The Glass Menagerie
by Tennessee Williams
It is both now and in the past. The Wingfield apartment is in the rear of the building, and faces an alley and is entered by a fire escape. The scene is memory and therefore unrealistic. The building is flanked on both sides by dark, narrow alleys. A blown-up photograph of the father hangs on teh wall of the living room. It is the face of a very handsome young man in a doughboy's First World War cap.
Scene One: Tom Wingfield, dressed as a merchant sailor, enters. He states that he has tricks in his pocket: first he turns back time to the thirties, when the huge middle class was matriculating in a school for the blind. He tells of each character, the most realistic being the gentleman caller. The fifth character is the father, whose portrait hangs above the mantel. The last they heard of him was a picture post-card from Mazatlan on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, containing a message of two words: "Hello - Goodbye."
Amanda Wingfield, the mother, calls to Tom for dinner. She criticizes his eating habits. He gets up from the table without asking to be excused, and lights a cigarette. Laura Wingfield, the sister, gets up, but Amanda tells her to remain seated- fresh for gentleman callers. Amanda brings up a Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain when she had seventeen gentleman callers. She said that she could do so because she knew the art of conversation. She says that she could have picked any of them, but she instead picked their father. Amanda tells her to prepare for the gentleman callers, but Laura says that there will be none. Music: "The Glass Menagerie" is heard. Laura says that she just isn't as popular as Amanda was in Blue Mountain.
Scene Two: Laura is sitting, wearing a dress of violet material for a kimono. She is polishing her collection, but when she hears Amanda she seats herself before a typewriter keyboard diagram. Amanda has her full-dress utfit on. Amanda knows that Laura has not been working. Amanda was to go to the D.A.R. meeting, but she did not have the courage. Amanda tears up the keyboard diagram. She has learned that Laura quit Rubicam's Business College to speak to her teachers. Amanda asks her where she has been instead of school, and she says that she went out walking, mostly in the park, and to the art museum and the Jewelbox (a hothouse). Amanda acts as if the world has ended. Amanda believes that Laura will end up a spinster, and asks if she ever liked any boy. Laura says yes: Jim, a boy at her high school who starred in their musical Pirates of Penzance. He used to call her Blue Roses, because she had a case of pleurosis. He was engaged to Emily Meisenbach. Laura says that she is crippled, but Amanda tells her never to use that word. She tells her to develop charm, just like her father had.
Scene Three: Tom speaks from the fire-escape landing. He says that it was an obsession of Amanda to find a gentleman caller for Laura. Amanda had a job, trying to rope in subscribers to The Home-maker's Companion. Amanda is making a call to Ida Scott for a subscription, but she hangs up on her. Amanda becomes angry that Tom has a book by D.H. Lawrence, for she thinks it is filth. The area is lit with a smoky red glow. Amanda's hair is in metal curlers. Tom prepares to leave as Amanda yells at him- she doesn't think that he is going to the movies as he said. Amanda feels that he is jeopardizing his job, but Tom says that he does not care about the Continental Shoemakers warehouse. He says that he wishes he were gone. Amanda doesn't believe he is going to the movies, so he says sarcastically that he is going to opium dens and to join the Hogan gang as a hired assassin, then go to casinos. His enemies have a plan to detonate their place, so Amanda will fly up a broomstick with seventeen gentlemen callers. Tom bumps the glass menagerie as he leaves, and Laura shreaks. Amanda refuses to speak to Tom until he apologizes.
Scene Four: The interior of the apartment is dark. There is a faint light. Tom appears at the top of the alley as the church bell tolls five o'clock. He has been drinking. Laura appears, observing Tom. Tom fumbles with the key, but cannot insert it. Laura opens the door. Tom tells her about the movies he saw. Tom says that he saw a neat trick that he can relate to: the magician released himself from a coffin. Amanda awakes, and calls "Rise and Shine." Laura tells him to apologize to Amanda. Amanda comes and sees Laura, and tells her to go buy butter and charge it at the grocery store. Tom enters listlessly for his coffee, and Amanda turns away. Music: "Ave Maria." Tom drinks the too hot coffee, then apologizes. However, she sobs because her devotion has made her a witch. Amanda says that she is proud of both children, but asks Tom never to be a drunkard. Amanda feared that he had been drinking. Amanda tells Tom that she noticed Laura crying because she believes Tom is not happy there. Tom tells her that he goes to the movies because he likes adventure. Amanda thinks that most men find adventure in their careers. Amanda asks Tom to find Laura a gentleman caller. She says that Tom may leave when Laura is attended to. Amanda feels Tom is selfish. Tom agrees to find a gentleman caller for Amanda.
Scene Five: It is early dusk of a spring evening. Amanda asks Tom to comb his hair; neatness is the one trait that she wishes he took from his father. She criticizes how much Tom smokes. Music: "All the World Is Waiting for the Sunrise!" Tom tells the audience that across the alley was the Paradise Dance Hall. They could see happy couples kissing from their apartment. All the world was waiting for bombardments! Amanda comes out on the fire escape with him, and says it's a poor excuse for a perch. Amanda notices the 'silver slipper of a moon.' Tom made a secret wish on it. Amanda wished for success and happiness for her children. Tom thinks that she wished for a gentleman caller. Tom says that he found one for tomorrow. Amanda is delighted, yet worried that she won't be able to prepare. Tom threatens to call it off if Amanda makes such a fuss. His name: Jim O'Connor. Amanda says that they must serve fish, for tomorrow is Friday. Amanda worries that he drinks because he's Irish. Amanda inquires about his salary and his prospects. Amanda mentions how she made her tragic mistake: she was fooled by the father's innocent look. Amanda is excited that Jim studies public speaking and radio engineering. Tom warns her that Jim knows nothing about Laura. Tom worries that Jim will think that Laura is incredibly shy and lives in a world of her own. Tom leaves to go to the movies. Amanda calls to Laura, telling her to wish on the moon. Amanda asks her to wish for happiness and good fortune.
Scene Six: Tom tells the audience that the following evening he brought Jim home. In high school, Jim was a hero: he had the tremendous Irish good nature and vitality, was a basketball star and seemed to move in a continual spotlight. He was president of the senior class, captain of the debating club, and sang the male lead in the operas. Everybody expected him to be president by the time he reached thirty, but after leaving Soldan he ran into interference. Jim was his only friend at the warehouse, and knew of Tom's secret practice of retiring to a cabinet to work on poems. Jim was surprised to learn that Tom "had folks."
Amanda wonders why Laura is trembling (Amanda's preparations have made her nervous). Amanda stuffs Laura. Laura says that she is setting a trap, but Amanda says that all pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap. Amanda tells her to possess her soul in patience. Amanda brigns out her frock of yellow voile and blue silk sash. Amanda reminisces on the time that she had a craze for jonquils. Laura is shocked to learn that it is Jim O'Connor who is coming. Laura is too nervous to get the door. Amanda forces Laura to get the door. Jim did not really remember Laura. Tom and Jim speak- Jim tells him to take a course in public speaking. Jim says that the difference between him and the executives amounts primarily to social poise. Jim tells Tom that Mr. Mendoza spoke to him about Tom, warning him that Tom could be fired if he doesn't wake up. Tom tells Jim that he is planning to move, by joining the Union of Merchant Seamen. Amanda comes back in, and tries to charm Jim. Amanda tells stories about living in the South. She lies and says that Laura has done all of the cooking. She mentions that she fell in love with a telephone man who fell in love with long distance. They go to dinner. It is stormy outside. Laura stumbles as she goes to sit at the table.
Scene Seven: A half an hour later. Dinner is just being finished. The lights go out (Tom paid his dues to the Merchant Seaman instead of the electric bill). Amanda goes to get candles. Jim doesn't mind the candlelight- it is his favorite type of light. Amanda says that Jim has given her the best entertainment in years. Jim and Laura speak, and they drink a bit of wine. The two sit on the floor. Jim tells her about the Chicago World's Fair- "Century of Progress. Jim judges Laura to be an old fashioned type of girl. Laura asks if he has kept up with his singing; she tells him that she remembers his performance in high school. He realizes that she is Blue Roses. Laura thinks about how self-conscious she was about the thumping of her leg brace. Jim says that high school spoiled him. Jim finally signs her program for Pirates of Penzance. Laura is almost twenty-four. She dropped out of high school after making bad grades on her final examination. When she asks, Jim tells Laura that he was never engaged to Emily Meisenbach- they were only in Emily's optimistic opinion. Laura shows Jim her glass collection. JIm tells her that she has an inferiority complex. Jim says that his future is in television. Laura shows him a unicorn in her collection. It is her favorite. Jim says that unicorns are extinct in the modern world. The two dance to a waltz heard from the Paradise Dance Hall. They bump into the table, and the unicorn falls. The horn breaks off. Jim tells Laura that she is pretty, in a different way from anyone else. He kisses her. After doing so, he says he shouldn't have. Jim says that Tom made a mistake by inviting him there, for he's been going steady with an Irish girl, Betty. He says that he is in love with her. Laura gives him the unicorn. Amanda enters with some lemonade for them. Amanda tells Jim to be a frequent caller. Jim says that he must be going. Jim tells Amanda about Betty. He says that nobody at the warehouse knows. Jim had to pick up Betty at the Wabash depot. Jim leaves. After he is gone, Amanda yells at him for inviting a gentleman caller who is already taken. She tells him that he lives in a dream. She tells him just to go to the movies. He says that he won't go to the movies. She tells him to go to the moon, a selfish dreamer. Tom smashes his glass on the floor. Laura screams in fright. Tom escapes from the fire escape. As Tom gives his final speech, Amanda tries to comfort Laura, who hides her face with her hands. Tom says that he went far away, because time is the greatest distance between two places. Tom still thinks of Laura, and is more faithful to her than he intends to be. He tells her to blow out her candles, for the world is now lit by lightning. She blows the candles out.