THE GLASS MENAGERIE,
by Tennessee Williams, 1944
SCENE 6, Script
[IMAGE: HIGH SCHOOL HERO.]
TOM: And so the following evening I brought Jim home to dinner. I had
known Jim slightly in high school. In high school Jim was a hero. He had
tremendous Irish good nature and vitality with the scrubbed and polished
look of white chinaware. He seemed to move in a continual spotlight. He
was a star in basket-ball, captain of the debating club, president of
the senior class and the glee club and he sang the male lead in the annual
light operas. He was always running or bounding, never just walking. He
seemed always at the point of defeating the law of gravity. He was shooting
with such velocity through his adolescence that you would logically expect
him to arrive at nothing short of the White House by the time he was thirty.
But Jim apparently ran into more interference after his graduation from
Soldan. His speed had definitely slowed. Six years after he left high
school he was holding a job that wasn't much better than mine.
He was the only one at the warehouse with whom I was on friendly terms.
I was valuable to him as someone who could remember his former glory,
who had seen him win basketball games and the silver cup in debating.
He knew of my secret practice of retiring to a cabinet of the washroom
to work on poems when business was slack in the warehouse. He called me
Shakespeare. And while the other boys in the warehouse regarded me with
suspicious hostility, Jim took a humorous attitude toward me. Gradually
his attitude affected the others, their hostility wore off and they also
began to smile at me as people smile at an oddly fashioned dog who trots
across their path at some distance.
Friday evening. It is about five o'clock of a late spring evening
which comes 'scattering poems in the sky.'
AMANDA [impatiently]: Why are you trembling?
LAURA: Mother, you've made me so nervous !
A M A N D A: How have I made you nervous ?
LAURA: By all this fuss ! You make it seem so important !
AMANDA: I don't understand you, Laura. You couldn't be satisfied with just sitting home, and yet whenever I try to arrange something for you, you seem to resist it. [She gets up.] Now take a look at yourself. No, wait ! Wait just a moment - I have an idea !
LAURA: What is it now?
[AMANDA produces two powder puffs which she wraps in handkerchiefs
and stuffs in LAURA's bosom.]
LAURA: Mother, what are you doing?
AMANDA: They call them 'Gay Deceivers'!
LAURA: I won't wear them !
AMANDA: YOU Will !
LAURA: Why should I?
AMANDA: Because, to be painfully honest, your chest is flat.
LAURA: You make it seem like we were setting a trap.
AMANDA: All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be !
[LEGEND: ' A PRETTY TRAP']
Now look at yourself, young lady. This is the prettiest you will ever
be ! I've got. to fix myself now ! You're going to be surprised by your
mother's appearance ! [She crosses through portières, humming
[LAURA moves slowly to the long mirror and stares solemnly at herself.
A wind blows the white curtains inward in a slow, graceful motion and
with a faint, sorrowful sighing.]
AMANDA [off stage]: It isn't dark enough yet. [LAURA turns slowly before the mirror with a troubled look.]
LEGEND ON SCREEN: ' THIS IS MY SISTER: CELEBRATE HER WITH STRINGS!'
AMANDA [laughing, off]: I'm going to show you something. I'm going
to make a spectacular appearance I
LAURA: What is it, Mother?
AMANDA: Possess your soul in patience ? you will see !
[She parts the portières.]
Now just look at your mother !
[She wears a girlish frock of yellowed voile with a blue silk sash.
She carries a bunch of jonquils - the legend of her youth is nearly revived.]
[Feverishly]: This is the dress in which I led the cotillion,
won the cakewalk twice at Sunset Hill, wore one spring to the Governor's
ball in Jackson !
[She raises her skirt and does a mincing step around the room.]
I wore it on Sundays for my gentlemen callers ! I had it on the day I
met your father I had malaria fever all that spring. The change of climate
from East Tennessee to the Delta - weakened resistance I had a little
temperature all the time - not enough to be serious - just enough to make
me restless and giddy I Invitations poured in - parties all over the Delta!
- 'Stay in bed,' said mother, 'you have fever!' - but I just wouldn't.
- I took quinine but kept on going, going ! Evenings, dances ! - Afternoons,
long, long rides! Picnics. - lovely! - So lovely, that country in May.
- All lacy with dogwood, literally flooded with jonquils! - That was the
spring I had the craze for jonquils. Jonquils became an absolute obsession.
Mother said, 'Honey, there's no more room for jonquils.' And still I kept
on bringing in more jonquils. Whenever, wherever I saw them, I'd say,
"Stop ! Stop! I see jonquils ! I made the young men help me gather
the jonquils ! It was a joke, Amanda and her jonquils ! Finally there
were no more vases to hold them, every available space was filled with
jonquils. No vases to hold them? All right, I'll hold them myself - And
then I - [She stops in front of the picture. M U S I C.] met your
father ! Malaria fever and jonquils and then - this - boy....
[She switches on the rose-coloured lamp.]
I hope they get here before it starts to rain.
[She crosses upstage and places the jonquils in bowl on table.]
I gave your brother a little extra change so he and Mr O'Connor could
take the service car home.
LAURA [with altered look]: What did you say his name was?
LAURA: What is his first name?
AMANDA: I don't remember. Oh, yes, I do. It was - Jim !
[LAURA sways slightly and catches hold of a chair.
LEGEND ONSCREEN: ' NOT JIM !']
LAURA [faintly]: Not - Jim!
AMANDA: Yes, that was it, it was Jim ! I've never known a Jim, that wasn't
LAURA: Are you sure his name is Jim O'Connor?
AMANDA: Yes. Why?
LAURA: Is he the one that Tom used to know in high school?
AMANDA: He didn't say so. I think he just got to know him at the warehouse.
LAURA: There was a Jim O'Connor we both knew in high school - [Then, with effort.] If that is the one that Tom is bringing to dinner - you'll have to excuse me, I won't come to the table.
AMANDA: What sort of nonsense is this?
LAURA: You asked me once if I'd ever liked a boy. Don't you remember
I showed you this boy's picture?
AMANDA: You mean the boy you showed me in the year book?
LAURA: Yes, that boy.
AMANDA: Laura, Laura, were you in love with that boy?
LAURA: I don't know, Mother. All I know is I couldn't sit at the table
if it was him!
AMANDA: It won't be him! It isn't the least bit likely. But whether it
is or not, you will come to the table. You will not be excused.
LAURA: I'll have to be, Mother.
AMANDA: I don't intend to humour your silliness, Laura. I've had too
much from you and your brother, both !
LAURA [panicky]: Oh, Mother - you answer the door !
AMANDA [lightly]: Ill be in the kitchen - busy !
LAURA: Oh, Mother, please answer the door, don't make me do it !
AMANDA [crossing into kitchenette]: I've got to fix the dressing
for the salmon. Fuss, fuss - silliness ! over a gentleman caller !
[Door swings Shut. LAURA is left alone
LEGEND: ' TERROR!'
She utters a low moan and turns off the lamp - sits stiffly on the edge
of the sofa, knotting her fingers together.
LEGEND ON SCREEN: ' THE OPENING OF A DOOR !'
T0M and JIM appear on the fire-escape steps and climb to landing. Hearing
their approach, LAURA rises with a panicky gesture. She retreats to the
AMANDA [calling]: Laura, sweetheart ! The door !
[LAURA stares at it without moving.]
JIM: I think we just beat the rain.
TOM: Uh - huh. [He rings again, nervously. JIM whistles and fishes for a cigarette.]
AMANDA [very gaily]: Laura, that is your brother and Mr O'Connor
! Will you let them in, darling?
[LAURA Crosses toward kitchenette door.]
LAURA [breathlessly]: Mother - you go to the door !
[AMANDA steps out of kitchenette and stares furiously at LAU R A.
She points imperiously at the door.]
LAURA: Please, please!
AMANDA [in a fierce whisper]: What is the matter with you, you
LAURA [desperately]: Please, you answer it, please !
AMANDA: I told you I wasn't going to humour you, Laura. Why have you
chosen this moment to lose your mind?
LAURA: Please, please, please, you go !
A M A N D A: You'll have to go to the door because I can't !
LAURA [despairingly] : I can't either !
LAURA: I'm sick!
AMANDA: I'm sick, too - of your nonsense ! Why can't you and your brother
be normal people? Fantastic whims and behaviour !
[Tom gives a long ring.]
Preposterous goings on ! Can you give me one reason - [Calls out lyrically]
COMING! JUST ONE SECOND! - why you should be afraid to open a door? Now
you answer it, Laura !
LAURA: Oh, oh, oh ... [She returns through the portières. Darts
to the victrola and winds it franticallly and turns it on.]
AMANDA: Laura Wingfield, you march right to that door !
LAURA: Yes - yes, Mother !
[A faraway, scratchy rendition of 'Dardanella' softens the air and
gives her strength to move through it. She slips to the door and draws
it cautiously open.
TOM enters With the caller, JIM O'CONNOR.]
TOM: Laura, this is Jim. Jim, this is my sister, Laura.
JIM [stepping inside]: I didn't know that Shakespeare had a sister!
LAURA [retreating stiff and trembling from the door]: How - how
do you do?
JIM [heartily extending his hand]: - Okay !
[LAURA touches it hesitantly with hers.]
JIM: Your hand's cold, Laura !
LAURA: Yes, well- I've been playing the victrola....
JIM: Must have been playing classical music on it! You ought to play
a little hot swing music to warm you up !
LAURA: Excuse me - I haven't finished playing the victrola. ... [She
turns awkwardly and hurries into the front room. She pauses a second by
the victrola. Then catches her breath and darts through the portières
like a frightened deer.]
JIM: [grinning]: What was the matter?
TOM: Oh - with Laura? Laura is - terribly shy.
JIM: Shy, huh? It's unusual to meet a shy girl nowadays. I don't believe
you ever mentioned you had a sister.
TOM: Well, now you know. I have one. Here is the Post Dispatch. You want
a piece of it?
TOM: What piece? The comics?
JIM: Sports ! [Glances at it.] Ole Dizzy Dean is on his bad behaviour.
T0M [disinterested] : Yeah ? [Lights cigarette and crosses
back to fire-escape door.]
JIM: Where are you going?
TOM: I'm going out on the terrace.
JIM [goes after him]: You know, Shakespeare - I'm going to sell
you a bill of goods !
TOM: What goods?
JIM: A course I'm taking.
JIM: In public speaking! You and me, we're not the warehouse type.
TOM: Thanks - that's good news. But what has public speaking got to do
JIM: It fits you for - executive positions !
JIM: I tell you it's done a helluva lot for me.
[IMAGE: EXECUTIVE AT DESK.]
TOM: In what respect?
JIM: In every ! Ask yourself what is the difference between you an' me and men in the office down front? Brains? No! - Ability? - No ! Then what? Just one little thing
TOM: What is that one little thing?
JIM Primarily it amounts to - social poise! Being able to square up to
people and hold your own on any social level!
AMANDA [off stage]: Tom?
TOM: Yes, Mother?
AMANDA: Is that you and Mr O'Connor?
AMANDA: Well, you just make yourselves comfortable in there.
TOM: Yes, Mother.
AMANDA: Ask Mr O'Connor if he would like to wash his hands.
JIM Aw, no - no - thank you - I took care of that at the warehouse. Tom-
JI M: Mr Mendoza was speaking to me about you.
JIM: What do you think?
JIM: You're going to be out of a job if you don't wake up.
TOM: I am waking up
JIM: You show no signs.
TOM: The signs are interior.
[IMAGE ON SCREEN: THE SAILING VESSEL WITH JOLLY ROGER AGAIN.]
TOM: I' m planning to change. [He loans over the rail speaking with
quiet exhilaration. The incandescent marquees and signs of the first-run
movie houses light his face from across the alley. He looks like a voyager.]
I'm right at the point of committing myself to a future that doesn't include
the warehouse and Mr Mendoza or even a night-school course in public speaking.
JIM: What are you gassing about?
TOM: I'm tired of the movies.
J IM: Movies!
TOM: Yes, movies ! Look at them ? [A wave toward the marvels of Grand
Avenue.] All of those glamorous people - having ,adventures - hogging
it all, gobbling the whole thing up ! You know what happens? People go
to the movies instead of moving! Hollywood characters are supposed to
have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America
sits in a dark room and watches them have them ! Yes, until there's a
war. That's when adventure becomes available to the masses ! Everyone's
dish, not only Gable's ! Then the people in the dark room come out of
the dark room to have some adventure themselves Goody, goody! - It's our
turn now, to go to the South Sea Islands - to make a safari - to be exotic,
far-off ! - But I'm not patient. I don't want to wait till then. I'm tired
of the movies and I am about to move !
JIM [incredulously]: Move?
TOM: Soon !
JIM: Where? Where?
[THEME THREE MUSIC SEEMS TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, WHILE TOM THINKS IT
OVER. HE SEARCHES AMONG HIS POCKETS.]
TOM: I'm starting to boil inside. 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 traveller's feet ! [Finds paper.] Look
TOM: I'm a member.
JIM [reading]: The Union of Merchant Seamen.
TOM: I paid my dues this month, instead of the light bill.
JIM: You will regret it when they turn the lights off.
TOM: I won't be here.
JIM: How about your mother?
TOM: I'm like my father. The bastard son of a bastard! See how he grins?
And he's been absent going on sixteen years !
JIM: You're just talking, you drip. How does your mother feel about it?
TOM: Shhh! -
Here comes mother ! Mother is not acquainted with my plans!
AMANDA [enters portières]: Where are you all?
TOM: On the terrace, Mother.
[They start inside. She advances to them. TOM is distinctly shocked
at her appearance. Even JIM blinks a little. He is making his first contact
with girlish Southern vivacity and in spite of the night-school course
in public speaking is somewhat thrown off the beam by the unexpected outlay
of social charm.
IMAGE: AMANDA AS A GIRL.]
AMANDA [coyly smiling, shaking her girlish ringlets]: Well, well,
well, so this is Mr O'Connor. Introductions entirely unnecessary. I've
heard so much about you from my boy. I finally said to him, Tom - good
gracious! - why don't you bring this paragon to supper? Id like to meet
this nice young man at the warehouse! - Instead of just hearing you sing
his praises so much!
AMANDA: Yes, honey?
TOM: How about - supper?
A M A N D A: Honey, you go ask Sister if supper is ready ! You know that
Sister is in full charge of supper! Tell her you hungry boys are waiting
Have you met Laura?
AMANDA: Let you in? Oh, good, you've met already! It's rare for a girl
as sweet an' pretty as Laura to be domestic! But Laura is, thank heavens,
not only pretty but also very domestic. I'm not at all. I never was a
bit. I never could make a thing but angel-food cake. Well, in the South
we had so many servants. Gone, gone, gone. All vestige of gracious living
! Gone completely! I wasn't prepared for what the future brought me. All
of my gentlemen callers were sons of planters and so of course I assumed
that I would be married to one and raise my family on a large piece of
land with plenty of servants. But man proposes and woman accepts the proposal
! - To vary that old, old saying a little bit - I married no planter!
I married a man who worked for the telephone company! - That gallantly
smiling gentleman over there! [Points to the picture.] A telephone
man who - fell in love with long distance I - Now he travels and I don't
even know where ! - But what am I going on for about my - tribulations?
TOM [returning]: Yes, Mother?
AMANDA: Is supper nearly ready?
TOM: It looks to me like supper is on the table.
AMANDA: Let me look - [She rises prettily and looks through portières.]
Oh, lovely ! - But where is Sister?
TOM: Laura is not feeling well - and she says that she thinks she'd better
not come to the table.
AMANDA: What? - Nonsense ! - Laura? Oh, Laura !
LAURA [off stage, faintly]: Yes, Mother.
AMANDA: You really must come to the table. We won't be seated until you
come to the table !
[The back door is pushed weakly open and LAURA comes in. She is obviously
quite faint, her lips trembling, her eyes wide and staring. She moves
unsteadily toward the table.
LEGEND: ' TERROR!'
Outside a summer storm is coming abruptly. The white curtains billow
inward at the windows and there is a sorrowful murmur and deep blue dusk.
AMANDA: Laura !.
LEGEND: ' AH!']
[Despairingly] Why, Laura, you are sick, darling ! Tom, help your
sister into the living-room, dear !
[To the gentleman caller.]
Standing over the hot stove made her ill ! - I told her that was just - too warm this evening, but -
[Tom comes back in. LAURA is on the sofa.]
Is Laura all right now?
AMANDA: What is that? Rain? A nice cool rain has come up!
[She gives the gentleman caller a frightened look.]
[Tom looks at her steadily.]
Tom, honey - you say grace !
TOM: Oh ...
[They bow their heads, AMANDA stealing a nervous glance at JIM. In
the living-room LAURA, stretched on the sofa, clenches her hand to her
lips, to hold back a shuddering sob.]
God's Holy Name be praised
THE SCENE DIMS OUT