Summary and Analysis
Stella tells Stanley that she is taking Blanche out for dinner and a show while he has his poker game at the apartment. He is annoyed because he has to eat a cold plate which Stella placed in the ice box. She tells him that they have lost Belle Reve and that Blanche is upset and it would help if Stanley could admire Blanche's dress. But Stanley wants to return to the loss of Belle Reve. He wants to see a bill of sale or some papers. He reminds Stella of the Napoleonic Code which states that anything belonging to the wife belongs also to the husband. Thus if the wife is swindled, then the husband is swindled and Stanley does not like to be swindled. Stanley looks at all the furs and jewelry Blanche has brought with her and demands to know where the money came from to buy these. Stella tries to explain that it is all just artificial stuff and very cheap. But Stanley is going to have a friend evaluate it all. Stella goes out on the porch so as to end the discussion.
When Blanche comes from her hot bath, she asks Stanley to button her and to give her a drag on his cigarette. He begins to question her about the clothes and Blanche begins fishing for a compliment from him about her looks. He tells her that he doesn't go in for that sort of thing and only likes people who "lay their cards on the table." Stella tries to stop the discussion, but Blanche sends her out after a coke. Then Stanley asks her about the loss of Belle Reve. Blanche explains that she knows she fibs a lot, because "after all, a woman's charm is fifty percent illusion," but when something is important she always tells the truth. Stanley asks her for the papers. She goes to the trunk and hands him a tin box. He wants to know what the other papers are and at the same time snatches them. Blanche tells him that they are love letters and the touch of his hands insults them. She then gives him the papers from many firms which had made loans on the plantation and comments that it is fitting all these old papers should now be in his hands. He takes the papers and tries to justify his suspicion by saying he has to be careful now that Stella is going to have a baby. When Stella returns, Blanche tells her how happy she is about the baby and how well she handled Stanley and that she even flirted with him. They leave as the poker players begin to arrive.
The first part of this scene introduces us to the motif of Blanche's baths. She bathes constantly so as to soothe her nerves. But this is also a cleansing symbol. By her baths, she subconsciously hopes to cleanse her sins away. The baths are also another quirk which annoys Stanley since the hot baths make the apartment even hotter.
Note the open and flagrant manner in which Blanche flirts with Stanley. Again the buttons, the request for a drag on his cigarette, and the trunk function as favorite Freudian symbols. Here they are used to reinforce the idea that Blanche is attempting symbolically to seduce Stanley. She is so open about it that Stanley says, "If I didn't know that you was my wife's sister I'd get ideas about you." This scene therefore balances with the later scene when Stanley rapes Blanche.
Blanche's attempt to flirt with Stanley is her only known way of achieving success with men. She tries to use her charms. Actually, she wants Stanley to admire her and willingly commits a breach of decorum when she attempts this symbolic seduction.
This second scene presents the second encounter between the Stanley and Blanche worlds. Here even Blanche recognizes that Stanley's world is destructive to people like her. She says of her husband: "I hurt him the way that you would like to hurt me, but you can't." But in actuality, Stanley will be able to destroy her rather easily. Blanche also recognizes the difference between the two worlds when she presents Stanley the collected papers of Belle Reve and thinks that it is fitting their papers for the aristocratic home should now be in his brutal hands. At the end of the encounter, it is Blanche who is left trembling and shaken by the encounter.