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Goldberg smoothly changes the subject to birthdays, comparing them to waking up in the morning. He says some people know how to appreciate the wonder of waking up, while others act as if they are corpses waiting to be washed. McCann returns with some bottles, which he sets down on the sideboard. Stanley again insists they leave, but this time, Goldberg and McCann respond aggressively, insisting Stanley sit down.
McCann insists forcefully, but it is Goldberg's quiet, threatening tone that effectively inspires Stanley to acquiesce. They begin to interrogate Stanley with a series of both unnerving and seemingly unrelated questions. Through their quick, short questions, they reveal details of Stanley's past to the audience or at least details of the past they have fabricated for him.
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Their interrogation suggests that Stanley chases Petey from the house so that he can drive Meg crazy, and that he treats Lulu like a leper. When they ask why he came to the boardinghouse, Stanley claims it was because his feet hurt. They claim he left a girl at the altar, but also claim that he once had a wife whom he killed either by poison or by beating her to death. Stanley vehemently denies all of these claims. They insist he is dead because he does not truly live. When they tell him he is nothing but an "odour," Stanley suddenly comes to life and kicks Goldberg in the stomach.
Before they can react, Meg comes down the stairs beating the drum.
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Meg enters the room dressed for the party. She places the drum on the table, and the scene's mood immediately brightens as Goldberg resumes his suave demeanor. McCann helps Stanley pour the drinks. Stanley is overwhelmed, but calm. Goldberg slaps Meg on her behind in a playful manner as he admires her dress, and encourages Meg to give a toast. Meg hesitantly but affectionately tells Stanley that she is happy he is staying at her boardinghouse, and that he is her Stanley now even if he pretends otherwise. She starts to cry.
Lulu enters. There is an immediate attraction between Goldberg and Lulu.
The party guests pair off Lulu with Goldberg; McCann with Meg; Stanley remains alone , and the dialogue shifts between the two couples. She wonders whether Goldberg knew her when she was a child, and says he reminds her of the first man she ever loved. Meanwhile, Meg and McCann speak drunkenly of Ireland, and Meg conjectures that her father might have gone there after he abandoned the family when she was still a child.
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The talk of childhood inspires Meg to request a game. She stumbles across McCann, who then dons the blindfold while Goldberg fondles Lulu. McCann finds Stanley and ties the blindfold on him. In the process, he maliciously breaks Stanley's glasses. While Stanley stumbles around the room, uncharacteristically silent, McCann places the toy drum on the floor, and Stanley steps in it.
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One foot in the drum, he continues to meander until he comes across Meg. Suddenly, Stanley lashes out and tries to strangle her. Goldberg and McCann rush forward and rescue her. Then, the lights go out. Confusion ensues as the characters bump into one another. McCann loses his flashlight, while Lulu screams and faints.
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In the dark, Stanley places her on the table. When McCann finally finds his flashlight, he shines it on the table, where Stanley stands over Lulu, who is unconscious with her legs spread open. It resembles a sexual assault. As he is struck by the light, Stanley begins to giggle and retreats towards the kitchen. Goldberg and McCann slowly approach him, and finally converge on him as he continues to laugh, louder and louder. The most prominent conflict in Act II is that between order and chaos. The act opens with a symbol of order taken to an almost perverse extreme - McCann methodically tears the newspaper into identical strips.
The symbol serves as representation of how he and Goldberg approach their "job" - they are insidious and deliberate in their infiltration of the house, and not too quick to make their move. Interestingly, this same symbol will represent the chaos they leave behind when it resurfaces in Act III. The tension between Stanley and McCann also reflects this conflict.
On the surface, both men do their best to subscribe to social convention. Stanley is clearly unnerved and paranoid, and yet will not deliberately accuse McCann of what he suspects. Instead, he attempts to talk around the perceived threat, which further reflects the play's theme of imperfect communication. Similarly, McCann remains civil despite Stanley's bad attitude, at least until the latter touches the newspaper. By threatening to disrupt the semblance of order, Stanley insults McCann and leads him towards violence.
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Once Stanley has disturbed their semblance of order, he takes an offensive tact and tries to dictate the terms of the conversation. He insists upon his version of his own past, in effect defending himself against a perceived threat. The audience is left to fill in any details - is Stanley telling the truth? Questions of identity, of who we think ourselves to be and who we truly are, resurface in this Act. Whereas in Act I, Stanley and Meg's conversation touched on dubious realities but had low stakes, the stakes here are much higher.
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