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The Poker Night
Four men (Stanley Kowalski, Mitch, Steve, and Pablo) are playing poker while the ladies (Blanche and Stella) are having an evening out.
Playwright Tennessee Williams describes the men as in the physical prime of their life; they drink whiskey and each of their shirts has its own bright, distinct color. Stanley's first line in this scene betrays his aggressiveness:
STANLEY: Get y'r ass off the table, Mitch. Nothing belongs on a poker table but cards, chips and whiskey.
Mitch seems more sensitive than the other men. He considers leaving the poker game because he is concerned about his ailing mother. (An interesting point about Mitch: He is the only unmarried man in the group.)
The Ladies Return
Stella and Blanche arrive home at around 2:30 am. Intrigued by the gruff man and their poker playing, Blanche asks if she can "kibitz" (meaning that she wants to spectate and offer commentary and advice about their game). Stanley won't let her. And when his wife suggests that the men quit after one more hand, he roughly slaps her thigh. Steve and Pablo laugh at this. Again, Williams shows us that most men (at least in this play) are crude and hostile, and most women begrudgingly tolerate them.
Mitch and Blanche Flirt
Blanche briefly encounters Mitch, who is just emerging from the bathroom. She asks Stella if Mitch is a "wolf," someone who will take advantage of her emotionally and sexually. Stella doesn't think that he would behave that way, and Blanche begins to wonder about Mitch as a romantic possibility.
Mitch excuses himself from the poker table and shares a cigarette with Blanche.
MITCH: I guess we strike you as being a pretty rough bunch.
BLANCHE: I'm very adaptable - to circumstances.
She also talks about her career back in her hometown. She states, "I have the misfortune of being an English instructor." (Personal note: Since I, too, am an English teacher, I find this line hysterical!)
Blanche turns on the radio, hoping to dance with Mitch; however, Stanley (who has become increasingly enraged by Blanche and her distracting ways) throws the radio out the window.
All Hell Breaks Loose
After Stanley trashes the radio, fast-paced and violent action ensues:
- Stella calls Stanley a "drunk - animal thing."
- Stanley beats Stella.
- Blanche screams "My sister is going to have a baby!"
- The men restrain Stanley and toss him in the shower.
- Blanche rushes Stella to the neighbor's apartment.
Within moments, Stanley, soaking wet and half-drunken. He suddenly realizes that Stella has left him.
In this famous moment, Stanley stumbles out to the street. He begins to call for his wife. When she does not come down to him he begins to shout her name repeatedly. The stages directions indicate that he calls to her "with heaven-splitting violence."
Touched by her husband's desperate, animalistic need for her, Stella walks down to him. According to the stage directions, "They come together with low, animal moans. He falls to his knees on the steps and presses his face to her belly."
In many ways, this moment is the antithesis to the famed balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Instead of Romeo (as stage tradition holds) climbing up to his love, Stella walks down to her man. Instead of a romantic lead spouting eloquent poetry, we have Stanley Kowalski yelling at the top of his lungs, repeating only one name, like an ill-tempered boy calling for his mother.
After Stanley carries Stella into their home, Blanche meets Mitch once again. He tells her not to worry, that the pair truly cares about each other. Blanche marvels about the confusing nature of the world and thanks Mitch for his kindness.