SCENE: All action is set in Truvy's Beauty Salon in Chinquapin Parish, Louisana.
When the first scene opens the audience sees Truvy having her hair done by Annelle.
Annelle has just finished her training at a beauty school and is hoping that Truvy will give her a job. Truvy's assistant has left suddenly and, as she has a very busy day ahead because Shelby Eatenton is getting married, she needs someone right away.
While Annelle's hairdo is less than perfect, Truvy is kind-hearted and sees potential in
Annelle. She offers Annelle the job, and Annelle is thrilled. Truvy is a very curious, gregarious person, and she is intrigued by Annelle, who seems to dislike talking about herself. Annelle is extremely shy and nervous, so Truvy doesn't push her too much.
Clairee, one of Truvy's regular customers enters, and also tries to draw Annelle out, but she is unsuccessful as well. It is clear that Clairee and Truvy enjoy gossiping, and as soon as Annelle leaves the room, Truvy fills Clairee in on the mystery surrounding
Shelby arrives for her appointment with Truvy, and it is apparent that this is a closeknit group. Shelby is the daughter of another regular customer, M'Lynn. Annelle has very little to say to Shelby, and her nervousness is only increased by intermittent bursts of gunfire from somewhere in the neighborhood. Truvy complains to Shelby about this, since it is her father who is causing the problem. A very stressed-out M'Lynn enters and Annelle is told to do her hair, which terrifies her. This is a big day for the mother of the bride, and Annelle doesn't want to make any mistakes. The tension between Shelby and M'Lynn is evident, and it is clear that, while they love each other, there is a battle of wills going on. Shelby wants to assert herself as it is her wedding day, but M'Lynn has been in charge for so long that she finds is difficult to let go.
One reason for this control is that M'Lynn is concerned about Shelby's health. Due to the stress of the day, Shelby, a diabetic, has an attack brought on by too much insulin.
During the course of this, we find out that Shelby's doctor has told her she shouldn't have children because of her condition. Shelby is a nurse in a maternity ward, and she loves babies, so this is particularly difficult for her.
Shelby recovers from her relatively mild attack and continues describing her wedding to the salon patrons. There has been no gunfire since M'Lynn's arrival and we soon find out why: M'Lynn has somehow managed to take her husband's gun, which Clairee finds in her purse. Annelle is horrified but M'Lynn and Shelby explain that he, Drum
Eatenton, is merely trying to frighten the birds out of their trees because Shelby's wedding reception will take place in their backyard that day. At this point the audience learns that Ouiser Boudreaux, another neighbor, is having a fit because of the noise.
Her beloved dog is extremely upset and losing his hair, and she blames it on the gunshots. Annelle notices a "strange lady with a strange dog" approaching, alerting the others to her imminent arrival.
Ouiser enters like hell on wheels, enraged about the noise. She makes it very clear to all present that she has reached the limits of her already tried patience. In her conversation with M'Lynn we see that she is not only angry about the noise, but also
because Drum has picked all of the magnolias off the tree which grows on the border between the Boudreaux and Eatenton property. Although legal proceedings are already in progress to decide who actually owns the tree, Ouiser feels it is her property. Ouiser and M'Lynn are good friends, but M'Lynn's husband is Ouiser's arch enemy. Ouiser finally calms down when she is told there there will be no more gunshots, and her attention is diverted to the new girl, Annelle. Instead of going about it in a tactful way,
Ouiser subjects the girl to a series of