Shlink has moved into the Chinese Hotel with Marie. He is still paying the Garga family but no longer lives there. Skinny learns from The Baboon that Garga cleared out to Tahiti and left Shlink to go to jail for double selling the same lot of timber.
They overhear Marie and Shlink talking. Marie tells him she loves him, but he claims that he cannot love her. He argues that his skin has gotten so thick that he can no longer emit emotions. Marie asks him how he got like this, and he explains that he became so thick skinned while on the Yangtze River. A man used to walk across the rowing deck and step on the faces of the other men. The Worm arrives and tells Shlink that Garga has disappeared. Dawn arrives in the city and the hotel starts to prepare for another day.
The concept of thick skin appears here and is elaborated on by Brecht. "You know, in its natural state human skin is too thin for this world. So men take care to see it grows thicker. There would be nothing wrong with the method, if only you could stop it from growing. Take a piece of tanned leather: it stays the way it is. But the living skin grows, it grows thicker and thicker." Shlink is saying that the thick skin prevents humans from being emotional. He explains to Marie that he got this way while on the Yangtze River, having his face stepped on.
The relationship between Shlink and Marie is like that of Mary Magdalene and Christ: "I want to sleep with a man, but I don't know how to do it." She tells him that she loves him, but she does not know the proper way to love a man who claims he cannot love. The parallel is strengthened by the fact that Shlink will not sleep with her.
Shlink's rejection of sex follows from his previous rejection of food. These two things together represent the sum total of physical contact that occurs in the play. In trying to become free from material needs, Shlink must reject both food and sex (avarice and lust) in order to prevent them from overpowering his mind and body.
It turns out Garga did not leave on a ship to Tahiti after all. He has returned to the hotel where he can be overheard in Shlink's room. Garga calls Shlink his, "Infernal Bridegroom". The Baboon and The Worm remark on the strange things men do for love, and discuss how Shlink gave up his entire lumber yard for it. Marie enters and sees Garga, who recognizes her through his drunken state. He call her a "dirty rag", but she refuses to be insulted. Garga asks her what she is doing in the hotel with Shlink, and she tells him that she loves Shlink even though he will not sleep with her.
Shlink emerges and Garga laughs at him. However, when Garga learns that Shlink has started to support his family, he realizes that Shlink is "appropriating" resources he never knew he had. Garga realizes that Shlink has taken over his family and his sister's love, thereby leaving him with only "metaphysics." Garga takes Marie and tries to force Shlink to take her for his wife. Shlink acquiesces, but Marie runs to Manky crying that they are trying to sell her. She decides to go live with Manky even though Shlink pleads for her to come back to him.
Garga asks Shlink for the money that Shlink received from the double-sale of the timber. Shlink gives it to him, thereby making himself bankrupt. Garga leaves and Shlink sits down. When he asks for some rice, The Worm tells him that he has overdrawn his account.
This round of the fight seems to explicate the homosexuality in the relationship between Garga and Shlink. Garga calls Shlink his "Infernal Bridegroom" and refers to himself as a widow. However, the form of the relationship is metaphysical, not physical. Garga tells Shlink: "You're staging a metaphysical battle, and leaving the shambles behind." Garga realizes that Shlink is surviving on his former resources, his family and his sister's love. This loss of resources causes Garga to start "drifting away into metaphysics."
Marie as Mary Magdalene is given emphasis by her description of her love for Shlink. "I start shaking inside my dress, and then I say the wrong things to him." The biblical story indicates that Mary Magdalene had a platonic love for Jesus, a love that she was unable to understand. Marie similarly admits to loving Shlink but not being able to have him sexually.
Garga immediately sees that Shlink's relationship with Marie is providing Shlink with a "resource." Marie can give Shlink love without the requisite sexual appetite that inhibits mankind from being an unemotional thinker. Garga, chosen by Brecht to represent this unemotional being, realizes he must destroy this love. He therefore sells Marie, commoditizes love, and thus ruins love as an emotion. With Marie's virginity at stake, she chooses to give it away to Manky rather than Shlink.
The rejection of money, or rather the desire to eradicate monetary necessity, is hypocritically presented by The Worm. "I tell you, I've been around: all these people in the world, they're all of them suckers for dreams out of nothing but paper; they fall for it like a ton of bricks. And there's nothing so papery as real life." Paper represents currency and bills, the "dreams" of so many people. However, at the end of the scene, The Worm is the man who kicks out Shlink for not having enough cash.
Marie tells Shlink that she feels defiled from having had sex with Manky. He consoles her and says that she will be able to clean off. They exit and Manky comes onstage. He talks to himself, indicating that he is searching for Marie so that he can have sex with her. He pulls a pistol out and thinks of using it, but decides not to. After he leaves Shlink and Marie re-enter. She calls herself a whore and asks him for money. He wipes her tears and gives her some.
Marie has become Mary Magdalene, the prostitute, a woman with her body defiled: "I am a whore". She admits to Shlink that she loves him and needs his love to support her. He tells her that she can wash, that she can be clean, thereby revealing himself as a Christ figure once more. However, their relationship has clearly been destroyed by the end of the scene. When he gives her money, she tells him that is is a "business transaction", meaning that their love has now been converted into monetary terms.