It is the next day, at six o’clock in the evening. Blanche is taking a bath offstage. Stella tells Stanley that she and Blanche are going out to the French Quarter for the evening since the men will be playing poker that night in the apartment. Stella tells Stanley that Blanche has lost Belle Reve. She asks Stanley to compliment Blanche on her appearance and instructs him not to mention Stella’s pregnancy.
Blanche’s frequent baths symbolize her yearning for emotional rejuvenation and cleansing. The revealed pregnancy explains Stella’s weight gain. Stella has not yet told Blanche so as not to surprise Blanche’s delicate nerves all at once.
Stanley turns the subject back to the loss of Belle Reve. Insistent on seeing papers from the sale, Stanley insinuates that Blanche’s hysteria is a cover-up and that she has swindled Stella out of the money from the estate. If Stella has been swindled, he says, then he has been swindled, too, according to the Napoleonic code, in which a wife’s property belongs to her husband and vice versa.
Stanley is not concerned with Blanche’s emotional fragility: he is only looking out for his own interests. He immediately distrusts Blanche, as he senses that she has some power over Stella, whereas he wants to have Stella completely.
Stanley thrusts open Blanche’s trunk and digs through her clothes, searching for the bill of sale. He thinks that her flashy dresses and costume jewelry are expensive, glamorous pieces that cost thousands of dollars. Stella tells him that they are fake fur and rhinestones and stalks out angrily to the porch.
The fact that Stanley is blinded by the flashy dresses and fake gems shows his lower-class origins: all that glitters seems to be gold to his animalistic, avaricious eye.
Blanche emerges from the bath in a red satin robe and lightly closes the curtains to dress. When she asks Stanley to do up the buttons in the back of her dress, he gruffly brushes her off. Stanley asks sarcastically about her clothes, and though Blanche fishes for compliments, Stanley refuses to bite.
The red satin robe suggests sexuality. Blanche tries to flirt with Stanley by emphasizing her femininity, but Stanley continues to assert his aggressive physical dominance.
Stanley breaks the banter by yelling bluntly, “Now let’s cut the re-bop!” Stella rushes in to play peacemaker, but Blanche sends her to the drugstore to buy her a Coke. Rejecting Blanche’s flirtatiousness, Stanley demands to see the papers from the sale. Blanche unearths a box filled with papers from the trunk and hands it to Stanley. He grabs another set of papers and begins to read them, but Blanche snatches them away, saying that they are all love-letters and poems from her dead husband.
Though Stella tries to mediate between Blanche and Stanley, the power struggle is between the two of them. Stanley is suspicious of Blanche and insistent that she is hiding something from him. Blanche does not want Stanley to contaminate the love letters from her husband: she does not want her romantic vision of her past soiled by the present.
Blanche hands Stanley all the papers from Belle Reve, and he realizes that that the estate was indeed lost on mortgage, stretching back through generations of mismanagement to the “epic fornications” of her ancestors. Stanley is sheepish and lets slip that Stella is going to have a baby.
Blanche traces the loss of Belle Reve to mismanaged sexual desire. Stanley realizes that Blanche is as destitute as she pretends to be and that he still has power over Stella. Stella’s pregnancy makes her choice of Stanley’s world over the DuBois world concrete.
Stella returns from the drugstore, and Blanche greets her exuberantly, flushed with the news of her pregnancy. The men begin to arrive for the poker game, and Stella and Blanche leave, Blanche commenting that Stanley’s animal blood might be just what their aristocratic strain needs. Outside the building, a tamale vendor yells, “Red-hot!”
The tamale vendor yelling “Red-hot!” symbolizes the power of the red-blooded physical world over lost dreams of the past. Stella bears the promise of new life into the dying DuBois line.