Steel Magnolias

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EFL Movie Study Guide for: Steel Magnolias


The underlined terms are defined in the vocabulary section below.

Story: Mix beauty-salon gossip, family love, a protective mother, a pretty wedding, a new baby, the Easter rabbit, Christmas lights, a funeral, and a big dog, and the result is “the funniest movie ever to make you cry.” While most people celebrate when Shelby (Julia Roberts) becomes pregnant, her mother worries (due to Shelby’s diabetes). Along with giving a picture of life in the southern USA, this story shows people “just like us” facing difficult situations like “what happens when you ignore your doctor’s warnings” and “how does a parent deal with the choices of a grown daughter.” You’ll laugh and you’ll cry as you see yourself in the lives of these unforgettable women. (1989, 2 Oscar nominations; J Roberts, S Field, D Parton et al; Rastar Films; comedy, drama, chick flick; PG; 117 minutes)

Setting: the small southern town of Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana (USA); late 1980s

Note 1: In addition to the great acting (most of the main characters are portrayed by famous actresses), I like the way this film shows American holidays. The film-makers use them to show us how much time has passed (see the "People and proper nouns" section if you don't know how far apart these holidays are).

Note 2: As a teacher to non-Americans, I dislike many films because they present a very false or exaggerated picture of America, but I think this film’s portrayal is more accurate than most (at least in showing the South, where I come from). But notice how many unfamiliar phrases are in the dialog! I highly recommend that non-native English-speakers study the dialogs and vocabulary carefully before watching the film. I also suggest that you have a tissue handy; this movie really does make many people laugh and cry!

Note 3: Some of the characters in this film (and many American movies) cuss and swear  (乱骂) a lot, saying things like “God,” “hell” or “s-h-i-t”—which are offensive to many people (below, I’ve shown the latter as “s--t”). One character likes to say “Shut up,” which is also considered rude. Script writers often use these terms to show us how angry a character is in a certain circumstance, to demonstrate a lack of education, or to demonstrate a "foul mood or personality" (as in the case of the character Ouiser). However, English-learners should never use these terms—in international business or communication, it is especially important to NOT offend others. I'm glad that Shelby's mother criticizes her daughter for using "crude" language--most educated Americans are brought up NOT saying such things, no matter how much you see them in films.

People and proper nouns:

Shelby: the center of this story; married in the beginning (to Jackson Latree), then having a baby (Jack Jr); she is a nurse in a maternity ward; Shelby has two younger brothers

Annelle: a young woman who starts working for Truvy at the beginning of the film

Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana: a “typical” southern town, where this story takes place

Christmas (圣诞节): December 25; a major international holiday, historically celebrating the birth of Jesus; whether celebrated as a religious or secular holiday, symbols include Christmas trees, colored lights, candles, and themes like peace, joy and generosity

Clairee Belcher: the former mayor’s wife

Easter (复活节): the most important Christian holiday, celebrating Jesus’ being raised from death; always on Sunday, but the date is based on a lunar calendar so it varies between March and April; symbols include various things that remind us of “new life” such as eggs and baby animals

(the) Easter Bunny: a symbol of Easter like Santa (圣诞老人) is a symbol of Christmas; the Easter Bunny hides Easter eggs for children to find on Easter morning

Easter eggs: a popular Easter symbol; traditionally, eggs are hard-boiled and then dipped (dyed) with bright colors, and then the are hidden on Easter morning for children to find

Halloween (originally “All Saints Day”) (万圣节): October 31; historically a day to honor saints (religious people who made a great contribution in their day), but modern celebrations include dressing in costumes and getting candy from friends and neighbors (see trick-or-treating)

Independence Day or “the Fourth of July”: July 4; America’s National Day, commemorating independence from England on July 4, 1776.

M’Lynn: Shelby’s mother (M’Lynn may be an abbreviation for “Mary-lynn”, but this strange name is never explained); her husband’s name is Drum, perhaps short for Drummund (again, we don’t know for sure)

Mental Guidance Center: a counseling center where M’Lynn works; people go to centers like these for help with marital or family problems, alcoholism or other addictions, burn-out, grief, and other “mental health” issues

Ouiser Boudreaux: a wealthy neighbor with a foul personality and language (and a big, ugly dog)

Truvy Jones: owner of a beauty salon (most of the story takes place around Truvy); she calls her husband “Spud”; their son is Louie


Nouns/verbs (vocabulary):  (= indicates terms that English-learners should learn)

to accessorize: to wear things that make you and your clothes more attractive (e.g., things like a belt, hat, scarf, or necklace)

to adopt a child/adoption: to formally (i.e., with permission from a judge or official) accept a child as a permanent part of your family (e.g., “Adopting a child gives that child the same rights as someone’s natural children.”)

to alienate: to do things that push people away or make them feel unfriendly toward you

beauty salon: a place where people (esp. women) go to have their hair cut/styled, and to have other “beauty treatments” such as work on one face, finger or toe nails

blanks (in a gun): a special cartridge (bullet case) that makes noise but does not shoot anything

chick flick: (slang) a film designed to appeal to women, esp. movies that feature lots of emotion and/or relationships (though not necessarily romantic)

coma/comatose: a long unconscious sleep, normally because of a serious illness or injury. These are grammatically correct: He is in a coma. He is comatose.

condom: a rubber birth-control device for men (also called a “rubber” in AmE, although in BrE the term “rubber” refers to an eraser)

contact lenses (or contacts): a type of “eye-glasses”; specifically, an expensive piece of plastic that you put directly on your eye so that you can see more clearly

costume: a disguise or set of clothing that makes you look like someone you are not

crows’ feet: small lines that appear around your eyes as you get older

to cuss: to use language that offends some people, especially when you are angry (发出诅咒? 咒骂? 乱骂?).

diabetes: a serious illness related to having too much sugar in the blood

dialysis (for kidneys): using a medical machine to take harmful things out of one’s blood (because the kidneys can no longer do this)

to drift in/out: to move slowly and without control, like something floating on the water and being moved by the water’s flow

(the) first lady: the wife of America’s President, and sometimes the wife of a state governor or city mayor

fondly: with pleasant memories or thoughts (about sb or sth)

funeral: a ceremony in honor of sb who recently died (葬礼)

gift exchange: a Christmas tradition in which the people in an office, classroom, etc., put their names into a container (e.g., grab bag), and then each person draws someone’s name and has to buy a gift for that person (this way everyone gets a gift, but no one must buy gifts for everyone)

gonna: oral English, meaning "going to" (you should never write the word "gonna" because it is not really a word)

to gossip/gossiping: to repeat/spread a mixture of facts and guesses about personal matters (often more untrue than true)

gotta: oral English, meaning "have got to" (you should never write the word "gotta" because it is not really a word)

grab bag: (AmE) a container, bag, hat, etc, filled with gifts (or names of people to buy gifts for); (BrE equivalent: lucky dip)

helmet: a hard, strong hat that protects one’s head (in sports, the army, construction work, etc.)

hot ticket: a very popular person, event, etc.

to hunt/to go hunting: to look carefully for sth, esp. an animal

jealous: a negative emotion you feel when someone has sth that you wish you had or that you used to have (e.g., a former girlfriend, or a parent’s former control on a child)

kin/kinfolk: close relatives

locker room: the place where people shower and dress before and/or after a sporting match (like a restroom, people of the opposite gender are not normally allowed in a locker room)

to manage to do sth: an informal way to say that you did something that was not easy to do (“It is a rare medicine, but I've managed to find some.")

manicure: a beauty treatment for hands, including cutting and coloring fingernails

manure: another word (not as negative) for crap, feces or s--t; e.g., “On the farm, they use manure to help plants grow.”



(continued in the next column)

mayor: the leader of a city or town (elected in the USA; appointed in some countries)

mourning: a time of sadness or respect for someone in your family that has died, or the act of showing sadness/respect at such a time

noose: a ring made of rope that allows the hole to get tighter and tighter (esp. to kill someone by hanging them)

poufy/pouffier (also spelled “poofy”): (AmE) filled with air and therefore soft; (BrE) an offensive word meaning typical of a homosexual man

pretentious: a negative term for a person or place that has a false air of importance, superiority, etc.

puberty: the time when a young person’s body changes so that he/she is able to have children

sarcastic (sarcasm): saying things that are the opposite of what you mean, in order to make an unkind joke or to show that you are annoyed (This is a common form of American humor.)

to screw up: to make a mistake

shit: crap, feces (e.g., what comes out of the back end of a bird, dog, etc.; e.g., “you stepped in dog s--t”; crap is not considered rude or crude, so it is a better term than “s--t” (which “good people” never say)

shmushed: (AmE, slang) smashed or pushed so that it is now much flatter than it was (like a ping-pong ball that has been under a car’s wheel)

skinny dipping: to swim without any clothes on

slang: a term used casually in spoken English, but rarely used in writing

smart-ass (or smart-aleck): (negative) someone who “shows off” by giving the right answer in a way that annoys others

tattoo: a picture or words, permanently marked in one’s skin

transplant: a medical operation to replace an injured, broken or missing body part with this part from someone else’s body (the biggest problem is that the new body sometimes “rejects” and then tries to kill the new part)

truce: an agreement between enemies to temporarily stop fighting

vet (veterinarian): a doctor for animals

volunteer (adj, n, v): without pay; sb who chooses to do something to help others, or the act of providing this help

wanna: oral English, meaning "want to" (students should never write the word "wanna" because it is not really a word)

wedding shower: a party for “women only” where a bride-to-be gets gifts just before she gets married



behind bars: in jail

(to) break a sweat: to work (or exercise) so hard that you perspire

(to) call the shots: to make decisions or give orders that must be obeyed

(to) carry a baby (or carry a baby to term): to be pregnant (all nine months)

don’t start on sb: stop complaining or criticizing sb

(to) drive sb up the wall: to make sb annoyed or upset (esp. because they can’t do anything to stop the behavior that annoys them)

(at the) drop of a hat: without warning (and often without thinking about it)

(at the) end of my rope: so anxious/worried about something that I really don’t know what to do; I’ve tried every solution I can think of but I still have this problem

(to) get mired down and wallow in sth: to get stuck in a difficult situation and give up hope (like a cart stuck in the mud)

get the lead out: work faster (as if a runner took heavy, lead pieces out of his shoes)

get with it: don’t talk or act in such an old-fashioned way; gain a better understanding of the current times

(to) have a say (or a say-so): to have the right to be part of the decision-making process

(to) land a job: to get a job (esp. after showing effort)

(to) lighten up: stop being so serious about this

(you) made up: you became friends again after a disagreement (“the making up” means the process of becoming friends again)

(to) make heads or tails of sth: to understand sth that is difficult to understand

(to) open a can of worms: to start something that could become very complicated or (esp.) troublesome

(to) put out feelers about sth: to casually and quietly gather information (by listening, or asking others to quietly ask/listen for you)

somebody with a past: sb who did something wrong in the past, esp. sb who was sexually involved before being married

they’re caput (or kaput): (slang) they are broken or useless

(to go) “trick-or-treating”: when small children, dressed in costumes, go to a friend or neighbor’s house on Halloween evening in order to get candy

try to get/be on sb’s good side: do things so that sb will like you, or think of you positively

you’ve got me: I don’t know; I have no idea what the answer is

want it so bad (that) he can taste it: want it with great passion, desire or interest

when it's all said and done: in the end; when this is over; (or just used to present another important point)

(he) would give his eyeteeth to do sth: he wants sth very badly (even to the point where he would give up some of his teeth to get it, if that were possible)

Sentences/dialogs from the movie: (see below the “discussion”  section)


1. The movie starts with Annelle going to a job interview. Tell your partner some good advice for preparing for a job interview.

2. Describe something about one of the holidays that you saw in the film—perhaps something you had not seen before (or ask a question about a holiday).

3. Why do you think that Ouiser and Drum had such a poor relationship? What could they do to make it better?

4. Role play this with your partner: one is Shelby, who really wants to have a baby; the other is her doctor, who is sure that having a baby might lead to her death.

5. In dialog 28, Annelle says we should “rejoice” when someone dies, while M’Lynn says she prefers to “selfishly” be sad. Try to explain these two ways of thinking?

6. No one knows for sure what happens after we die (it is a “matter of faith” for everyone, whether they believe in God or not). Dialog 28 tells what Annelle thinks will happen—what do you think will happen? Is it important to believe one thing or another—and why? What if you are wrong?

7. Church and religion helped the people in this story to deal with Shelby’s death. What helps you and your family to cope with “life and death” issues? Explain.

8. Tell your partner about the things you liked best about this story (or movie).

Sentences/dialogs from the movie:

(in part from; blue sections are particularly important; imdb's website is a great place to find movie facts and more)

Say these dialogs out loud with your friends; it will help you prepare to watch the movie. The underlined words are defined in the vocabulary section above.


1.   The film starts with Annelle looking for “Truvy’s Beauty Spot”—a beauty salon in part of Truvy’s home. She passes a home that’s extremely busy, on the morning of a wedding; the reception will be held there after a church wedding. Drum (the father of the bride) is shooting a gun (with blanks) into the air, trying to scare lots of birds from the trees, lest (as the Bride-to-be put it) “[we would alienate the entire neighborhood] if they got covered in bird s--t at my reception.” (To which her mother said, “Do you have to be so crude?”—in other words, “You shouldn’t use offensive language like that.”)


2.   Truvy: Spud! Turn off that stupid television. Get in here and finish dyeing these Easter eggs.

      Spud: I ran out of stuff [to color the eggs with].

      Truvy: Well, that’s why God invented the A&P [grocery store].

      Spud: Gotta work on the truck.

      Truvy: No, you gotta get the lead out.

      Spud (sarcastically): Yes, ma’am. I live to serve.

      Truvy: If these eggs are not at the church by noon, they don’t get hidden. Are you listening, Spud?

      Annelle (as Truvy opens the front door): [Are you] Mrs. Jones?

      Truvy: Are you Annelle? You sweet thing, come on [in]. (Then she yells out the window.) Pick up my green dress at the [dry] cleaners!

      Annelle: Am I interrupting something?

      Truvy: No, I'm just screaming at my husband. I can do that any time! Please, call me Truvy.


3.   Annelle (finishing her work on Truvy’s hair, as part of her job application process): It’s a little bit pouffier than I would normally do, but I’m nervous.

      Truvy: I’m not worried about that. I usually wrap my entire head in toilet paper when I go to bed; so it usually gets pretty shmushed down in that process anyway…. You’re technique is really good. I think your form and content will improve with time. So, best I can tell, young lady, you’ve just landed yourself a job.


4.   Truvy: There's so much static electricity in this room, I pick up everything but boys and money.


5.   Truvy: [You’re now a] Glamour Technician. And I’ll have you know, you are working in the most successful shop in this town, because I have a strict philosophy that I have stuck to for 15 years: “There is no such thing as natural beauty.”


6.   Truvy: Annelle, I’d like to introduce you to the former first lady of Chinquapin, Ms. Belcher. Clairee, I’d like you to meet Annelle.

      Clairee: I’m a little bit embarrassed. [My hair is] windblown. I've just been to the dedication of the new children's park.

      Truvy: Yeah, how did that go?

      Clairee: Beautifully; Janice Van Meter got hit with a baseball. It was fabulous.

      Truvy: Was she hurt?

      Clairee: I doubt it. She got hit in the head. (to Annelle) Janice Van Meter is the current mayor’s wife. We hate her.

      Truvy: They just named the new park after Clairee’s late husband.


7.   Truvy: I’m not worried about [her stealing anything]. She’s just as sweet as can be. And besides, I kind of like the idea of hiring somebody with a past.

      Clairee: She can't be more than eighteen. She hasn't had time to have a past.

      Truvy: Oh, get with it, Clairee. This is the 1980s. If you can achieve puberty, you can achieve a past.


8.* [Jackson (the groom-to-be) sneaks in through Shelby’s window and surprises her. They had “a fight” the night before, and Shelby said she would not go through with the wedding.]

      Shelby: Get back over to Aunt Laura’s. It’s bad luck to see me before the wedding.

      Jackson: So you are going to marry me. Say you’re going to marry me. I hate suspense.

      Shelby: OK. OK.

      Jackson: I’m going to make you very happy.

      Shelby (to herself after he left): We’ll see.


9.   [A neighbor is very mad because, according to her vet, Drum’s gun noise is causing a “nervous condition” in her dog. Drum ignores her; then she follows him through the house]

      Ouiser: I am just about at the end of my rope.

      Drum: Well, you tie a noose and slip it over your head.

      [Ouiser throws his blanks into the swimming pool]

      Drum: I’ve got to scare away about five zillion birds this afternoon before Shelby’s reception. If I don’t, I’ll have to deal with my wife, and I make it a point never to deal with my wife.


10.  [At the beauty salon; Annelle is nervous about cutting M'Lynn’s hair on the day of her daughter’s wedding.]

      Annelle: Does your dress have to go over your head?

      M'Lynn: No

      Annelle (relieved): OK. (Then she almost falls over a box of hair supplies)

      Shelby [to Annelle]: Relax! You can't screw up her hair. Just tease it and make it look like a brown football helmet.

      [Then Shelby and her mother argue about whether Shelby should be working at the hospital so much (because of her diabetes).]

      Shelby: You know what you need in here, Truvy? You need a radio. Music is a wonderful thing to have in the background; it takes the pressure off of everybody feeling they have to talk so much.

      Truvy: I used to have one, but I slammed it against the wall when I couldn't figure out where the batteries went. Of course, I know now I was suffering from pre-menstrual syndrome.

      [Then Clairee says that someone is selling the local radio station, KPPD, and that she is thinking about buying it—which she does later.]

      Truvy: What are your colors, Shelby? (i.e., what are the colors of your wedding decorations)

      Shelby: They’re "blush" and "bashful."

      M'Lynn: Her colors are "pink" and pink."

      Shelby: My colors are "blush" and "bashful" Mama!

      M'Lynn: How precious is this wedding gonna get, I ask you? [They bicker a while about how everything at the church and in their back yard has been covered with various shades of pink.] That sanctuary looks like it's been hosed down with Pepto-Bismol (i.e., a think, pink stomach medicine).

      Shelby: I like pink. Pink is my signature color.

      [Shelby tells Truvy that there will be nine brides’ maids, because her mama made her include all the cousins.]

      Shelby: It will be pretentious. And Daddy always says, “an ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure!”

      [They talk about other aspects of the wedding, including a “horrible” groom’s cake in the shape of an armadillo. Then they talk about last night’s dinner (after the wedding rehearsal) with Jackson’s family—people who love to hunt.]

      Truvy: Did you do anything especially romantic?

      Shelby: Well, we went down to Frenchmen’s Point and went parking… (i.e., kissing in the car). Then we went skinny dipping and we did things that frightened the fish.

      [As the other ladies talk, Shelby gets sick—a diabetes attack—and her mother has to force her to drink some sweet juice, which will make her better. Then her mom starts talking to the ladies, almost like Shelby isn’t there.]

      M'Lynn: She’s been so upset lately. Dr. Mitchell told her, on her last appointment, that children are not possible.

      Shelby: Don’t talk about me like I’m not here!

      M'Lynn: She’s making some sense now, yes she is. This [attack] was not bad at all—not bad at all.

      Truvy: I’m really sorry about the children part.

      Shelby: Jackson said, “There’s plenty of kids out there who need good homes. We’ll adopt ten of them. We’ll buy them if we have to.”

      Clairee: Jackson sounds like “good people” to me!


11.  [As they leave the beauty salon, they are talking about Clairee’s shoes. She says she might sell them, and Truvy says she might buy them.]

      Clairee: What size do you wear?

      Truvy: In a good shoe, I wear a size six, but a seven feels so good, I buy a size eight.

      Clairee: They’re 8.5.

      Truvy: Perfect!

      [Ouiser approaches them]

      Clairee: Lord, give us strength.

      Annelle: That is one ugly dog. What kind of dog is that?

      Clairee: If it had hair, it'd be a Saint Bernard.

      Ouiser: This is it, I've found it; I am in hell.

      Truvy: Good morning, Ouiser.

      Ouiser: Don't try to get on my good side, Truvy. I no longer have one! [Then Ouiser says she came to talk to M’Lynn about her husband, who threatened to shoot her.] He is a boil on the butt of humanity!

      M’Lynn: I’m sorry, Ouiser. This whole thing (i.e., trying to scare away the birds) has gotten out of hand…. Oh, Ouiser, Drum would NEVER point a gun at a lady!

      Ouiser: He's a real gentleman! I bet he takes the dishes out of the sink before he pees in it!

      [Then Ouiser harshly questions Annelle about her family, and we find out that her husband “is in trouble with the law” and that her marriage “may not be legal”]

      Annelle: But Miss Truvy, I swear to you that my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair.


12.  Truvy: I don't like Belle Marmillion. I don't trust anybody who does their own hair. I don't think it's normal.

      MLynn: She’s the best volunteer we have at the Mental Guidance Center. She is so good with troubled children.

      Truvy: I wish I’d have taken Louie there when he was little, and gotten him straightened out.


13.  [Ouiser is cutting the groom’s cake for wedding guests, when Drum comes up.]

      Ouiser: I’m not talking to you.

      Drum: Ouiser, can we call a truce long enough for me to get a piece of cake?

      [Ouiser slices him the tail/butt piece of an armadillo cake]

      Drum (sarcastically): Aww, thanks Ouiser. There’s nothing like a good piece of ass.


14.  [Talking about the new mayor's wife, dancing at the wedding]

      Clairee: Looks like two pigs fighting under a blanket.

      Truvy: Well, I haven’t left the house without lycra (a kind of support-stocking) on these thighs since I was 14.

      Clairee: You were brought up right.


15.  M'Lynn: Well, the boys just bought the car around. (It is covered with inflated condoms.)

      Shelby: What did they do to it?

      M'Lynn: Let me put it this way... If you and Jackson want to practice safe sex, you're all set!


16.  [Ouiser is afraid to walk home by herself, even though it is very close]

      Clairee: The older you get, the sillier you get.

      Ouiser: Yeah, well the older you get, the uglier you get.


17. [It is now Christmas time—Easter is in April, so this is eight months after the wedding—and Shelby has come home for a visit; she meets Truvy and Annelle at a “Christmas Festival” near the river. Annelle has changed a lot.]

      Truvy: Louie brought his new girlfriend home, and the nicest thing I can say about her is all her tattoos are spelled correctly.

      Annelle: My hair is not the only thing that’s changed. So much has happened. After they finally put [my husband] behind bars and I was rid of him, I went wild… But Truvy helped me see the error of my ways. She gave me a place to live; I now go to church; I’ve done guest lectures at the trade school (or “beauty school”)…

      Truvy: Our little Annelle here has become one of the hottest tickets in town.

      (Suddenly, Annelle cries out “Nobody move!” because she has lost one of her contact lenses. Then we find out that Clairee has bought the local radio station, and will be the “color announcer” at tonight’s football game.)


18.  Clairee [broadcasting live from the locker room after the game; trying to do "color commentary" by discussing the color of the football uniforms]: ... I myself would never have chosen those white pants; they’re filthy… But I love the tops - such a vibrant purple. Bob, would you call this color "grape" or "aubergine'?

      Ouiser: SHUT UP!

      Clairee: What?

      Ouiser: You're making a fool out of yourself, Clairee.

      Clairee: I am not.

      Ouiser: This is football. All the people want to hear about are touchdowns and injuries. They don't give a damn about that grape s--t.


19.  M'Lynn (talking to Shelby about a “Christmas gift exchange” at work): We have this new psychiatrist that comes in two days a week and of course I pick her name out of the grab bag. I’ve got to pick something up for her tomorrow. Would you put that down on the list? I have no idea what to get your father. What's Jackson giving you, do you know?

      Shelby: Furniture.

      M'Lynn: Furniture, well, my! [It] Must be nice to be married to a rich lawyer. What's it for, the living room?

      Shelby: No, for the nursery. (her mother has a sad, shocked reaction, because she realizes that her daughter is now pregnant, against the advice of her doctor) We wanted to tell you when you and Daddy were together, but you're never together so it’s every man for himself. I'm pregnant.

      M'Lynn: I realize that.

      Shelby: Well is that it? Is that all you're gonna say?

      M'Lynn: What do you want me to say?

      Shelby: Well, something along the lines of congratulations.

      M'Lynn (without emotion): Congratulations.

      Shelby (sarcastically): Would it be too much to ask for a little excitement? Not too much—I wouldn't want you to break a sweat or anything. It's in July. Oh Mama, you have to help me plan. We're gonna get a new house. Jackson and I are going house hunting next week. Jackson loves to hunt for anything.

      M'Lynn: What does Jackson say about all of this?

      Shelby: He's so excited! He says he doesn't care whether it's a boy or a girl, but I know he really wants a son so bad he can taste it. He's really cute about the whole thing. It's all he can talk about: “Jackson Latree, Jr.”

      M'Lynn: Does he ever listen? I mean, when doctors and specialists give you advice, does he listen? I know you never do, does he? Huh? What? Well, I guess since he doesn't have to carry the baby it really isn't any of his concern.

      Shelby: Mama, I want a child.

      M'Lynn: What about adoption? You've filled out all the applications.

      Shelby: Mama, no judge is going to give a baby to someone with my medical records. Jackson even put out feelers about buying one.

      M'Lynn: People do it all the time.

      Shelby: Listen to me. I want a child of my own. I think it would help things a lot.

      M'Lynn: I see.

      Shelby: Mama, you worry too much. In fact, I never worry because I always know you're worried enough for the both of us. Jackson and I have given this a lot of thought.

      M'Lynn: Has he really? Well, there's a first time for everything.

      Shelby: Don't start on Jackson.

      M'Lynn: Your poor body has been through so much. Why would you deliberately do this to yourself?

      Shelby: Diabetics have healthy babies all the time.

      M'Lynn: You are special Shelby. There are limits to what you can do.

      Shelby: I am going to be very, very careful. Nobody is going to be hurt or disappointed or even inconvenienced.

      M'Lynn: Least of all Jackson, I'm sure.

      Shelby: You're jealous, because you no longer have a say-so in what I do, and that drives you up the wall. You're ready to spit nails because you can't call the shots. (i.e., you are angry because you are no longer in control of my life; now you can’t tell me what to do)

      M'Lynn: I did not raise my daughter to talk to me like this.

      Shelby: Yes, you did.

      M'Lynn: Oh no, I didn't.

      Shelby: Whenever any of us asked you what you wanted for us when we grew up, what did you say?

      M'Lynn: Shelby, I'm not in the mood to play games.

      Shelby: Just tell me what you said, Mama; what did you say?

      M'Lynn: The only thing I have ever said to you, ever, is that I want you to be happy.

      Shelby: Okay, the one thing that would make me happy is to have a baby. If I could adopt one I would, but I can't. I'm going to have a baby, and I wish you'd be happy too.

      M'Lynn: I'll tell you what I wish. Well, I don't know what I wish.

      Shelby: Mama, I don't know why you have to make everything so difficult. I look at having this baby as the opportunity of a lifetime. Sure there may be risk involved, but that's true for anybody. But you get through it and life goes on. And when it's all said and done there will be a little piece of immortality with Jackson's good looks and my sense of style, I hope. Please, please! I need your support. I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.


(continued in the next column)


20. [Annelle and her new boyfriend have decorated the outside of Truvy’s Beauty Stop for Christmas; Shelby arrives just in time to “do the honors”—i.e., she gets to push the button for the first time, to makes everything light-up and start to move.]

      Shelby: Ms. Truvy, I’m beyond help. Last week I discovered the early stages of crow’s feet.

      Truvy: Honey, time marches on, and eventually you realize it is marching across your face.

      (Ouiser walks up, and Shelby says she met one of Ouiser’s “old boyfriends,” whose wife recently died, and now he “remembers her fondly.” Shelby wants to set up an appointment for them to see each other again, but Ouiser objects.)

      Shelby: Why not?

      Ouiser: Shelby, I managed, in a few decades, to marry the two most worthless men in the universe, and then proceeded to have the three most ungrateful children ever conceived. The only reason people are nice to me is because I have more money than God. Now, I’m not about to open a new can of worms.

      M’Lynn: Ouiser, if this is really how you feel, it isn’t healthy. Maybe you should think about coming down to the Mental Guidance Center and talking to someone, with their help.

      Ouiser: I’m not crazy, M’Lynn. I've just been in a very bad mood 40 years!


21. [At a Christmas party]

      Clairee (complimenting Annelle about a dress she has made): The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize. (She then talks to Truvy about her own relatives, saying some negative things.)

      Truvy: Clairee! I’m surprised at you, talking about your own kin that way.

      Clairee: Well, as somebody always said: if you can’t say anything nice about anybody, come sit by me!

      (Shelby brings a man to meet Ouiser)

      Shelby: Ms. Ouiser, there’s someone who wants to see you. I’ve opened a can of worms for you.

      Ouiser (turning to see her old boyfriend): Hell. Owen Jenkins.

      Owen: Hello Ouiser. [Do you] Remember me?

      Ouiser: My God, you look different. Have you shrunk?

      Owen (shaking his head “no”): You look terrific. You’ve hardly changed at all.

      Ouiser: I'm not as sweet as I used to be.

      (Ouiser leaves, and complains about Shelby’s introduction to her mother.)

      M’Lynn: Shelby does a lot of things I can’t believe.

      Ouiser: M'Lynn, what's wrong with you these days? [Have] You got a reindeer up your butt?

      (Drum then gets everyone’s attention and makes an announcement—which makes M’Lynn upset.)

      Drum: Today, my daughter told me a big secret. (Shelby isn’t happy that he is telling everyone) Now, don’t worry, honey. I’m not going to tell them you are pregnant, I’m just going to tell them that I’m going to be a granddaddy!

      (Everyone is very happy, except Shelby’s mom)

      Truvy (to M’Lynn, who looks depressed): Smile! It increases your face value. And the doctor said Shelby couldn’t have children!

      Annelle: Yeah, what do they know? I guess she showed them!

      M’Lynn: The doctor said she shouldn’t have children; there’s a big difference.

      Ouiser: So this baby is not exactly great news.

      Truvy: Oh, M’Lynn. I really wish I had some words of wisdom. I don’t. So why don’t we just focus on the joy of the situation.

      Annelle: It will be fine!

      Clairee: You know what they say: That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.

      M’Lynn (finally smiling): Nothing pleases Shelby more than proving me wrong.


22.  [Now it’s July 3—the day before Independence Day—so the baby is one year old. Shelby asked Truvy to cut her hair short, but when it is done she starts to cry.]

      Truvy: Oh, sweetheart, please don’t cry, or I will too. I have a strict policy that nobody cries alone in my presence.

      M’Lynn (smiling to make her daughter feel better): I love it!

      Shelby: OK. Truvy, let’s do my nails.

      Truvy (happy): This is a treat! Nobody around here ever wants a manicure!

      (They see Annelle praying, and then Truvy asks her to go get some supplies.)

      M'Lynn [looking confused at Truvy]: Was she just praying?

      Truvy [rolling eyes, frustrated]: Yes.

      M'Lynn: Why?

      Truvy: [You’ve] Got me. Maybe she's praying for Marshall and Drew and Belle. Maybe she's praying for us because we're gossiping. Maybe she's praying because the elastic is shot in her pantyhose! Who knows! She prays at the drop of a hat these days. (Truvy says Annelle has been like this for several months.)

      Shelby: What does her boyfriend have to say?

      Truvy: Oh, Sammy's so confused, he don't know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt.


23.*    [In the beauty salon, the ladies are concerned about terrible scars on Shelby’s arm]

      Shelby: It’s my [kidney] dialysis. It’s no big thing. Don’t look at me like that. Having Jack Jr put too much strain on my kidneys, and now they’re caput, that’s all. The doctor said this would probably happen.

      Truvy: “That’s all,” she says.

      Annelle: Do you do this dialysis forever?

      Shelby: Well, I could, I suppose. But it’s not real convenient when you’re trying to keep up with Jack Jr, so I’ll just have a kidney transplant, and I’ll be fine.

      Ouiser: Is it that easy?

      Shelby: Sure. They do them all the time in Shreveport (a nearby city)—three or four a week.

      Annelle: They do! Our Sunday school class was just praying for one the other day.

      Ouiser: But the hard part is finding the kidney, isn’t it?

      Clairee: I saw something about it on TV. Very dramatic. These medical teams fly all over the place, taking hearts and kidneys (and who knows what else). You know what impressed me the most? They carry those organs in beer coolers.

      Truvy: How long do you have wait for one?

      Shelby: Well, there are people on dialysis that have been waiting for years…. But I’m lucky, I don’t have to wait anymore. Mama’s going to give me one of her kidneys.

      Truvy: When?

      Shelby: We check in tomorrow morning.


24. Annelle: I overslept because I was up late cooking. I’ve got to get these beans to the Eatenton’s [house (because the ladies will be in the hospital)], and it’s my Sunday to count the offering (i.e. donations at church) and I just know I’m gonna miss church.

      Truvy: Annelle, cool down. I’m gonna have to turn the hose on you.

      Annelle: I just don’t know what I’m gonna do.

      Truvy: Well, I know what you’re gonna do. You are gonna get in this car, and we’re gonna drop that pot of beans off at the Eatenton house. Then you are going to church with me.

      Annelle: Oh, I don’t know.

      Truvy: Oh, honey, God don't care which church you go to, as long as you show up!


25.  [In church, Truvy says she is wondering how things are going between Ouiser and Owen.]

      Clairee: I can report that the Sherwood Florist delivery truck stops by her house at least twice a week…. And I can also report that a strange car is parked in her garage at least once a week.

      Ouiser (sarcastically): There. My secret is out. I am having an affair with a Mercedes Benz!

      Annelle: We are in the house of the Lord!

      Clairee: Oh, like she cares. Ousier's never done a religious thing in her life.

      Ouiser: Now, that is not true.


26. [Then it is Halloween (end of October, about four months after the operation), and the ladies are giving Annelle a wedding shower. Clairee is making a list of the gifts and who gave them, so that Annelle can send “thank you” notes later.]


27. [Meanwhile, Shelby is “on duty” (working in the hospital again), and as she leaves we see that she is in pain. At home, she dresses Jack Jr in a clown costume, planning to go “trick-or-treating”, but she falls down and slips into a coma—apparently as a result of complications from her transplant surgery.]

      Doctor (quietly talking to Shelby’s family): “--rejection of the kidney. The coma may be irreversible.”

      [M’Lynn stays at Shelby’s bedside, talking to Shelby and hoping that she will wake up. Finally, they decide that Shelby will not come out of the coma. Jackson signs a legal document saying that the doctors can stop forcing Shelby to breathe. Then they unplug the machines; since Shelby’s body can’t keep breathing on its own, she dies, with her mother holding her hand.]


28. [It is just after Shelby’s funeral, when everyone is very sad and upset; in the US, it is traditional to wear black to show that you are mourning. Annelle tries to make M’Lynn feel better by pointing out that living in heaven is better than living on earth. M’Lynn says she would “selfishly” rather have her daughter here.]

      Annelle: I don’t mean to upset you by saying that. It’s just that, when something like this happens I pray very hard to make heads or tails of it. And I think that in Shelby’s case, she just wanted to take care of that little baby and of you and everybody she knew, and her poor little body was just worn out…. So she went on to a place where she could be a guardian angel; she will always be young; she will always be beautiful…. It may sound real simple and stupid… but that’s how I get through things like this.

      M'Lynn: Thank you, I appreciate that. And it’s a real good idea. Shelby, as you know, wouldn't want us to get mired down and wallow in this. We should handle it the best way we know how and get on with it. That's what my mind says; I just wish somebody would explain it to my heart.

      Truvy: Drum says you never left her side for a second.

      M'Lynn: I couldn’t leave my Shelby…. Finally we realized there was no hope. We turned off the machines. Drum left—he couldn’t take it. Jackson left. I find it amusing. Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something. I just sat there. I just held Shelby's hand. There was no noise, no tremble, just peace. Oh God! I realize, as a woman, how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life. (after a pause) I’ve gotta get back. Has anybody got a mirror? (then she looks at herself in Truvy's compact mirror) Oh, Shelby was right; this is a brown football helmet. (i.e., my hair really does look like a brown football helmet) (M’Lynn starts to cry, and everyone is concerned) I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine. (screaming) I'm fine! I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can't! She never could! Oh God! I am so mad I don't know what to do! I wanna know why! I wanna know why Shelby's life is over! I wanna know how that baby will ever know how wonderful his mother was! Will he ever know what she went through for him! Oh God, I wanna know why? Why? Lord, I wish I could understand! (in a firm tone) No! No! No! It's not supposed to happen this way! I'm supposed to go first (i.e., to die first). I've always been ready to go first! I-I don't think I can take this! I don't think I can take this! I just wanna hit somebody 'til they feel as bad as I do! I just wanna hit something! I wanna hit it hard! (continues sobbing)

      Clairee (grabs Ouiser by the shoulder and positions her in front of M'Lynn): Here! Hit this! Go ahead M'Lynn, slap her!

      Ouiser (taken aback and confused): Are you crazy?

      Clairee: Hit her!

      Ouiser: Are you high, Clairee?

      Truvy (in a frightened tone): Clairee, have you lost your mind?

      Clairee: We'll sell T-shirts saying: "I Slapped Ouiser Boudreaux!" Hit her!

      Annelle (frightened): Ms. Clairee, enough!

      Clairee: Ouiser, this is your chance to do something for your fellow man! Knock her lights out, M'Lynn!

      Ouiser (breaking away from Clairee): Let go of me!

      Clairee: M'Lynn, you just missed the chance of a lifetime! Half o' Chiquapin Parish would give their eyeteeth to take a whack at Ouiser!

      (This broke the tension, so everyone starts to laugh—except Ouiser.)

      Ouiser: You are a pig from hell. (she walks away)

      Clairee: Ouiser, come back. I was just kidding.

      Annelle (quietly): That wasn't a very Christian thing to do.

      Clairee: Oh Annelle, you gotta lighten up.

      (Clairee goes to find Ouiser, to be sure she is OK)

      Clairee: OK, hit me then. I deserve it.

      Ouiser: You are evil, and you must be destroyed.

      Clairee: Mother Nature's taking care of that faster than you could. Things were getting entirely too serious for a moment. We needed to laugh…. Ouiser, you know I love you more than my luggage.

      Ouiser (after knocking Clairee off the bench, then looking down at her hair): You are too twisted for color TV! Have your roots done!


28. Truvy (after M’Lynn apologizes for making everyone cry): Don’t be silly. Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.

      (After a moment, Ouiser and Clairee walk up)

      Truvy: I’m glad to see the two of you made up.

      Clairee: Ouiser could never stay mad at me; she worships the quicksand I walk on.

      Ouiser: M’Lynn, you are in my prayers. (Annelle looks shocked) Yes, Annelle, I pray! Well, I do! There, I said it. I hope you're satisfied.

      Annelle: I suspected this all along!

      Ouiser: Oh! Well don't you expect me to come to one of your churches or one of those tent-revivals with all those Bible-beaters doing God-only-knows-what! They'd probably make me eat a live chicken!

      Annelle: Not on your first visit!

      Clairee: Very good, Annelle! Spoken like a true smart-ass!


29. [It is now Easter again, nine months after Shelby’s death and about two years after the movie started; children are in the park, hunting for Easter eggs.]

      Sammy (wearing an Easter bunny costume): I’ve never been so uncomfortable in all my life.

      Annelle (obviously ready to give birth): We'll talk about uncomfortable when you're nine months pregnant!


30. [Spud makes Truvy keep her eyes closed as he drives her to a “surprise”—he has built her a second beauty salon. When she opens her eyes she says…]

      Truvy: I don’t believe it! I’m a chain! (i.e., there is now more than one “Truvy’s Beauty Spot”—she now has a “chain store”)

      (At the end of the movie, they are rushing to get Annelle to the hospital. Annelle has said that she will name her baby “Shelby”—life goes on….)



*These conversations are particularly abbreviated.


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