Stanley, Stella, and Blanche are finishing the dismal birthday supper. There is an empty fourth place at the table, meant for Mitch who did not show. Blanche tells a lame joke about a parrot and a priest, but no one laughs. Stanley pointedly eats a chop with his fingers. When Stella reprimands him, he throws his dishes on the floor, declaring that he is sick of Blanche and Stella’s queenly ways and that he is “King of the House.” Stanley slams out of the apartment to the porch, and Stella begins to cry. Blanche asks her again what Stanley had said while Blanche had been bathing, but Stella refuses to tell her.
Even with the empty place at the table, Blanche tries to gloss over the reality of the situation with a joke. Stanley’s gobbling of the chop and Stella’s disgust is a reversal of the opening scene, where Stanley tosses a piece of meat up to Stella and she is delighted: this reversal shows the tension that has escalated in the house as a result of Blanche’s arrival. Stella also protects Blanche from the destruction of her fantasy.
Blanche rushes to the phone to call Mitch, even though Stella tells her not to. Stella goes out to Stanley on the porch, and he holds her in his arms, telling her that things will go back to the way they were once Blanche leaves.
Blanche doesn’t let herself suspect the reason why Mitch didn’t come. Stella and Stanley make up on a non-verbal, physical level.
Stella goes inside and begins lighting the candles on Blanche’s birthday cake. Blanche and Stanley join her. Blanche reproaches herself for calling Mitch. Stanley complains about the heat from Blanche’s bath, and she retorts that a “healthy Polack” couldn’t understand about having delicate nerves. Stanley heatedly replies that he is neither Polack nor Pole but American.
Blanche’s elitism and her disparaging comments about Stanley’s lower-class, immigrant background make the atmosphere even more tense. Even Blanche, who typically speaks in a fluttery manner, snaps back sharply.
The telephone rings, and Blanche expects that it is Mitch, but it is one of Stanley’s friends. When Stanley returns, he tells Blanche that he has a birthday present for her and gives her the bus ticket to Laurel.
Unlike Stella, who soothes and protects Blanche, Stanley sees no reason to treat Blanche with delicacy or kindness.
The Varsouviana polka rises in the background. Blanche tries to smile and laugh, but she crumples and rushes into the bathroom, gagging. Stella reproaches Stanley for treating Blanche so harshly, saying that Blanche is a soft creature who has been abused and hurt throughout her life.
Stanley’s cruelty pushes Blanche to a breaking point: she is overwhelmed with emotions and memories when Stanley rips away her illusions.
Stella demands to know why Stanley has been so cruel to Blanche. He says that Stella thought that he was common until he took her off her pedestal, and then things were wonderful between them.
When Stella and Stanley argue, her grammar becomes more precise, while his becomes sloppier, emphasizing the differences in their upbringings.
A sudden change comes over Stella, and she tells Stanley to take her to the hospital––she has gone into labor. Stanley instantly leaves with her, murmuring softly.
In Stanley and Stella’s relationship, the physical is dominant: their fight abruptly ends when Stella goes into labor.