'A Streetcar Named Desire' — Scene 11

"The Kindness of Strangers"

The original production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Bettmann / Getty Images

Scene 11 (sometimes labeled Act Three, Scene Five) of "A Streetcar Named Desire" takes place a few days after Blanche DuBois was raped by Stanley Kowalski.

In between scenes 10 and 11, how has Blanche processed the sexual assault? It seems that she has told her sister, Stella. However, having returned from the hospital with her firstborn child and being fully aware that Blanche has become mentally unstable, Stella has chosen not to believe her story.

Miss DuBois Is Being Sent Away

Blanche still clings to fantasy, telling others that she is expecting to go away on a trip with her wealthy gentleman friend. During the last few days, Blanche has probably been maintaining her frail illusions to the best of her ability, staying hidden as best she can in the spare room, trying to hold on to what little privacy she has left.

How has Stanley been behaving since the rape? The scene begins with yet another macho poker night. Stanley demonstrates no regret and no transformation—his conscience seems a blank slate.

Stella is waiting for a psychiatric doctor to arrive and take Blanche away to an asylum. She contemplates with her neighbor Eunice, wondering if she is doing the right thing. They discuss ​Blanche's rape:

Stella: I couldn't believe her story and go on living with Stanley! (Breaks, turns to Eunice, who takes her in her arms.)
Eunice: (Holding Stella close.) Don't you ever believe it. You've got to keep on goin' honey. No matter what happens, we've all got to keep on going.

Blanche steps out of the bathroom. The stage directions explain that there is a "tragic radiance about her." The sexual assault seems to have pushed her further into delusion. Blanche fantasies (and probably believes) that she will soon be traveling on the sea. She imagines dying at sea, killed by the unwashed grape from the French Market, and compares the color of the ocean to that of her first love's eyes.

The Strangers Arrive

A psychiatric doctor and nurse arrive to take Blanche to a hospital for mental patients. At first, Blanche thinks that her wealthy friend Shep Huntleigh has arrived. However, once she sees the "strange woman" she begins to panic. She runs back into the bedroom. When she claims to have forgotten something, Stanley cooly explains, "Now Blanche—you left nothing here but split talcum and old empty perfume bottles, unless it's the paper lantern you want to take with you." This suggests that Blanche's entire life offers nothing of lasting value. The paper lantern is a device she has used to shield her looks and her life from the harsh light of reality. One last time, Stanley shows his disdain for her by tearing the lantern off of the light bulb and casting it down.

Blanche grabs the lantern and tries to run away, but she is grappled by the nurse. Then all hell breaks loose:

  • Stella screams and pleads for her sister's well-being.
  • Eunice holds Stella back.
  • Mitch, blaming the situation on his friend, attacks Stanley.
  • The doctor enters and eventually calms Blanche (and everyone else).

After looking at the kind doctor, Blanche's demeanor changes. She actually smiles and says the play's famous line, "Whoever you are—I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." The doctor and nurse lead her from the apartment. Stella, still wracked with mixed emotions, calls to her sister, but Blanche ignores her, perhaps now forever lost in her illusions.

The Film's Ending Versus the Play's Final Moments

It is important to note that in the Elia Kazan film, Stella seems to blame and reject Stanley. The movie adaptation implies that Stella will no longer trust her husband, and might actually leave him. However, in Tennessee Williams' original play, the story ends with Stanley taking his sobbing with into his arms and soothingly saying: "Now, honey. Now, love." The curtain falls as the men resume their poker game.

Throughout the play, many of Blanche DuBois' words and actions denote her revulsion of truth and reality. As she often states, she would much rather have magic—would much rather live a fanciful lie rather than deal with the ugliness of the real world. And yet, Blanche is not the only delusional character in the play.

Delusion and Denial

During the final scene of "A Streetcar Named Desire," the audience witnesses Stella adopting the delusion that her husband is trustworthy—that he did not, in fact, rape her sister. When Eunice says, "No matter what happens, we've all got to keep going," she is preaching the virtues of self-deception. Tell yourself whatever you need to in order to sleep at night—in order to carry on with each day. Mitch adopts the delusion that Stanley is the only one responsible for Blanche's undoing, eschewing any moral responsibility.

Finally, even Stanley himself, the masculine character who prides himself on being down to earth, at facing life for what it is, falls prey to delusions. For one, he has always been more than a bit paranoid about Blanche's intentions, believing that she has been trying to usurp him from his role as "king of his castle." Just before raping Blanche he declares, "We've had this date with each other from the beginning," implying that Blanche has complied with the sexual act—another delusion. Even in the last scene, while witnessing Blanche's mental frailty in all its pathos, Stanley still believes that he has done nothing wrong. His powers of denial are stronger than that of Blanche DuBois. Unlike Stanley, she cannot skirt regret and guilt; they will continue to haunt her no matter how many illusions (or paper lanterns) she creates.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Bradford, Wade. "'A Streetcar Named Desire' — Scene 11." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-scene-eleven-2713691. Bradford, Wade. (2023, April 5). 'A Streetcar Named Desire' — Scene 11. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-scene-eleven-2713691 Bradford, Wade. "'A Streetcar Named Desire' — Scene 11." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-scene-eleven-2713691 (accessed June 7, 2023).