The Glass Menagerie Part 3, Scene 6
Light rises on the fire escape landing where Tom is smoking. The screen image is of the high school hero. Tom narrates to the audience that he brought Jim home with him the next evening. He'd known Jim a little in high school; he had been the gregarious basketball star, debate captain, senior class president, and male lead in the annual light operas. He'd moved then in a bounding way, full of energy and enthusiasm that made success seem inevitable for him. But something must have happened to that energy, because six years after high school he had a job barely better than Tom's. The screen image becomes Jim as a shipping clerk. Tom continues to explain that Jim was the only guy at work who became friends with him. Tom was valuable to Jim because he remembered Jim's former glory days; Jim was friendly and called him "Shakespeare" Part 3, Scene 6, pg. 50 because Tom would hide in the bathroom at work and write poems. Because Jim was nice to him, other guys at work who had been hostile before began to warm up just enough to smile or say hello. Tom knew Laura had known Jim in school, but he wasn't certain that Jim would remember her at all because she was so shy. Even if Jim did remember her, he didn't know she was Tom's sister, but he was about to find out.
The screen legend reads, "The Accent of a Coming Foot," and the light on the fire escape dims as light rises in the living room. It's five o'clock on a spring Friday, and Amanda has made astonishing improvements to the apartment. There are new curtains and a floor lamp along with new sofa pillows to accent the updated covers on the chair and sofa. Amanda is hemming Laura's new dress, and Laura's hair seems softer and more flattering. She possesses a fragile, unearthly beauty like the momentary radiance of light on translucent glass. Laura is nervous, and Amanda can't understand why Laura resists interaction with other people so much. The final touch to Laura's ensemble is two handkerchief-wrapped powder puffs stuffed in the bosom of her dress to improve her bust line. When Laura protests that they seem to be setting a trap with all of these preparations, Amanda explains that "[a]ll pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be." Part 3, Scene 6, pg. 52 The screen legend says, "A pretty trap."
Amanda goes off to dress, humming happily, while Laura stares at herself in the mirror. She turns slowly in front of the glass with a troubled expression, and the screen legend changes to, "This is my sister: Celebrate her with strings!" Music plays in the background. Amanda, still laughing youthfully, comes back in wearing a yellow dress with a blue sash that she has kept from her Blue Mountain days. She carries a bunch of jonquils and chatters on about the summer that she met Mr. Wingfield and was crazy for jonquils. She stops in front of his picture and music softly plays until she changes the subject to Mr. O'Connor. Laura, worried, asks his full name, and when Amanda tells her that his name is Jim O'Connor, Laura is panic-stricken and seems faint. The screen legend becomes, "Not Jim!" Amanda, unaware of the connection, keeps talking. The music takes on an ominous tone as Laura insists that she won't come to the table if it is the Jim O'Connor from high school. Amanda refuses to humor Laura's shyness and insists that when Tom and Jim arrive, Laura must let them in because Tom has forgotten his key. Although Laura is terrified, Amanda won't let her out of it, and as Amanda goes into the kitchenette to finish dinner, the screen legend reads, "Terror!"
Laura sits on the couch nervously wringing her hands. The screen legend says, "The Opening of a Door!" as Tom and Jim climb the fire escape stairs. Laura hears them and retreats to the dining room entrance, but the doorbell rings before she can escape. Low drums play in the background as Amanda calls to her to open the door. Laura just stares at the door and after the second ring she goes to the kitchenette entrance and tells her mother that she can't open the door. Amanda furiously insists that Laura do it despite her claims that she's ill. Tom rings again and Laura darts to the Victrola and winds it up. As "Dardanella" plays, she goes to the door and cautiously opens it to let Tom and Jim inside. Tom introduces Laura to Jim, and after she puts her timid hand in his for an instant, she scurries out of the room. Tom explains that she is incredibly shy, and they leave it at that.
Tom and Jim go onto the fire escape to smoke and Jim begins trying to convince Tom to take some classes to fit him for an executive position. The screen image is an executive sitting at his desk. They continue talking and Jim mentions that their boss has talked to him about Tom. He warns Tom that if he doesn't shape up, he'll be out of a job. The screen image changes to the picture of a ship with the Jolly Roger. Tom leans over the fire escape rail and tells Jim that he's tired of watching people have adventure, and he's planning to find his own with the Merchant Marines. He paid his membership fees instead of paying the light bill and he doesn't plan to be around when they turn the lights off. He says,
"I know I seem dreamy, but inside -- well, I'm boiling! Whenever I pick up a shoe, I shudder a little thinking how short life is and what I am doing! Whatever that means, I know it doesn't mean shoes -- except as something to wear on a traveler's feet!" Part 3, Scene 6, pg. 62
Amanda calls them inside and they are both a little surprised by her appearance. She turns on the Southern charm to impress Jim and after a brief moment of shock, he warms up to it. The screen image is a picture of Amanda as a young girl as she chatters on and on about various topics until Tom reminds her that they are ready for supper. Amanda sends Tom to bring his sister to the table as Amanda talks to Jim about her younger days. Tom comes back and tells Amanda that Laura isn't feeling well and doesn't want to come to dinner, but Amanda insists. Laura comes in looking faint and the screen legend says, "Terror!" A storm is building outside and a large clap of thunder rumbles when Laura stumbles and catches herself on a chair. The screen legend reads, "Ah!" as Amanda despairingly tells Tom to help his sister to the sofa to rest. Tom returns and sits down at the table with Amanda and Jim, and Amanda looks at Jim with a frightened expression as Tom says grace. As Tom prays, Amanda steals a glance at Jim and Laura puts her hand over her mouth to suppress a sob. The scene dims.