A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire Summary and Analysis of Scene 2

Scene 2

The next night. While Blanche soaks in a tub, Stella tells Stanley that Belle Reve is lost. She is vague on the details, but Stanley is persistent. He is very suspicious about Blanche and her motives, and wants to see the paperwork regarding the sale of the plantation. Stanley brings up the Napoleonic code, which says that what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband, and vice versa, and therefore if Stella was swindled then Stanley was swindled as well.

Stanley raids Blanche's trunk and throws around her fox-pieces and costume jewelry, accusing Blanche of using the money from the sale of Belle Reve to pay for these fineries. Stella storms out in a huff.

Blanche comes out from the bathroom and tries to harmlessly flirt with Stanley, ignoring the clear violation of her trunk. After a few attempts at using her usual techniques, though, Blanche realizes that Stanley cannot be charmed. She switches tacks to play by his rules, and talks plainly about the loss of Belle Reve. The lawyers' papers indicate that the place was lost on a mortgage, after many generations of family mismanagement had already whittled the estate down to nothing. Still suspicious, Stanley takes the papers and declares that he will show them to a lawyer friend, but for now he is placated.

Stanley tells Blanche that Stella is expecting a baby, and she is pleased. Stella returns and takes Blanche away from the apartment so the men can have their poker night.


Stanley and Blanche's "date with each other from the beginning" is further set up in their first significant exchange in Scene 2. Blanche is coy and flirting – Stanley will have none of that. Her defenses are already on high as she emerges from the bathroom to find her belongings strewn about, but she treats it lightly to avoid confrontation. She persists in her levity until Stanley manages to communicate that he is not going to be brushed off. But showing that her training at coquetry is nothing if not flexible, she embraces Stanley's tone and declares her intent to be straightforward and honest, to "lay her cards on the table," in an extension of the continuing poker theme. Stanley is put off by Blanche's track change – he had expected her to break under his direct pressure, but she deftly parries his advance by naming the game. "A woman's charm is fifty per cent illusion," she admits, but she still manages to diffuse Stanley by seeming to put all her cards on the table – except for the one up her sleeve. Nothing hides a truth so well as admitting to other truths.

Stanley eventually gets his hands on the legal papers, but of course he can't tell anything by looking at them himself – he came into the battle expecting that by demanding the papers he would force Blanche to admit wrongdoing, but she turned over the papers without a fight and now he has to figure out what to do with them. Meanwhile, Blanche monologues about the "epic fornications" that whittled down the DuBois family estate to its essentials – a house and a cemetery – and left Blanche and Stella's generation with nothing but death and taxes. Belle Reve was not lost to Blanche's failure, or to General Sherman, or to a shifting economy, but to a long line of indiscretions. The street-car called Desire brought the DuBois to the one called Cemeteries, and in the end that was the entire legacy Blanche's ancestors left for her.

As Blanche freely reveals this family darkness, and Stanley stares at the meaningless legal papers, Stanley loses the steam behind his accusations. Defeated, he retreats to his room with the papers, as Blanche brags to Stella that she successfully merged her "jasmine perfume" approach with Stanley's primitive directness, and has emerged the victor. Blanche is quite self-aware here – she knows that jasmine perfume alone will not save her. The blood and dirt of the Kowalskis of the world must be mixed into the solution for the jasmine perfume to last.

This scene highlights a difference between Stanley and Blanche as well as their similarity. Stanley is convinced that Blanche is perpetuating a swindle – Blanche cannot even conceive of such a thing. She comes from a social class that does not know how to make money, only how to spend it. She cannot conceive of turning a profit on the loss of Belle Reve – Stanley is projecting his own values and interests on to a woman from a very different background.

A tension between a romantic and a realistic world-view is present throughout the entire play, embodied in the contrast between Stanley and Blanche. Clearly, Blanche is the romantic – where she sees "the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir," Stella sees simply the L&N tracks – and Stanley "no wool over this boy's eyes" Kowalski is the realist. But Williams isn't setting up a simple dichotomy, because neither Blanche nor Stanley is exactly what they think they are. Blanche's romantic worldview is as much a desire as anything else – she has seen the truth, and she chooses to ignore it. Stanley, meanwhile, believes he is seeing through the deceit and yet mistakes rhinestones for diamonds and a mortgaged old house on twenty acres for Tara. This complicated dichotomy will be present throughout the rest of the play.