A Streetcar Named Desire (New Directions Paperbook)

A Streetcar Named Desire (New Directions Paperbook)

by Tennessee Williams

ISBN: 9780811216029

Publisher New Directions

Published in Literature & Fiction/Classics, Literature & Fiction/Literary, Reference

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Sample Chapter


The exterior of a two-story corner building on a street in New Orleans which is named Elysian Fields and runs between the L & N tracks and the river. The section is poor but, unlike corresponding sections in other American cities, it has a raffish charm. The houses are mostly white frame, weathered grey, with rickety outside stairs and galleries and quaintly ornamented gables. This building contains two flats, upstairs and down. Faded white stairs ascend to the entrances of both.

It is first dark of an evening early in May. The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue, almost a turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay. You can almost feel the warm breath of the brown river beyond the river warehouses with their faint redolences of bananas and coffee. A corresponding air is evoked by the music of Negro entertainers at a barroom around the corner. In this part of New Orleans you are practically always just around the corner, or a few doors down the street, from a tinny piano being played with the infatuated fluency of brown fingers. This "blue piano" expresses the spirit of the life which goes on here.

Two women, one white and one colored, are taking the air on the steps of the building. The white woman is Eunice, who occupies the upstairs flat; the colored woman a neighbor, for New Orleans is a cosmopolitan city where there is a relatively warm and easy intermingling of races in the old part of town.

A bore the music of the "blue piano" the voices of people on the street can be heard overlapping.

[Two men come around the corner, Stanley Kowalski and Mitch. They ate about twenty-eight or thirty years old, roughly dressed in blue denim work, clothes. Stanley carries his bowling jacket and a red-stained package from a butcher's. They stop at the foot of the steps.]

STANLEY [bellowing]: Hey, there! Stella, Baby!

[Stella comes out on the first floor landing, a gentle young woman, about twenty-five, and of a background obviously quite different from her husband's.]

STELLA [mildly]: Don't holler at me like that. Hi, Mitch.




[He heaves the package at her. She cries out in protest but manages to catch it: then she laughs breathlessly. Her husband and his companion have already started back around the corner.]

STELLA [calling after him]: Stanley! Where are you going?

STANLEY: Bowling!

STELLA: Can I come watch?

STANLEY: Come on. [He goes out.]

STELLA: Be over soon. [To the white woman] Hello, Eunice. How are you?

EUNICE: I'm all right. Tell Steve to get him a poor boy's sandwich 'cause nothing's left here.

[They all laugh; the colored woman does not stop. Stella goes out.]

COLORED WOMAN: What was that package he th'ew at 'er? [She rises from steps, laughing louder.]

EUNICE: You hush, how!

NEGRO WOMAN: Catch what!

[She continues to laugh. Blanche comes around the corner, carrying a valise. She looks at a slip of paper, then at the building, then again at the slip and again at the building. Her expression is one of shocked disbelief. Her appearace is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district. She is about five years older than Stella. Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light. There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth.]

EUNICE [finally]: What's the matter, honey ? Are you lost?

BLANCHE [with faintly hysterical humor]: They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at-Elysian Fields!

EUNICE: That's where you are now.

BLANCHE: At Elysian Fields?

EUNICE: This here is Elysian Fields.

BLANCHE: They mustn't have-understood-what number I wanted ...

EUNICE: What number you lookin' for?

[Blanche wearily refers to the slip of paper.]

BLANCHE: Six thirty-two.

EUNICE: You don't have to look no further.

BLANCHE [uncomprehendingly]: I'm looking for my sister, Stella DuBois. I mean-Mrs. Stanley Kowalski.

EUNICE: That's the party.-You just did miss her, though.

BLANCHE: This-can this be-her home?

EUNICE: She's got the downstairs here and I got the up.

BLANCHE: Oh. She's-out?

EUNICE: You noticed that bowling alley around the corner?

BLANCHE: I'm-not sure I did.

EUNICE: Well, that's where she's at, watchin' her husband bowl. [There is a pause] You want to leave your suitcase here an' go find her?


NEGRO WOMAN: I'll go tell her you come.

BLANCHE: Thanks.

NEGRO WOMAN: You welcome. [She goes out.]

EUNICE: She wasn't expecting you?

BLANCHE: No. No, not tonight.

EUNICE: Well, why don't you just go in and make yourself at home till they get back.

BLANCHE: How could I-do that?

EUNICE: We own this place so I can let you in.

[She gets up and opens the downstairs door. A light goes on behind the blind, turning it light blue. Blanche slowly follows her into the downstairs flat. The surrounding areas dim out as the interior is lighted.]

[Two rooms can be seen, not too clearly defined. The one first entered is primarily a kitchen but contains a folding bed to be used by Blanche. The room beyond this is a bedroom. Off this room is a narrow door to a bathroom.]

EUNICE [defensively, noticing Blanche's look]: It's sort of messed up right now but when it's clean it's real sweet.


EUNICE: Uh-huh, I think so. So you're Stella's sister?

BLANCHE: Yes. [Wanting to get rid of her] Thanks for letting me in.

EUNICE: Por nada, as the Mexicans say, por nada! Stella spoke of you.


EUNICE: I think she said you taught school.


EUNICE: And you're from Mississippi, huh?


EUNICE: She showed me a picture of your home-place, the plantation.

BLANCHE: Belle Reve?

EUNICE: A great big place with white columns.

BLANCHE: Yes ...

EUNICE: A place like that must be awful hard to keep up.

BLANCHE: If you will excuse me, I'm just about to drop.

EUNICE: Sure, honey. Why don't you set down?

BLANCHE: What I meant was I'd like to be left alone.

EUNICE [offended]: Aw. I'll make myself scarce, in that ease.

BLANCHE: I didn't mean to be rude, but-

EUNICE: I'll drop by the bowling alley an' hustle her up. [She goes out the door.]

[Blanche sits in a chair very stiffly with her shoulders slightly hunched and her legs pressed close together and her hands tightly clutching her purse as if she were quite cold. After a while the blind look goes out of her eyes and she begins to look slowly around. A cat screeches. She catches her breath with a startled gesture. Suddenly she notices something in a half opened closet. She springs up and crosses to it, and removes a whiskey bottle. She pours a half tumbler of whiskey and tosses it down. She carefully replaces the bottle and washes out the tumbler at the sink. Then she resumes her seat in front of the table.]

BLANCHE [faintly to herself]: I've got to keep hold of myself!

[Stella comes quickly around the corner of the building and runs to the door of the downstairs flat.]

STELLA [calling out joyfully]: Blanche!

[For a moment they stare at each other. Then Blanche springs up and runs to her with a wild cry.]

BLANCHE: Stella, oh, Stella, Stella! Stella for Star!

[She begins to speak with feverish vivacity as if she feared for either of them to stop and think. They catch each other in a spasmodic embrace.]

BLANCHE: Now, then, let me look at you. But don't you look at me, Stella, no, no, no, not till later, not till I've bathed and rested! And turn that over-light off! Turn that off! I won't be looked at in this merciless glare! [Stella laughs and complies] Come back here now! Oh, my baby! Stella! Stella for Star! [She embraces her again] I thought you would never come back to this horrible place! What am I saying? I didn't mean to say that. I meant to be nice about it and say-Oh, what a convenient location and such-Ha-a-ha! Precious lamb! You haven't said a word to me.

STELLA: You haven't given me a chance to, honey! [She laughs, but her glance at Blanche is a little anxious.]

BLANCHE: Well, now you talk. Open your pretty mouth and talk while I look around for some liquor! I know you must have some liquor on the place! Where could it be, I wonder? Oh, I spy, I spy!

[She rushes to the closet and removes the bottle; she is shaking all over and panting for breath as she tries to laugh. The bottle nearly slips from her grasp.]

STELLA [noticing]: Blanche, you sit down and let me pour the drinks. I don't know what we've got to mix with. Maybe a coke's in the icebox. Look'n see, honey, while I'm-

BLANCHE: No coke, honey, not with my nerves tonight! Where-where-where is-?

STELLA: Stanley? Bowling! He loves it. They're having a-found some soda!-tournament ...

BLANCHE: Just water, baby, to chase it! Now don't get worried, your sister hasn't turned into a drunkard, she's just all shaken up and hot and tired and dirty! You sit down, now, and explain this place to me! What are you doing in a place like this?

STELLA: Now, Blanche-

BLANCHE: Oh, I'm not going to be hypocritical, I'm going to be honestly critical about it! Never, never, never in my worst dreams could I picture-Only Poe! Only Mr. Edgar Allan Poe!-could do it justice! Out there I suppose is the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir! [She laughs.]

STELLA: No, honey, those are the L & N tracks.

BLANCHE: No, now seriously, putting joking aside. Why didn't you tell me, why didn't you write me, honey, why didn't you let me know?

STELLA [carefully, pouring herself a drink]: Tell you what, Blanche?

BLANCHE: Why, that you had to live in these conditions!

STELLA: Aren't you being a little intense about it? It's not that bad at all! New Orleans isn't like other cities.

BLANCHE: This has got nothing to do with New Orleans. You might as well say-forgive me, blessed baby! [She suddenly stops short] The subject is closed!

STELLA [a little drily]: Thanks.

[During the pause, Blanche stares at her. She smiles at Blanche.]

BLANCHE [looking down at her glass, which shakes in her hand]: You're all I've got in the world, and you're not glad to See me!

STELLA [sincerely]: Why, Blanche, you know that's not true.

BLANCHE: No?-I'd forgotten how quiet you were.

STELLA: You never did give me a chance to say much, Blanche. So I just got in the habit of being quiet around you.

BLANCHE [vaguely]: A good habit to get into ... [then, abruptly] You haven't asked me how I happened to get away from the school before the spring term ended.

STELLA: Well, I thought you'd volunteer that information-if you wanted to tell me.

BLANCHE: You thought I'd been fired?

STELLA: No, I-thought you might have-resigned ...

BLANCHE: I was so exhausted by all I'd been through my-nerves broke. [Nervously tamping cigarette] I was on the verge of-lunacy, almost! So Mr. Graves-Mr. Graves is the high school superintendent-he suggested I take a leave of absence. I couldn't put all of those details into the wire ... [She drinks quickly] Oh, this buzzes right through me and feels so good!

STELLA: Won't you have another?

BLANCHE: No, one's my limit.


BLANCHE: You haven't said a word about my appearance.

STELLA: You look just fine.

BLANCHE: God love you for a liar! Daylight never exposed so total a ruin! But you-you've put on some weight, yes, you're just as plump as a little partridge! And it's so becoming to you!

STELLA: Now, Blanche-

BLANCHE: Yes, it is, it is or I wouldn't say it! You just have to watch around the hips a little. Stand up.

STELLA: Not now.

BLANCHE: You hear me? I said stand up! [Stella complies reluctantly] You messy child, you, you've spilt something on that pretty white lace collar! About your hair-you ought to have it cut in a feather bob with your dainty features. Stella, you have a maid, don't you?

STELLA: No. With only two rooms it's-

BLANCHE: What? Two rooms, did you say?

STELLA: This one and-[She is embarrassed.]

BLANCHE: The other one? [She laughs sharply. There is an embarrassed silence.]

I am going to take just one little tiny nip more, sort of to put the stopper on, so to speak.... Then put the bottle away so I won't be tempted. [She rises] I want you to look at my figure! [She turns around] You know I haven't put on one ounce in ten years, Stella? I weigh what I weighed the summer you left Belle Reve. The summer Dad died and you left us ...

STELLA [a little wearily]: It's just incredible, Blanche, how well you're looking.

BLANCHE: [They both laugh uncomfortably] But, Stella, there's only two rooms, I don't see where you're going to put me!

STELLA: We're going to put you in here.

BLANCHE: What kind of bed's this-one of those collapsible things? [She sits on it.]

STELLA: Does it feel all right?

BLANCHE [dubiously]: Wonderful, honey. I don't like a bed that gives much. But there's no door between the two rooms, and Stanley -will it be decent?

STELLA: Stanley is Polish, you know.

BLANCHE: Oh, yes. They're something like Irish, aren't they?


BLANCHE: Only not so-highbrow? [They both laugh again in the same way] I brought some nice clothes to meet all your lovely friends in.

STELLA: I'm afraid you won't think they are lovely.

BLANCHE: What are they like?

STELLA: They're Stanley's friends.

BLANCHE: Polacks?

STELLA: They're a mixed lot, Blanche.

BLANCHE: Heterogeneous-types?

STELLA: Oh, yes. Yes, types is right!

BLANCHE: Well-anyhow-I brought nice clothes and I'll wear them.


Excerpted from "A Streetcar Named Desire (New Directions Paperbook)" by Tennessee Williams. Copyright © 2004 by Tennessee Williams. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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