Study Guide

A Streetcar Named Desire Scene Two

By Tennessee Williams

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Scene Two

  • We start again with a scene description: It’s six o’clock the following evening at Stella and Stanley's apartment. Blanche is bathing. Her flower-print dress is laid out on Stella’s bed.
  • Stanley enters the kitchen from outside. We can still hear music from the “blue piano.” He wants to know what’s up.
  • Stella says she’s taking Blanche to dinner and a movie, so that the guys have a place to play poker.
  • Stanley grumbles about what he is supposed to do for dinner if Stella is out.
  • Stella explains Blanche is having a soak, trying to calm her nerves. Stella says her sister is so upset because she’s lost Belle Reve.
  • Stanley considers this.
  • Stella tells him not to mention anything about the baby. Hint: This means she’s pregnant, fulfilling the “Stella, you’re so plump!” foreshadowing of Scene One.
  • She also tells him to be nice to Blanche and compliment her appearance as much as possible.
  • Blanche’s voice is heard singing from the bathroom.
  • Stanley wants to get back to the subject of Belle Reve.
  • He demands to see the bill of sale for the estate.
  • Stella says there are no papers, that the plantation was lost and not sold.
  • Stanley then gives her a lesson on “the Napoleonic code.” What belongs to the wife, he says, belongs to the husband, and vice versa. Which means, Belle Reve is his business too and he doesn’t like to be “swindled.” He thinks Blanche is keeping all the money made from the sale and screwing her sister.
  • He then marches over to Blanche’s trunk and heaves it open, pulling out her clothes and tossing them about the place. “You think she got them out of a teachers pay?” he asks. He points out that Stella doesn’t have such fine fox-fur pieces as her sister (because she got swindled, is the implication).
  • Stella demands that he calm down.
  • So, of course, Stanley gets angry and yanks open a drawer, pulling out a fistful of Blanche’s costume jewelry. Stella tries to explain that what Stanley thinks is a diamond tiara is a cheap rhinestone costume piece, but he says has an appraiser buddy who will come in and tell them how much her stuff is worth. Then he sulks into the kitchen.
  • Stella exits to the porch in a huff.
  • Blanche comes out of the bathroom in a red satin robe, as charming as can be, going on and on about how fresh and cool she feels after her bath.
  • Stanley doesn’t budge. He’s not the sort to care about privacy, if you haven’t noticed.
  • Blanche changes in the bedroom, and then asks a favor. She needs Stanley to do up her buttons in back.
  • He declines.
  • Blanche notices her ruffled trunk.
  • Stanley says, “Me an’ Stella were helping you unpack.” Blanche accepts this good-naturedly, joking around.
  • While they chat (or rather, while she talks), Blanche keeps fishing for compliments. (As in, “Tell me I’m beautiful!”) But Stanley responds that he doesn’t “go in for that stuff […], compliments to women about their looks.” He says women who are attractive always know that they are attractive; why tell them?
  • Blanche calls him a bit primitive, yet somehow makes it seem like a compliment. She says she’s never cared for “wishy-washy people.”
  • Stanley then yells, “Now let’s cut the re-bop!” This is Stanley Kowalski for “Cut the bull.”
  • Stella rushes in from the porch and tries to intervene, but Blanche sends her off to the corner store to fetch a lemon-coke.
  • Once Stella is gone, Stanley explains to Blanche about the Napoleonic code.
  • Blanche pretends to be impressed with his “judicious air” and flirtatiously spritzes him with her perfume.
  • Stanley grabs it and slams it down; he then insinuates that she’s hitting on him.
  • Blanche laughs. She admits that she flirts and fibs, saying that “a woman’s charm is fifty per cent illusion.” But she insists that when something is important she tells the truth, and the truth is that she has never cheated anyone.
  • Stanley wants to see the papers for the sale of Belle Reve, and goes again for Blanche’s luggage.
  • Blanche helps him, removing a tin box where she keeps her papers.
  • Stanley pulls out the bottom papers, which are apparently love-letters, all from one boy.
  • Blanche cries out in alarm.
  • She grabs for them, and they fall to the floor.
  • Getting dramatic, she yells, “Now that you’ve touched them I’ll burn them!”
  • Blanche explains to Stanley that the letters are from her former husband, now dead.
  • Blanche appears suddenly exhausted. She sits down and puts on her glasses. Then she starts handing over the other, official papers, which Stanley examines.
  • Blanche explains that there are thousands of these papers, dating back centuries, all of which chronicle the demise of the family estate. For generations, it seems, the DuBois have “exchanged the land for their epic fornications.”
  • Stanley says he’ll have a lawyer friend examine them. He seems to have a friend to appraise everything: first furs, jewelry, and now legal papers.
  • But he sounds a bit sheepish; it seems he realizes that the house was lost and he wasn’t swindled, as suspected.
  • Then he mentions that Stella is going to have a baby. (This kind of rub it in Blanche's face that she doesn't have a husband.)
  • Cue the “blue piano.”
  • Dreamily, Blanche gets up, wanders outside (leaving Stanley), and meets Stella returning from the drugstore.
  • “Stella, Stella for star!” she greets her. “How lovely to have a baby!”
  • Stella apologizes for her husband, saying he shouldn’t have done that to Blanche.
  • But Blanche just continues rambling about how it might be just what the family needs. She seems very out-of-it, and, in this state, is led away from the house by her sister to go to dinner.
  • They pass Steve and Pablo, who enter the house with beer for their poker game.
  • The last words in the scene are those of the tamale vendor, who yells out “Red-hot!”
  • How’s that for some spicy foreboding?

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