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MonkeyNotes-A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
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Scene 2

Summary

The following evening Stanley enters to find preparations being made for an outing. Stella tells him that she is taking Blanche out to dinner and a movie since it is Stanley's poker night. The chauvinistic husband immediately wishes to know whether his wife has arranged for his dinner and is upset to find she has left him only a cold plate. When Stella informs him that her parents' place in the country, Belle Reve, has been lost, Stanley's distrusting, calculating nature asserts itself. He believes that Blanche has swindled them both out of their fair share of Belle Reve in order to buy herself furs, clothes, and jewelry. He demands to see the bill of sale in order to check up on Blanche.

When Blanche comes in from taking a hot bath, she seems to flirt with Stanley, asking him to button her dress. He refuses to compliment her on her appearance although, in her insecurity, she seems to beg for his acceptance. Instead, he asks her where her clothes and furs come from. When she tells him that they were gifts from an admirer, he makes a rudely sarcastic remark; when she calls him 'primitive', he tells her that he only likes people who "lay their cards on the table." When Stella tries to stop the conversation, Blanche sends her away on an errand.

Stanley asks Blanche to show him the legal papers on Belle Reve. When Blanche hands him a tin box, he uncouthly pulls out the love- letters written by her dead husband and examines them. She tells Stanley, "I hurt him the way that you would like to hurt me, but you can't." (Ironically, Stanley will make a mockery of these words when he destroys Mitch's love for her, rapes her himself, and has her sent to the mental institution.) She snatches the love letters away from Stanley because of their intimate nature and says that she needs to burn them since his crude touch has defiled them. She then hands him the legal papers from several firms. He closes the scene by saying that he will have a lawyer examine them and rationalizes his action with the excuse of the 'Napoleonic Code'. He also tells Blanche that Stella is going to have a baby, ignoring his wife's wish of not mentioning this news to her. As always, Stanley does his own thing, ignoring the feelings or wishes of others. When Stella returns, Blanche congratulates her on the baby and tells her that everything has been sorted out with Stanley. The two women leave as the poker players arrive.


Notes

The negative image of Stanley is further enhanced in this scene. When he learns that Stella and Blanche are going out to dinner, he thinks only of himself, asking what she has prepared him for dinner. When he learns it is only a cold plate, he voices his displeasure in a chauvinistic manner. He is also shown as being distrusting and demanding. He is fearful that his sister-in-law has cheated him out of money on Belle Reve and spent it on herself, buying furs and jewels. In a questioning and insulting manner, he demands to see the legal papers related to the sale. When Blanche is showing him the papers, he rudely and inappropriately snatches her love letters written by her husband and begins to read them. He then tells Blanche that Stella is going to have a baby, even though his wife has asked him not to share this information; but he does what he wants, when he wants, never thinking of others. At another point in the scene, he admits that he only likes people who are straightforward and honest, who "lay their cards on the table." Perhaps, this is why he has gotten off to a bad start with Blanche, for she immediately lied to him about not drinking when he had already realized she had been into his liquor bottle.

Tennessee Williams also gives more information about Blanche in this scene. In order to soothe her jagged nerves, she is constantly bathing; symbolically, the reader realizes that what she is trying to do is wash her sins away. But as soon as she emerges from the bath, she continues in her old ways and openly flirts with Stanley, asking him to button her dress and taking a puff of his cigarette, both having sexual innuendoes and foreshadowing the later rape scene. She also reveals that she truly loved her young and sensitive husband, treasuring the romantic letters he had written her. With her aristocratic sensibilities, she is appalled that her brother-in-law would snatch the letters and read them. She is visibly upset by his behavior and by his questioning of her about Belle Reve. At the end of the second scene, just as the end of the first, Stanley has totally unnerved Blanche.

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MonkeyNotes-A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
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