Part 2, Scene 4 Notes from The Glass Menagerie

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The Glass Menagerie Part 2, Scene 4

A church bell rings somewhere beyond the dark apartment. Only a little light seeps in from the alley as Tom walks toward the fire escape. He shakes a little noisemaker after every toll of the bell as if to express the smallness of man in contrast to God. As he drunkenly sways up the stairs, a small light appears in the apartment. Laura, in her nightgown, notices that Tom's bed is empty while he roots around in his pockets on the fire escape in search of his key. A shower of movie ticket stubs and an empty bottle drop from his pocket before he finds the key and then, as he attempts to put it in the door, it slips from his fingers and falls through a crack in the landing. He lights a match and is crouching in search of the elusive key when Laura opens the door. He explains that he's been at the movies all night because they had a cartoon, a newsreel, and, among other things, a live performance by Malvolio the Magician. The magician turned water into wine then to beer and then to whiskey, which Tom can verify because he sampled it during both performances. He also waved his magic scarf over a bowl of goldfish and turned them to canaries. Tom has the magic scarf with him and he gives it to Laura. Then he says, "But the wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without removing one nail. There is a trick that would come in handy for me -- get me out of this two-by-four situation." Part 2, Scene 4, pg. 27. Tom asks rhetorically who ever got himself out of a coffin without removing a nail, and the photograph of Mr. Wingfield lights up in answer. The scene dims.

Topic Tracking: Escape 4

The church bell tolls six o'clock and Amanda begins her chorus of "Rise and Shine! Rise and shine!" Part 2, Scene 4, pg. 28 She sends Laura in to wake Tom because she is still not speaking to him, and Laura begs him to apologize, but Tom is reluctant. He thinks he'll rather enjoy her ignoring him for a change instead of criticizing his every move. Amanda keeps calling to Laura to get ready and go to the store, so Laura pulls on an ugly, shapeless hat and a coat with sleeves that are too short and prepares to leave. Amanda tells her to charge the groceries to their account and Laura argues that the grocer makes a disapproving face when she does that, but Amanda insists.

As Laura is leaving, she slips on the stairs, and Tom and Amanda rush to the door. She assures them both that she's fine and then leaves while Amanda rants about how the landlord should be sued for leaving the stairs in such condition. Then she remembers she's not speaking to Tom and the silence returns as she faces the window. He enters the dining room where his coffee awaits him while the light from the window emphasizes Amanda's face and "Ave Maria" plays in the background.

Tom scalds his tongue with the hot coffee and Amanda, hearing his gasp, half turns towards him. After a few more awkward moments of throat clearing and blowing on his coffee, Tom apologizes to Amanda and she begins to cry. She says that her devotion to her children has made them hate her, and Tom comforts her as she cries pitifully. She tells him how hard she's worked for her children and how important Tom has been to her all this time since his father left. She tells him that he and Laura are unusual and full of natural endowments and so capable of grand success if they would just try for it. As she talks, she makes him promise that he'll never be a drunkard, and then she confesses that she believed that he'd been spending his nights drinking instead of going to the movies. He laughs at her concern and then, as if they're back on good terms, she starts nagging him to eat breakfast, and to put cream in his coffee to cool it. Tom refuses all of her suggestions and things start to become tense again until she changes the subject to Laura.

"The Glass Menagerie" music plays, and the screen legend says, "Laura." Amanda tells Tom that although Laura is quiet, she notices things and broods about them. For instance, just the other day Amanda caught her crying because she thinks that Tom is unhappy in their apartment. Amanda says, "I know your ambitions do not lie in the warehouse, that like everybody in the whole wide world -- you've had to -- make sacrifices, but -- Tom -- Tom -- life's not easy, it calls for -- Spartan endurance!" Part 2, Scene 4, pg. 32. She tells him that she feels so much and she can't express to him how much she loved his father and that she sees Tom taking after him by staying out late and drinking. Amanda asks Tom if he goes out at night to escape the apartment; he denies it and expresses to her how he feels incapable of explaining the feelings in his heart. He suggests that they should just respect this and leave it alone, but he is unable to finish his sentence before Amanda starts grilling him about where he goes at night. He reiterates that he goes to the movies and finally explains that he goes there for adventure. The screen image changes to a picture of a ship with the Jolly Roger flying over it as Amanda argues that most men find adventure in their work. He disputes this by saying that most men obviously don't work in a warehouse. The argument grows more intense as Amanda insists that men who can't find adventure in their work just go without it; Tom points out that men are instinctually lovers, fighters, and hunters. A warehouse job doesn't exercise any of these instinctual drives. Amanda asserts that only animals respond to instinct and that good Christian men aspire to higher things. Tom makes light of her view. He gets up to leave, but she won't let him because they haven't talked about Laura yet.

Topic Tracking: Escape 5
Topic Tracking: Expectation 6

The screen legend changes to "Plans and Provisions." Amanda insists that she and Tom have to find a suitable gentleman caller for Laura. Amanda tells Tom that he acts like his father more and more and that she found the letter from the Merchant Marines, so she knows he wants to go. She tells him that he can go only when Laura has a husband to support her in place of Tom. Tom doesn't see how he can be responsible for whether or not Laura marries, and Amanda calls him selfish. He gets up and grabs his coat and hat to leave as Amanda commands him to find a nice boy down at the warehouse to bring home for Laura. On his way down the stairs, Tom reluctantly agrees to do it and Amanda is given some hope.

Topic Tracking: Escape 6

The screen image becomes the cover of a glamour magazine again as the spotlight illuminates Amanda. She is on the phone selling another subscription as the light fades.

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