk and nighttime. She had been lying to him about herself on a consistent basis, claiming to be younger than Stella and to be there to look after her ailing sister. During their first meeting, Blanche asked him to help her cover the naked lightbulb with a paper lantern, the same lantern that he tears up during their final confrontation. On a deeper level, Blanche sees a direct connection between light and tragedy; she compares her love for Allan to “a blinding light,” which, after his death “was turned off again.” 

Quotes About Sexuality

You’re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mother.

After Mitch is let in on Blanche’s sordid past, he feels disgusted by a woman he thought was decent and pure. Their courtship had been platonic so far, but upon listening to Blanche’s confession, he unleashes his desire. He wants from her “what [he’d] been missing all summer,” meaning sexual intercourse, but without committing to marrying her. In Mitch's view, as a woman, she’s no longer deemed virtuous enough to be introduced to his ailing mother.

With this pronouncement, Mitch also reveals himself as the type of character that is too dependent on his mother. Even though he longs for a wife, he is still too enthralled in his nuclear family to have one.

Oh! So you want some rough-house! All right, let’s have some rough-house! Tiger—tiger! Drop the bottle top! Drop it! We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning! 

Stanley speaks these words to Blanche right before sexually assaulting her. Shortly before, she had been brandishing a broken bottle in an attempt to cut him. Stanley thinks that, somehow, Blanche’s behavior up until that point had implied that she was asking for it. Blanche’s state of desperation triggers Stanley’s desire to overpower her. As she falls limp and lets herself be carried to the bed by Stanley, the music of the Quarter swells, which signals the way not only Stanley, but the whole Elysian Fields overpowered her. In a way, Stanley is the opposite of Blanche’s dead husband Allan; it is heavily implied that Blanche’s marriage was never consummated, and Stanley carries her to the bed the same way a husband does with his wife on their wedding night. 

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Frey, Angelica. "'A Streetcar Named Desire' Quotes." ThoughtCo, Jan. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-quotes-4685192. Frey, Angelica. (2020, January 29). 'A Streetcar Named Desire' Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-quotes-4685192 Frey, Angelica. "'A Streetcar Named Desire' Quotes." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-quotes-4685192 (accessed May 29, 2023).