Study Guide

You Can't Take It With You Society and Class

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Society and Class

MR. KIRBY: Boys like Tony don't marry stenographers.

Mr. Kirby is supposed to be wrong here, obviously; the message of the film is that there is no class barrier to love. But he's also somewhat accurate. Alice isn't exactly a stenographer; she's working as a secretary, but does she really need the job? She quits without worrying about where her next meal is coming from; her family has resources. She's not actually the class Mr. Kirby thinks she is, which is perhaps why he doesn't recognize the danger of marriage is real.

TONY: You know, there never was anything in my life that I couldn't get if I didn't scream loud enough.

ALICE: Really?

TONY: Yeah, and I've had plenty of practice with it since I was a baby. I'm pretty terrific at it now. Here, let me show you a little example.

[Tony screams, and the office boy opens the door. Tony screams again and the office boy leaves. Tony and Alice laugh.]

Tony is incredibly charming and fun (he's Jimmy Stewart, after all!) But he's also spoiled. The film mostly focuses on getting Mr. Kirby to be a better person, but Tony has some improving to do as well (under the tutelage of the Sycamores, of course.)

TONY: I can feel a scream coming on right now... it's up here, in my throat! It's fighting to get out!

ALICE: No, please, don't scream!

[Alice screams]

HEAD WAITER: [comes over to the table] What happened?

TONY: What happened? Well, there was a mouse!

HENRY: A mouse? In this place?

TONY: What do you mean, "mouse"? It was a rat, this long, and it had hair on it! And there were six or seven of them!

This scene is all about tweaking upper-class society. Alice and Tony are in a lavish dining room, which they end up scampishly disrupting. The tweaking of the upper class, though, depends on the fact that Alice and Tony are upper-classish themselves; they don't need to worry about being arrested, for instance. If you want to take on the upper class, it's best to have some money and connections yourself.

MRS. KIRBY: She's probably from some dull middle class family; as soon as Tony sees us all together he'll realize how impossible it is.

The joke here is that Alice's family isn't dull at all—and not exactly middle-class either. Also, the family's difference is exactly what attracts Tony to them; he's sick of bankers, and wants to find something a little more exciting (something with harmonicas.)

ALICE: [to the Kirby family] The next time you want to go slumming, stay away from our neighborhood!

Alice is defending her family and their neighbors, who are all gathered in the courtroom. It's the common people vs. the snooty bankers—a sentiment that must have resonated during the Great Depression, when there was (as now) great inequality.

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