The next morning, Stella lies tranquilly in bed when Blanche, wild from a sleepless night, comes in. Blanche is relieved to find Stella safe, but horrified that she has spent the night with Stanley. Stella explains that Stanley gets into violent moods sometimes, but she likes him the way that he is––she is “sort of––thrilled” by him. Blanche insists that Stella can still get out of her situation, but Stella explains that she’s not in something she has “a desire to get out of.”
Although Stella claims to repudiate Stanley’s violence, she is clearly aroused by his aggression. Stella is calm, peaceful, and glowing, as though still lit with some of the lurid kitchen lighting of the previous night. Though Blanche sees Stanley’s actions as unforgivable, Stella, to a certain degree, is under the spell of some of the violence—as she says, she finds it thrilling.
Blanche, still frantic, says that she recently ran into an old beau of hers, Shep Huntleigh, who has made millions from oil wells in Texas. Blanche proposes that Shep could provide money for she and Stella to escape and begins to compose a telegram to him. Stella laughs at her. Blanche says that she is broke, and Stella gives her five dollars of the ten that Stanley had given her that morning as an apology.
Even though Blanche is horrified at the way Stanley treats Stella, her solution to get out of the situation also relies on a man. Blanche wants to believe that she is staying with Stella by choice, rather than necessity, and that at any moment she can sail away with Shep, though the audience can tell that her fantasy is just that: a fantasy.
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Stella says that Blanche saw Stanley at his worst, but Blanche replies that she saw him at his best. Blanche claims not to understand how a woman from Belle Reve could live with a man like Stanley, and Stella explains that the “things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark” make everything else all right. Blanche declares that the “rattle-trap street-car” named desire is no basis for a life.
Stella defends her relationship with Stanley through their sexual chemistry. Blanche uses the streetcar named Desire symbolically, saying that carnal desire is not a way to run a life. But Blanche herself has ridden Desire to arrive in New Orleans; in other words, her own lust has taken her to the end of the line.
Blanche bursts into a rant against Stanley, calling him an ape-like, bestial creature. “There’s even something––sub-human” about him, she cries, telling Stella, “Don’t––don’t hang back with the brutes!” Unbeknownst to the women, as Blanche pours out her vicious rant, Stanley has come into the apartment and has heard the whole tirade.
Blanche’s rant demonstrates the last gasp of the agrarian South, the melodramatic notion held by many former plantation owners that the end of life in estates such as Belle Reve was the end of civilization.
Under the cover of a train’s noise, Stanley slips out and re-enters. Stella leaps into his arms, and Stanley grins at Blanche as the “blue piano” music swells in the background.
Unbeknownst to Blanche, Stanley hears her whole speech against him, but he stores this up as power against her. The swelling piano music underscores Stanley and Stella’s passion.