A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene Notes – Scene 2




·         The scene starts with Stella telling Stanley that she will take Blanche out in order to get her out of the house for the boys’ poker night

·         Stella explains that Blanche has lost Belle Reve and asks Stanley to be nice to her

·         Tension is created between Stanley and Stella: Stanley believes that whatever Stella owns is also his and is angered by the thought that Blanche may have swindled him (and Stella) out of their share of the money from the sale of Belle Reve. Although this could be interpreted as him worrying about Stella, an alternate reading would be that he is selfish.

·         Stanley and Blanche meet for the first time; Blanche is very flirtatious towards him (for example by asking him to button up her dress) while he is blunt towards her, foreshadowing that tensions will continue to rise between these two characters.

·         Stanley demands to see the bill of sale for Belle Reve and accuses Blanche of using the money from this sale to buy expensive furs and jewelry but Blanche eventually reveals that the house was ‘lost’ not sold

·         Once again Stella is seen as the submissive character; Stanley uses imperatives against her, as does Blanche, and she has the least speech within this scene. She has the least power within the three characters at this point in time and both Stanley and Blanche seem to want her ‘out of the way’ in order to talk more plainly to one another

·         Additionally, the audience and Blanche find out that Stella is pregnant, perhaps the explanation as to why Blanche made the previous comment about her weight gain in Scene 1. (However, it does seem that Blanche’s comment was still meant to be a superficial comment on Stella’s looks intended to make Blanche feel better about her own figure)

·         Stella returns from the drugstore, and some of the men arrive for their poker game. Exhilarated by the news of Stella’s pregnancy and by her own handling of the situation with Stanley, Blanche follows Stella for their girls’ night out.



Motifs & Connotations:

Inside and outside

Instead of being a refuge from the harsh outer world, the confines of the house seem restrictive and just as tense as the outside world, or even more so, for the glimpses that have been seen of the outside (Scene 1) are relatively positive, as there is a sense of community. This is in contrast to the inside, where the relationships are strained and there is a sense of false sincerity and materialism, especially with Blanche. For instance, “my pretty new dress” (135) indicates how Blanche is obsessed with appearances, and also the validation and approval of others. This materialism and false pretenses does not seem to be present within the outside world and hence, although Blanche appears to be seeking a haven from the outside, for her the situation inside seems even worse.


There is an association with the outside with a wild and unknown environment and this leads to the idea of the need to depend upon another. For example, “Which way do we – go now- Stella?” (141.) The gaps within the speech helps to emphasize the uncertainty of the situation, already present by the question mark; additionally, the quotation highlights Blanche’s dependency on Stella for guidance and support.  Furthermore, Blanche believes that “The blind are – leading the blind!” (142), revealing the uncertainty that she feels, stepping into the real world, out of her euphemistic ideals. The dash perhaps emphasizes Blanche’s hesitation and reluctance to admit that she is uncertain of her surroundings.


Bathing as a form of purification

The action of bathing and cleansing oneself can be seen during Scene Two. In one instance, Blanche is “soaking in a hot tub to quiet her nerves.” (131) This could be seen as Blanche once again escaping reality; her cleansing is a form of escapism from the harshness of reality, another motif present within this scene. This once again shows how Blanche is unable to deal with life and is related to her drinking as both are a form of escape from, for her, the grim reality of everyday life. In this sense, Blanche can be seen as a weak character who is dependent upon others in order to function.


Additionally, Blanche views bathing as a renewal of herself, as if to literally wash off the shock of Stella’s husband and house. She seems to regard this ritual is a necessity, as she has been rejuvenated and “feeling like a brand-new human being!” (135) Furthermore, the idea of scenting oneself could be interpreted as trying to hide a person’s true nature; Blanche scents herself to distract herself and possibly others from reality: she “playfully” sprays Stanley, possibly as an attempt to distract him from the legal documents.



In scene two, we see several uses of paper, in particular legal papers. Firstly, they serve as proof. For example, on page 132, Stanley demands to “see the papers” several times, the papers being the bill of sale, as he believes that Blanche has sold the house, while not giving her sister her share. This, together with his repetition of the “Napoleonic code”, shows us a side of Stanley that is greedy and suspicious of Blanche because he does not want to be “swindled” out of his share of the money. 


However, for Blanche papers represent her past, as the papers proved the ownership of the house and possibly when she “endows” Stanley with the papers this may be seen as an attempt to rid herself of her past, in a similar way to the motif of bathing. This association between papers and the past is reinforced by the love letters from Blanche’s deceased husband. These papers may reveal several things:  firstly, Blanche might be feeling guilty for her husband’s suicide, and thus she keeps the letters to remind herself of what she has done. Secondly, this may reinforce the theme of beautiful dreams vs. the ugly reality as, by keeping the love letters of her husband, she Blanche may be refusing to accept the reality of his death: she is unable to let go of her dream.



In this scene clothes reveal much about the protagonist Blanche. One of her first actions in the scene is putting on her dress, at which point she asks Stanley for assistance. She admits her flirtatious conversation to Stella later on, stating that she “was flirting with [Stanley]” and although Blanche seems to be more or less in control during the initial interaction with Stanley her actions here may reveal that, just like her sister, Blanche is dependent on men for survival. Her flirtatious conversation with Stanley also reveals her need for men, as men provide her with reassurance that her beauty (and her dreams) are not fading. Her flirtation with Stanley also foreshadows the rape in Scene 10 and which in turn accentuates the theme of the destructive nature of desire. Finally, the fact that her suitcase is full of clothes shows her vanity, and her desires to attract compliments due to her opinion of herself. This once again reflects the theme of dreams vs. reality, as by asking for compliments through her clothes, Blanche is able to deny the reality that she is getting old and continue to live in her dream.



Themes & Connotations:

Masculine males vs. delicate, dependent females

There are several conflicts within this scene, one of them being masculine males vs. delicate, dependent females. Stanley is seen as the stereotypical male; he is the dominant character and employs imperatives when speaking to both Stella and Blanche. He is blunt and curt towards Blanche, using monosyllabic words: “don’t play so dumb.” (138) as if he is unable to tolerate her. Stanley is also seen as primitive, through the stage directions used to show his ransacking of Blanche’s belongings.


Furthermore, Stanley seems to treat even his wife with disdain. His response, “Well, isn’t that just dandy!” (131) seems filled with sarcasm and he is unappreciative of Stella. Additionally, he possessively calls her “baby” (133), possibly interpreted as an endearing termthis is really a diminutive name for women, as they are seen as feeble and powerless. In addition to this, when Stella “jumps up and kisses him” “he accepts with lordly composure” (131), adding to the portrayal of the masculine man and the dependent woman, in need of help.


Conflict between sisters

Once again, underlying tensions can be seen between Stella and Blanche; it seems as if Blanche is almost proud when she confesses that, “Yes-I was flirting with your husband, Stella!” (141) The reason for her pride could be interpreted as the ability to tease men, something Blanche perceives as crucial in order to remain youthful. Furthermore, by flirting with Stanley, Blanche is competing directly with her more youthful sister; by being able to compete with her, Blanche is allowed to remain young and beautiful. Hence, this once again shows Blanche’s refusal to accept reality.


Declining upper class vs. burgeoning working class

“The Kowalskis and the Dubois have different notions” (135) summarizes the difference between the lower class, emphasized by the immigrant surname of Kowalski in contrast to the French name Dubois which has connotations of power, wealth and aristocracy. However, the declining upper class is emphasized by the loss of Belle Reve. Furthermore, the idea that Stella adopted Stanley’s last name emphasizes how the power of the upper class (signified by the last name Dubois) has begun to deteriorate, as Blanche is the remaining member of the Dubois family. In a sense both characters seem to be fighting for control over Stella and the fact that, in the end Stanley wins, reveals how eventually he and the vigorous working classes he represents are the new source of power in America.


Additionally, “He’s just not the sort that goes for jasmine perfume!” (141) shows the audience that Stanley and Blanche (and Stella’s) status is too different for him to truly appreciate the finer parts of life, or the elegance and class of perfume, further highlighting the conflict between classes.


Loneliness and the longing for love

The image of the love letters emphasizes Blanche’s longing for love, as well as the need to cling onto the past with her letters, “yellowing with antiquity.”  (139) Her need to stay in the past may be due to the fact that she was loved, youthful and beautiful, which is supposedly better than she is now.


Pleasant dreams vs. ugly reality

There are several instances where Blanche is seen as escaping reality and imagining better things. She is “[Singing in the bathroom]” (132) whilst cleansing herself, rubbing off the initial negative impressions of Stella’s house. The motifs are associated with Blanche’s attempt to fabricate an alternate reality: she uses clothes to change her outer appearance, and to make herself feel better about herself. In doing so, she disregards the truth and makes herself believe that she still looks good despite the fact that she has aged. Through the need of constant re-affirmation of her beauty, we feel sympathy for Blanche, as she desperately tries to hold on to something which is slipping through her fingers. Additionally, her hoarding of papers, especially the poems from her husband, show that she is unable to let go of the past.


Blanche’s haughty disdain of life in Elysian Fields may alienate some members of the audience. However, Blanche’s simple, childlike glee while bathing and the fact that all she wants is a pleasant illusion suggests that Williams intends us to sympathies with more than judge her.


In this way Blanche’s is the binary opposite of Stanley who is practical and brutishly revels in the simple, vibrant life that we see surround him in New Orleans. This conflict is very important as it is this which creates the most tension and drives the action of the play.





Once again, she is seen as the submissive, meek character. She obeys Stanley’s imperatives as well as Blanche’s, merely replying with the short, automatic response “yes.” Although she seems to attempt to protest, with the line “[uncertainly]”, she still obeys and hence doesn’t exert any real power. Furthermore, the “Hush!” (133) uttered seems to be more pleading and desperate, rather than commanding and in control over Stanley.



In this scene, we see Stanley attempt to assert control over Blanche in the same way that he has control over Stella, for example by demanding to see the bill of sale for Belle Reve. With his repetition of the “Napoleonic Code”, we see him as a very possessive and primitive character and this is reinforced when we see him being rude to his wife and to Blanche as well. For example, when Stella asks Stanley to be nice to her, he responds with “[ominously] So?” a few times. Stanley does seem to see through Blanche, telling her to not “play so dumb.” (138) and he seems in part able to deal with Blanche’s character and doesn’t seem too enamored by her appearance, not even giving her a compliment, although she was “fishing” for one (136.) He also appears canny and aware of his rights – hence his quotation of the Napoleonic Code.


However, Stanley does not appear to be the victor this time and his repetition of the phrase “I got an acquaintance who deals in this sort of merchandise” (134) portrays him not as a man who has many contacts and resources but instead it serves to ridicule him as he seems to have been outmaneuvered by Blanche and has nothing else to say.



Blanche’s character continues to be portrayed as materialistic and obsessed with the outward appearance. However, she elicits some compassion by mentioning the love letters, the loss of Belle Reve and, perhaps most poignantly, her admission that her jewelry and furs are all fake, and as such the audience may empathise with her for a moment although this may be   undermined by her hysterical outburst when Stanley touches her love letters and her claim that she will now have to “burn them!” (139) which is an indication that she once again views herself better than her current surroundings.


In this scene, Blanche uses the process of bathing as a way to distract herself from reality in much the same way as her alcohol consumption in the previous Scene. As such, although there is a sense in which she seems to get the upper hand of Stanley in their argument, as he ends ‘sheepishly’, she remains a weak character who is dependent upon alcohol and other forms of escape in order to function in the world. Her exaggerated nervous tension when relating her conversation with Stanley to Stella may leave the audience with the impression that Blanche is a person on the edge who is only just managing to hold herself together.



Imagery & Setting:

This scene is set mostly within Stanley and Stella’s house, with the exception of the end. There is a strong contrast between the apparent refuge that a house should create and the reality of a tense marriage and poor relations. There is a sense of restriction within the house, and the lack of privacy, as the rooms are separated with drapes, a material that is not solid and concrete, unlike cement and wood.


The outside world is equally threatening for Blanche (although the audience may see little more than a lively slum in New Orleans) but there is a heightened sense of confusion and danger presented with the outside world, as there is uncertainty and the feeling that the “blind are leading the blind!”



Relation of Part to Whole:

This scene follows on from the introduction of the three main characters, and further develops the relationships between Stanley, Stella and Blanche. Tension is heightened by the action on stage, especially when Stanley is raising his voice and ransacking Blanche’s suitcase. The continuation of the ‘blue piano’ sound ensures the continuation of the melancholy feel and perhaps foreshadows that the tension and sadness will not dissipate any time soon.


This scene serves to set the foundation of the conflict between Blanche and Stanley. We also see, for the first time, how aggressive and powerful Stanley is, and in the following scene, we see an even more powerful Stanley, as he is able to fight his friends by himself. The development of Stanley is an important factor of the play as it foreshadows even more violence to come.