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A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tennessee Williams

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In Tennessee Williams' play "A Streetcar Named Desire," what sign does Blanche say she was born under, what what does that mean?

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In Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the character Blanche comes to live with her sister, Stella, and Stella’s brutish, primitive husband Stanley.  Stanley and Stella occupy an apartment in a low-rent section of New Orleans and are clearly people of little means and limited tastes.  Stanley’s life revolves around his job, bowling, and drinking.  Stella, clearly pregnant with their first child, is content to take care of and clean up after Stanley.  When Blanche arrives, her posturing as having enjoyed a morally and socially superior life before coming to New Orleans conceals dark secrets regarding her alcoholic and promiscuous past.  Seemingly, or pretending to be repulsed by Stanley’s clear animal-magnetism, she consistently presents herself as above her surroundings, which does not go unnoticed by Stanley.  During one innocuous exchange between Blanche and Stanley, during which Stanley is hammering away on a project, producing considerable noise in the process, she inquires of him as to his astrological sign:

Blanche: That’s a mighty high number. [Stanley goes business, making noise as he goes] What sign were you born under? 

Stanley: Sign? 

Blanche: Astrological sign. I bet your were born under Aries. Aries people are forceful and dynamic. They dote on noise! They love to bang things around! You must have had lots of banging around in the army and now that you’re out, you make up for it by treating inanimate objects with such a fury. 

Stella: Stanley was born just five minutes after Christmas. 

Blanche: Capricorn – the Goat! 

Stanley: What sign were you born under? 

Blanche: Oh, my birthday’s next month, the fifteenth of September; that’s under Virgo. 

Stanley: What’s Virgo? 

Blanche: Virgo is the Virgin.

Blanche’s description of her astrological sign as being the sign of the Virgin is important because it is revealing of the extent to which she has attempted to conceal her past reputation for promiscuity and her desire to create a new past wherein she was comfortable only in the world of the proper gentlemen and ladies, and that she is a woman of virtue.  Blanche has created an imaginary life ignorant of the extent to which Stanley has uncovered the deception.  

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