Monday, March 19, 2012
213. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
The Book Blurb:
A Streetcar Named Desire is one of the most remarkable plays of our time. It created an immortal woman in the character of Blanche DuBois, the haggard and fragile southern beauty whose pathetic last grasp at happiness is cruelly destroyed. It shot Marlon Brando to fame in the role of Stanley Kowalski, a sweat-shirted barbarian, the crudely sensual brother-in-law who precipitated Blanche's tragedy.
What Hooked Me:
The tension that is palpable soon after Blanche arrives in her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski's house for a visit continues until the end of this highly dramatic play.
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.' (opening lines)
'[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 appearance 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 almost 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]'14-15)
'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!'(15)
'[Stanley throws the screen door of the kitchen open and comes in. He is of medium height, about five feet eight or nine, and strongly, compactly built. Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his movements and attitudes. Since earliest manhood the center of his life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependently, but with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens. Branching out from this complete and satisfying center are all the auxiliary channels of his life, such as his heartiness with men, his appreciation of rough humor, his love of good drink and food and games, his car, his radio, everything that is his, that bears his emblem of the gaudy seed-bearer. He sizes women up at a glance, with sexual classifications, crude images flashing into his mind and determining the way he smiles at them.]'(29)
She must have been fond of you. Sick people have such deep, sincere attachments.
That's right, they certainly do.
Sorrow makes for sincerity, I think.
It sure brings it out on people.
The little there is belongs to people who have experienced some sorrow.'(54)
Never arithmetic, sir, never arithmetic! [with a laugh] I don't even know my multiplication tables! No, I have the misfortune of being an English instructor. I attempt to instill a bunch of bobby-soxers and drug-store Romeos with reverence for Hawthorne and Whitman and Poe!'(56)
'STANLEY [with heaven-splitting violence]:
... Don't you just love these long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn't just an hour -- but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands -- and who knows what to do with it?'(88)
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 be damned for it!'(117)
It won't be the sort of thing you have in mind. This man is a gentleman and he respects me. [improvising feverishly] What he wants is my companionship. Having great wealth sometimes makes people lonely! A cultivated woman, a woman of intelligence and breeding, can enrich a man's life -- Immeasurably! I have those things to offer, and this doesn't take them away. Physical beauty is passing. A transitory possession. But beauty of the mind and richness of the spirit and tenderness of the heart -- and I have all of those things -- aren't taken away, but grow! Increase with the years! How strange that I should be called a destitute woman! When I have all of these treasures in my heart. [A choked sob comes from her] I think of myself as a very, very rich woman! But I have been foolish -- casting my pearls before swine!'(126)
...But some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable.'(126)
STANLEY [prodigiously elated]:
You know what luck is? Luck is believing you're lucky.'(131)
... Life has got to go on. No matter what happens, you've got to keep on going.'(133)
I can smell the sea air. The rest of my time I'm going to spend on the sea. And when I die, I'm going to die on the sea. You know what I shall die of? [She plucks a grape] I shall die of eating an unwashed grape one day out on the ocean. I will die -- with my hand in the hand of some nice-looking ship's doctor, a very young one with a small blond mustache and a big silver watch. "Poor lady,' they'll say, "the quinine did her no good. That unwashed grape has transported her soul to heaven."'(136)