Tennessee Williams: Fe-INFp
- from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams; p. xxi (Production Notes): A single recurring tune, “The Glass Menagerie,” is used to give emotional emphasis to suitable passages. This tune is like circus music, not when you are on the grounds or in the immediate vicinity of the parade, but when you are at some distance and very likely thinking of something else. It seems under those circumstances to continue almost interminably and it weaves in and out of your preoccupied consciousness; then it is the lightest, most delicate music in the world and perhaps the saddest. It expresses the surface vivacity of life with the underlying strain of immutable and inexpressible sorrow. When you look at a piece of delicately spun glass you think of two things: how beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken. Both of those ideas should be woven into the recurring tune, which dips in and out of the play as if it were carried on a wind that changes.
- p. 3 (Scene One): The Wingfield apartment is in the rear of the building, one of those vast hive-like conglomerations of cellular living-units that flower as warty growths in overcrowded urban centers of lower middle-class population and are symptomatic of the impulse of this largest and fundamentally enslaved section of American society to avoid fluidity and differentiation and to exist and function as one interfused mass of automatism.
The apartment faces an alley and is entered by a fire escape, a structure whose name is a touch of accidental poetic truth, for all of these huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation.
- pp. 4-5—TOM: Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.
To begin with, I turn back time. I reverse it to that quaint period, the thirties, when the huge middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind. Their eyes had failed them, or they had failed their eyes, and so they were having their fingers pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille alphabet of a dissolving economy.
. . . I am the narrator of the play, and also a character in it. The other characters are my mother, Amanda, my sister, Laura, and a gentleman caller who appears in the final scenes. He is the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from. But since I have a poet’s weakness for symbols, I am using this character also as a symbol; he is the long-delayed but always expected something that we live for.
There is a fifth character in the play who doesn’t appear except in this larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel. This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances; he gave up his job with the telephone company and skipped the light fantastic out of town . . .
The last we heard of him was a picture postcard from Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, containing a message of two words: “Hello—Goodbye!” and no address.
I think the rest of the play will explain itself. . . .
- pp. 11-18 (Scene Two): On the dark stage the screen is lighted with the image of blue roses. Gradually Laura’s figure becomes apparent and the screen goes out. The music subsides.
Laura is seated in the delicate ivory chair at the small claw-foot table. She wears a dress of soft violet material for a kimono—her hair is tied back from her forehead with a ribbon. She is washing and polishing her collection of glass. Amanda appears on the fire escape steps. At the sound of her ascent, Laura catches her breath, thrusts the bowl of ornaments away, and seats herself stiffly before the diagram of the typewriter keyboard as though it held her spellbound. Something has happened to Amanda. It is written in her face as she climbs to the landing: a look that is grim and hopeless and a little absurd. She has on one of those cheap or imitation velvety-looking cloth coats with imitation fur collar. Her hat is five or six years old, one of those dreadful cloche hats that were worn in the late Twenties, and she is clutching an enormous black patent-leather pocketbook with nickel clasps and initials. This is her full-dress outfit, the one she usually wears to the D.A.R. Before entering she looks through the door. She purses her lips, opens her eyes very wide, rolls them upward and shakes her head. Then she slowly lets herself in the door. Seeing her mother’s expression Laura touches her lips with a nervous gesture.
LAURA: Hello, Mother, I was—[She makes a nervous gesture toward the chart on the wall. Amanda leans against the shut door and stares at Laura with a martyred look.]
AMANDA: Deception? Deception? [She slowly removes her hat and gloves, continuing the sweet suffering stare. She lets the hat and gloves fall on the floor—a bit of acting.]
LAURA [shakily]: How was the D.A.R. meeting?
[Amanda slowly opens her purse and removes a dainty white handkerchief which she shakes out delicately and delicately touches her lips and nostrils.]
Didn’t you go to the D.A.R. meeting, Mother?
AMANDA [faintly, almost inaudibly]: --No.—No. [then more forcibly:] I did not have the strength—to go to the D.A.R. In fact, I did not have the courage! I wanted to find a hole in the ground and hide myself in it forever! [She crosses slowly to the wall and removes the diagram of the typewriter keyboard. She holds it in front of her for a second, staring at it sweetly and sorrowfully—then bites her lips and tears it in two pieces.]
LAURA [faintly]: Why did you do that, Mother?
[Amanda repeats the same procedure with the chart of the Gregg Alphabet.]
Why are you—
AMANDA: Why? Why? Hold old are you, Laura?
LAURA: Mother, you know my age.
AMANDA: I thought that you were an adult; it seems that I was mistaken. [She crosses slowly to the sofa and sinks down and stares at Laura.]
LAURA: Please don’t stare at me, Mother.
[Amanda closes her eyes and lowers her head. There is a ten-second pause.]
AMANDA: What are we going to do, what is going to become of us, what is the future?
[There is another pause.]
LAURA: Has something happened, Mother?
[Amanda draws a long breath, takes out the handkerchief again, goes through the dabbing process.]
Mother, has—something happened?
AMANDA: I’ll be all right in a minute, I’m just bewildered—[She hesitates.]—by life. . . .
LAURA: Mother, I wish that you would tell me what’s happened!
AMANDA: As you know, I was supposed to be inducted into my office at the D.A.R. this afternoon.
[Screen image: A swarm of typewriters.]
But I stopped off at Rubicam’s Business College to speak to your teachers about your having a cold and ask them what progress they thought you were making down there.
LAURA: Oh. . . .
AMANDA: I went to the typing instructor and introduced myself as your mother. She didn’t know who you were. “Wingfield,” she said, “We don’t have any such student enrolled at the school!”
I assured her she did, that you had been going to classes since early in January.
“I wonder,” she said, “If you could be talking about that terribly shy little girl who dropped out of school after only a few days’ attendance?”
“No,” I said, “Laura, my daughter, has been going to school every day for the past six weeks!”
“Excuse me,” she said. She took the attendance book out and there was your name, unmistakably printed, and all the dates you were absent until they decided that you had dropped out of school.
I still said, “No, there must have been some mistake! There must have been some mix-up in the records!”
And she said, “No—I remember her perfectly now. Her hands shook so that she couldn’t hit the right keys! The first time we gave a speed test, she broke down completely—was sick at the stomach and almost had to be carried into the wash room! After that morning she never showed up any more. We phoned the house but never got any answer”—While I was working at Famous-Barr, I supposed, demonstrating those—
[She indicates a brassiere with her hands.]
Oh! I felt so weak I could barely keep on my feet! I had to sit down while they got me a glass of water! Fifty dollars’ tuition, all of our plans—my hopes and ambitions for you—just gone up the spout, just gone up the spout like that.
[Laura draws a long breath and gets awkwardly to her feet. She crosses to the Victrola and winds it up.]
What are you doing?
LAURA: Oh! [She releases the handle and returns to her seat.]
AMANDA: Laura, where have you been going when you’ve gone out pretending that you were going to business college?
LAURA: I’ve just been going out walking.
AMANDA: That’s not true.
LAURA: It is. I just went walking.
AMANDA: Walking? Walking? In winter? Deliberately courting pneumonia in that light coat? Where did you walk to, Laura?
LAURA: All sorts of places—mostly in the park.
AMANDA: Even after you’d started catching that cold?
LAURA: It was the lesser of two evils, Mother.
I couldn’t go back there. I—threw up—on the floor!
AMANDA: From half past seven till after five every day you mean to tell me you walked around in the park, because you wanted to make me think that you were still going to Rubicam’s Business College?
LAURA: It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I went inside places to get warmed up.
AMANDA: Inside where?
LAURA: I went in the art museum and the bird houses at the Zoo. I visited the penguins every day! Sometimes I did without lunch and went to the movies. Lately I’ve been spending most of my afternoons in the Jewel Box, that big glass house where they raise the tropical flowers.
AMANDA: You did all this to deceive me, just for deception?
[Laura looks down.] Why?
LAURA: Mother, when you’re disappointed, you get that awful suffering look on your face, like the picture of Jesus’ mother in the museum!
LAURA: I couldn’t face it.
[There is a pause. A whisper of strings is heard. Legend on screen: “The Crust of Humility.”]
AMANDA [hopelessly fingering the huge pocketbook]: So what are we going to do the rest of our lives? Stay home and watch the parades go by. Amuse ourselves with the glass menagerie, darling? Eternally play those worn-out phonograph records your father left as a painful reminder of him? We won’t have a business career—we’ve given that up because it gave us nervous indigestion! [She laughs wearily.] What is there left but dependency all our lives? I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren’t prepared to occupy a position. I’ve seen such pitiful cases in the South—barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister’s husband or brother’s wife!—stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room—encouraged by one in-law to visit another—little birdlike women without any nest—eating the crust of humility all their life!
Is that the future that we’ve mapped out for ourselves? I swear it’s the only alternative I can think of! [She pauses.] It isn’t a very pleasant alternative, is it? [She pauses again.] Of course—some girls do marry.
[Laura twists her hands nervously.]
Haven’t you ever liked some boy?
LAURA: Yes. I liked one once. [She rises.] I came across his picture a while ago.
AMANDA [with some interest]: He gave you his picture?
LAURA: No, it’s in the yearbook.
AMANDA [disappointed]: Oh—a high school boy.
[Screen image: Jim as the high school hero bearing a silver cup.]
LAURA: Yes. His name was Jim. [She lifts the heavy annual from the claw-foot table.] Here he is in The Pirates of Penzance.
AMANDA [absently]: The what?
LAURA: The operetta the senior class put on. He had a wonderful voice and we sat across the aisle from each other Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the Aud. Here he is with the silver cup for debating! See his grin?
AMANDA [absently]: He must have had a jolly disposition.
LAURA: He used to call me—Blue Roses.
AMANDA: Why did he call you such a name as that?
LAURA: When I had that attack of pleurosis—he asked me what was the matter when I came back. I said pleurosis—he thought that I said Blue Roses! So that’s what he always called me after that. Whenever he saw me, he’d holler, “Hello, Blue Roses!” I didn’t care for the girl that he went out with. Emily Meisenbach. Emily was the best-dressed girl at Soldan. She never struck me, though, as being sincere . . . It says in the Personal Section—they’re engaged. That’s—six years ago! They must be married by now.
AMANDA: Girls that aren’t cut out for business careers usually wind up married to some nice man. [She gets up with a spark of revival.] Sister, that’s what you’ll do!
[Laura utters a startled, doubtful laugh. She reaches quickly for a piece of glass.]
LAURA: But, Mother—
AMANDA: Yes? [She goes over to the photograph.]
LAURA [in a tone of frightened apology]: I’m—crippled!
AMANDA: Nonsense! Laura, I’ve told you never, never to use that word. Why, you’re not crippled, you just have a little defect—hardly noticeable, even! When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to make up for it—develop charm—and vivacity—and—charm! That’s all you have to do! [She turns again to the photograph.] One thing your father had plenty of—was charm!
[The scene fades out with music.]
- p. 19 (Scene Three): Tom speaks from the fire escape landing.
TOM: After the fiasco at Rubicam’s Business College, the idea of getting a gentleman caller for Laura began to play a more and more important part in Mother’s calculations. It became an obsession. Like some archetype of the universal unconscious, the image of the gentleman caller haunted our small apartment. . . .
[Screen image: A young man at the door of a house with flowers.]
An evening at home rarely passed without some allusion to this image, this specter, this hope. . . . Even when he wasn’t mentioned, his presence hung in Mother’s preoccupied look and in my sister’s frightened, apologetic manner—hung like a sentence passed upon the Wingfields!
- pp. 32-36 (Scene Four)—AMANDA [touching his sleeve]: You know how Laura is. So quiet but—still water runs deep! She notices things and I think she—broods about them.
[Tom looks up.]
A few days ago I came in and she was crying.
TOM: What about?
AMANDA: She has an idea that you’re not happy here.
TOM: What gave her that idea?
AMANDA: What gives her any idea? However, you do act strangely. I—I’m not criticizing, understand that! 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! There’s so many things in my heart that I cannot describe to you! I’ve never told you but I—loved your father. . . .
TOM [gently]: I know that, Mother.
AMANDA: And you—when I see you taking after his ways! Staying out late—and—well, you had been drinking the night you were in that—terrifying condition! Laura says that you hate the apartment and that you go out nights to get away from it! Is that true, Tom?
TOM: No. You say there’s so much in your heart that you can’t describe to me. That’s true of me, too. There’s so much in my heart that I can’t describe to you! So let’s respect each other’s—
AMANDA: But, why—why, Tom—are you always so restless? Where do you go to, nights?
TOM: I—go to the movies.
AMANDA: Why do you go to the movies so much, Tom?
TOM: I go to the movies because—I like adventure. Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies.
AMANDA: But, Tom, you go to the movies entirely too much!
TOM: I like a lot of adventure.
[Amanda looks baffled, then hurt. As the familiar inquisition resumes, Tom becomes hard and impatient again. Amanda slips back into her querulous attitude toward him.]
AMANDA: Most young men find adventure in their careers.
TOM: Then most young men are not employed in a warehouse.
AMANDA: The world is full of young men employed in warehouses and offices and factories.
TOM: Do all of them find adventure in their careers?
AMANDA: They do or they do without it! Not everybody has a craze for adventure.
TOM: Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse!
AMANDA: Man is by instinct! Don’t quote instinct to me! Instinct is something that people have got away from! It belongs to animals! Christian adults don’t want it!
TOM: What do Christian adults want, then, Mother?
AMANDA: Superior things! Things of the mind and the spirit! Only animals have to satisfy instincts! Surely your aims are somewhat higher than theirs! Than monkeys—pigs—
TOM: I reckon they’re not.
AMANDA: You’re joking. However, that isn’t what I wanted to discuss.
TOM [rising]: I haven’t much time.
AMANDA [pushing his shoulders]: Sit down.
TOM: You want me to punch in red at the warehouse, Mother?
AMANDA: You have five minutes. I want to talk about Laura.
TOM: All right! What about Laura?
AMANDA: We have to be making some plans and provisions for her. She’s older than you, two years, and nothing has happened. She just drifts along doing nothing. It frightens me terribly how she just drifts along.
TOM: I guess she’s the type that people call home girls.
AMANDA: There’s no such type, and if there is, it’s a pity! That is unless the home is hers, with a husband!
AMANDA: Oh, I can see the handwriting on the wall as plain as I see the nose in front of my face! It’s terrifying! More and more you remind me of your father! He was out all hours without explanation!—Then left! Goodbye! And me with the bag to hold. I saw that letter you got from the Merchant Marine. I know what you’re dreaming of. I’m not standing here blindfolded. [She pauses.] Very well, then. Then do it! But not till there’s somebody to take your place.
TOM: What do you mean?
AMANDA: I mean that as soon as Laura has got somebody to take care of her, married, a home of her own, independent—why, then you’ll be free to go wherever you please, on land, on sea, whichever way the wind blows you! But until that time you’ve got to look out for your sister. I don’t say me because I’m old and don’t matter! I say for your sister because she’s young and dependent.
I put her in business college—a dismal failure! Frightened her so it made her sick at the stomach. I took her over to the Young People’s League at the church. Another fiasco. She spoke to nobody, nobody spoke to her. Now all she does is fool with those pieces of glass and play those worn-out records. What kind of a life is that for a girl to lead?
TOM: What can I do about it?
AMANDA: Overcome selfishness! Self, self, self is all that you ever think of!
[Tom springs up and crosses to get his coat. It is ugly and bulky. He pulls on a cap with earmuffs.]
Where is your muffler? Put your wool muffler on!
[He snatches it angrily from the closet, tosses it around his neck and pulls both ends tight.]
Tom! I haven’t said what I had in mind to ask you.
TOM: I’m too late to—
AMANDA [catching his arm—very importunately; then shyly]: Down at the warehouse, aren’t there some—nice young men?
AMANDA: There must be—some . . .
TOM: Mother—[He gestures.]
AMANDA: Find out one that’s clean-living—doesn’t drink and ask him out for sister!
AMANDA: For sister! To meet! Get acquainted!
TOM [stamping to the door]: Oh, my go-osh!
AMANDA: Will you?
[He opens the door. She says, imploringly:]
[He starts down the fire escape.]
Will you? Will you, dear?
TOM [calling back]: Yes!
[Amanda closes the door hesitantly and with a troubled but faintly hopeful expression.]
- pp. 38-42 (Scene Five)—AMANDA: Where are you going?
TOM: I’m going out to smoke.
AMANDA: You smoke too much. A pack a day at fifteen cents a pack. How much would that amount to in a month? Thirty times fifteen is how much, Tom? Figure it out and you will be astounded at what you could save. Enough to give you a night-school course in accounting at Washington U.! Just think what a wonderful thing that would be for you, son!
[Tom is unmoved by the thought.]
TOM: I’d rather smoke. [He steps out on the landing, letting the screen door slam.]
AMANDA [sharply]: I know! That’s the tragedy of it. . . . [Alone, she turns to look at her husband’s picture.]
[Dance music: “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise!”]
TOM [to the audience]: Across the alley from us was the Paradise Dance Hall. On evenings in spring the windows and doors were open and the music came outdoors. Sometimes the lights were turned out except for a large glass sphere that hung from the ceiling. It would turn slowly about and filter the dusk with delicate rainbow colors. Then the orchestra played a waltz or a tango, something that had a slow and sensuous rhythm. Couples would come outside, to the relative privacy of the alley. You could see them kissing behind ash pits and telephone poles. This was the compensation for lives that passed like mine, without any change or adventure. Adventure and change were imminent in this year. They were waiting around the corner for all these kids. Suspended in the mist over Berchtesgaden, caught in the folds of Chamberlain’s umbrella. In Spain there was Guernica! But here there was only hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars, and movies, and sex that hung in the gloom like a chandelier and flooded the world with brief, deceptive rainbows. . . . All the world was waiting for bombardments!
[Amanda turns from the picture and comes outside.]
AMANDA [sighing]: A fire escape landing’s a poor excuse for a porch. [She spreads a newspaper on a step and sits down, gracefully and demurely as if she were settling into a swing on a Mississippi veranda.] What are you looking at?
TOM: The moon.
AMANDA: Is there a moon this evening?
TOM: It’s rising over Garfinkel’s Delicatessen.
AMANDA: So it is! A little silver slipper of a moon. Have you made a wish on it yet?
AMANDA: What did you wish for?
TOM: That’s a secret.
AMANDA: A secret, huh? Well, I won’t tell mine either. I will be just as mysterious as you.
TOM: I bet I can guess what yours is.
AMANDA: Is my head so transparent?
TOM: You’re not a sphinx.
AMANDA: No, I don’t have secrets. I’ll tell you what I wished for on the moon. Success and happiness for my precious children! I wish for that whenever there’s a moon, and when there isn’t a moon, I wish for it, too.
TOM: I thought perhaps you wished for a gentleman caller.
AMANDA: Why do you say that?
TOM: Don’t you remember asking me to fetch one?
AMANDA: I remember suggesting that it would be nice for your sister if you brought home some nice young man from the warehouse. I think that I’ve made that suggestion more than once.
TOM: Yes, you have made it repeatedly.
TOM: We are going to have one.
TOM: A gentleman caller!
[The annunciation is celebrated with music.]
AMANDA: You mean you have asked over some nice young man to come over?
TOM: Yep. I’ve asked him to dinner.
AMANDA: You really did?
TOM: I did!
AMANDA: You did, and did he—accept?
TOM: He did!
AMANDA: Well, well—well, well! That’s—lovely!
TOM: I thought that you would be pleased.
AMANDA: It’s definite then?
TOM: Very definite.
TOM: Very soon.
AMANDA: For heaven’s sake, stop putting on and tell me some things, will you?
TOM: What things do you want me to tell you?
AMANDA: Naturally I would like to know when he’s coming!
TOM: He’s coming tomorrow.
- p. 45—AMANDA: You are the only young man that I know of who ignores the fact that the future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it!
- pp. 45-49—AMANDA: . . . When I was a girl in Blue Mountain and it was suspected that a young man drank, the girl whose attentions he had been receiving, if any girl was, would sometimes speak to the minister of his church, or rather her father would if her father was living, and sort of feel him out on the young man’s character. That is the way such things are discreetly handled to keep a young woman from making a tragic mistake!
TOM: Then how did you happen to make a tragic mistake?
AMANDA: That innocent look of your father’s had everyone fooled! He smiled—the world was enchanted! No girl can do worse than put herself at the mercy of a handsome appearance! I hope that Mr. O’Connor is not too good-looking.
TOM: No, he’s not too good-looking. He’s covered with freckles and hasn’t too much of a nose.
AMANDA: He’s not right-down homely, though?
TOM: Not right-down homely. Just medium homely, I’d say.
AMANDA: Character’s what to look for in a man.
TOM: That’s what I’ve always said, Mother.
AMANDA: You’ve never said anything of the kind and I suspect you would never give it a thought.
TOM: Don’t be so suspicious of me.
AMANDA: At least I hope he’s the type that’s up and coming.
TOM: I think he really goes in for self-improvement.
AMANDA: What reason have you to think so?
TOM: He goes to night school.
AMANDA [beaming]: Splendid! What does he do, I mean study?
TOM: Radio engineering and public speaking!
AMANDA: Then he has visions of being advanced in the world! Any young man who studies public speaking is aiming to have an executive job some day! And radio engineering? A thing for the future! Both of these facts are very illuminating. Those are the sort of things that a mother should know concerning any young man who comes to call on her daughter. Seriously or—not.
TOM: One little warning. He doesn’t know about Laura. I didn’t let on that we had dark ulterior motives. I just said, why don’t you come and have dinner with us? He said okay and that was the whole conversation.
AMANDA: I bet it was! You’re eloquent as an oyster. However, he’ll know about Laura when he gets here. When he sees how lovely and sweet and pretty she is, he’ll thank his lucky stars he was asked to dinner.
TOM: Mother, you mustn’t expect too much of Laura.
AMANDA: What do you mean?
TOM: Laura seems all those things to you and me because she’s ours and we love her. We don’t even notice she’s crippled any more.
AMANDA: Don’t say crippled! You know that I never allow that word to be used!
TOM: But face facts, Mother. She is and—that’s not all—
AMANDA: What do you mean “not all”?
TOM: Laura is very different from other girls.
AMANDA: I think the difference is all to her advantage.
TOM: Not quite all—in the eyes of others—strangers—she’s terribly shy and lives in a world of her own and those things make her seem a little peculiar to people outside the house.
AMANDA: Don’t say peculiar.
TOM: Face the facts. She is.
[The dance hall music changes to a tango that has a minor and somewhat ominous tone.]
AMANDA: In what way is she peculiar—may I ask?
TOM [gently]: She lives in a world of her own—a world of little glass ornaments, Mother. . . .
[He gets up. Amanda remains holding the brush, looking at him, troubled.]
She plays old phonograph records and—that’s about all—
[He glances at himself in the mirror and crosses to the door.]
AMANDA [sharply]: Where are you going?
TOM: I’m going to the movies. [He goes out the screen door.]
AMANDA: Not to the movies, every night to the movies! [She follows quickly to the screen door.] I don’t believe you always go to the movies!
[He is gone. Amanda looks worriedly after him for a moment. Then vitality and optimism return and she turns from the door, crossing to the portieres.]
[Laura answers from the kitchenette.]
LAURA: Yes, Mother.
AMANDA: Let those dishes go and come in front!
[Laura appears with a dish towel. Amanda speaks to her gaily.]
LAURA [entering]: Moon—moon?
AMANDA: A little silver slipper of a moon. Look over your left shoulder, Laura, and make a wish!
[Laura looks faintly puzzled as if called out of sleep. Amanda seizes her shoulders and turns her at an angle by the door.]
Now! Now, darling, wish!
LAURA: What shall I wish for, Mother?
AMANDA [her voice trembling and her eyes suddenly filling with tears]: Happiness! Good fortune!
[The sound of the violin rises and the stage dims out.]
- pp. 54-58 (Scene Six)—LAURA [with an 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.]
LAURA [faintly]: Not—Jim!
AMANDA: Yes, that was it, it was Jim! I’ve never known a Jim that wasn’t nice!
[The music becomes ominous.]
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 yearbook?
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 humor your silliness, Laura. I’ve had too much from you and your brother, both! So just sit down and compose yourself till they come. Tom has forgotten his key so you’ll have to let them in, when they arrive.
LAURA [panicky]: Oh, Mother—you answer the door!
AMANDA [lightly]: I’ll be in the kitchen—busy!
LAURA: Oh, Mother, please answer the door, don’t make me do it!
AMANDA [crossing into the kitchenette]: I’ve got to fix the dressing for the salmon. Fuss, fuss—silliness!—over a gentleman caller!
[The door swings shut. Laura is left alone.]
[Legend on screen: “Terror!”]
[She utters a low moan and turns off the lamp—sits stiffly on the edge of the sofa, knotting her fingers together.]
[Tom and Jim appear on the fire escape steps and climb to the landing. Hearing their approach, Laura rises with a panicky gesture. She retreats to the portieres. The doorbell rings. Laura catches her breath and touches her throat. Low drums sound.]
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, very gaily]: Laura, that is your brother and Mr. O’Connor! Will you let them in, darling?
[Laura crosses toward the kitchenette door.]
LAURA [breathlessly]: Mother—you go to the door!
[Amanda steps out of the kitchenette and stares furiously at Laura. She points imperiously at the door.]
LAURA: Please, please!
AMANDA [in a fierce whisper]: What is the matter with you, you silly thing?
LAURA [desperately]: Please, you answer it, please!
AMANDA: I told you I wasn’t going to humor you, Laura. Why have you chosen this moment to lose your mind?
LAURA: Please, please, please, you go!
AMANDA: 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 behavior!
[Tom gives a long ring.]
Preposterous goings on! Can you give me one reason—[She 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 portieres, darts to the Victrola, winds it frantically, 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.]
- pp. 61-63—TOM: I’m tired of the 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 adventures themselves—goody, goody! It’s our turn now, to go to the South Sea Island—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?
JIM: Where? Where?
[The music seems to answer the question, while Tom thinks it over. He searches in 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 traveler’s feet! [He finds what he has been searching for in his pockets and holds out a paper to Jim.] 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! Did you notice how he’s grinning in his picture in there? And he’s been absent going on sixteen years!
- pp. 65-66: [The kitchenette 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.]
[Screen legend: “Terror!”]
[Outside a summer storm is coming on abruptly. The white curtains billow inward at the windows and there is a sorrowful murmur from the deep blue dusk.]
[Laura suddenly stumbles; she catches at a chair with a faint moan.]
[There is a clap of thunder.]
[despairingly] Why, Laura, you are ill, darling! Tom, help your sister into the living room, dear! Sit in the living room, Laura—rest on the sofa. Well! [to Jim as Tom helps his sister to the sofa in the living room] Standing over the hot stove made her ill! I told her that it was just too warm this evening, but—
[Tom comes back to the table.]
Is Laura all right now?
AMANDA: What is that? Rain? A nice cool rain has come up! [She gives Jim a frightened look.] I think we may—have grace—now . . .
[Tom looks at her stupidly.] Tom, honey—you say grace!
TOM: Oh . . . “For these and all thy mercies—“
[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.]
- pp. 80-81 (Scene Seven)—JIM [abruptly]: You know what I judge to be the trouble with you? Inferiority complex! Know what that is? That’s what they call it when someone low-rates himself! I understand it because I had it, too. Although my case was not so aggravated as yours seems to be. I had it until I took up public speaking, developed my voice, and learned that I had an aptitude for science. Before that time I never thought of myself as being outstanding in any way whatsoever! Now I’ve never made a regular study of it, but I have a friend who says I can analyze people better than doctors that make a profession of it. I don’t claim that to be necessarily true, but I can sure guess a person’s psychology, Laura! [He takes out his gum.] Excuse me, Laura. I always take it out when the flavor is gone. I’ll use this scrap of paper to wrap it in. I know how it is to get it stuck on a shoe. [He wraps the gum in paper and puts it in his pocket.] Yep—that’s what I judge to be your principal trouble. A lack of confidence in yourself as a person. You don’t have the proper amount of faith in yourself. I’m basing that fact on a number of your remarks and also on certain observations I’ve made. For instance that clumping you thought was so awful in high school. You say that you even dreaded to walk into class. You see what you did? You dropped out of school, you gave up an education because of a clump, which as far as I know was practically non-existent! A little physical defect is what you have. Hardly noticeable even! Magnified thousands of times by imagination! You know what my strong advice to you is? Think of yourself as superior in some way!
LAURA: In what way would I think?
JIM: Why, man alive, Laura! Just look about you a little. What do you see? A world full of common people! All of ‘em born and all of ‘em going to die! Which of them has one-tenth of your good points! Or mine! Or anyone else’s, as far as that goes—gosh! Everybody excels in some one thing. Some in many! [He unconsciously glances at himself in the mirror.] All you’ve got to do is discover in what!
- pp. 87-90—JIM: I wish that you were my sister. I’d teach you to have some confidence in yourself. The different people are not like other people, but being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Because other people are not such wonderful people. They’re one hundred times one thousand. You’re one times one! They walk all over the earth. You just stay here. They’re common as—weeds, but—you—well, you’re—Blue Roses!
[The music changes.]
LAURA: But blue is wrong for—roses. . . .
JIM: It’s right for you! You’re—pretty!
LAURA: In what respect am I pretty?
JIM: In all respects—believe me! Your eyes—your hair—are pretty! Your hands are pretty! [He catches hold of her hand.] You think I’m making this up because I’m invited to dinner and have to be nice. Oh, I could do that! I could put on an act for you, Laura, and say lots of things without being very sincere. But this time I am. I’m talking to you sincerely. I happened to notice you had this inferiority complex that keeps you from feeling comfortable with people. Somebody needs to build your confidence up and make you proud instead of shy and turning away and—blushing. Somebody—ought to—kiss you, Laura!
[His hand slips slowly up her arm to her shoulder as the music swells tumultuously. He suddenly turns her about and kisses her on the lips. When he releases her, Laura sinks on the sofa with a bright, dazed look. Jim backs away and fishes in his pocket for a cigarette.]
[He lights the cigarette, avoiding her look. There is a peal of girlish laughter from Amanda in the kitchenette . . .]
Stumblejohn! I shouldn’t have done that—that was way off the beam. You don’t smoke, do you?
[She looks up, smiling, not hearing the question. He sits beside her rather gingerly. She looks at him speechlessly—waiting. He coughs decorously and moves a little farther aside as he considers the situation and senses her feelings, dimly, with perturbation. He speaks gently.]
Would you—care for a—mint?
[She doesn’t seem to hear him but her look grows brighter even.]
Peppermint? Life Saver? My pocket’s a regular drugstore—wherever I go . . . . [He pops a mint in his mouth. Then he gulps and decides to make a clean breast of it. He speaks slowly and gingerly.] Laura, you know, if I had a sister like you, I’d do the same thing as Tom. I’d bring out fellows and—introduce her to them. The right type of boys—of a type to—appreciate her. Only—well—he made a mistake about me. Maybe I’ve got no call to be saying this. That may not have been the idea in having me over. But what it if was? There’s nothing wrong about that. The only trouble is that in my case—I’m not in a situation to—do the right thing. I can’t take down your number and say I’ll phone. I can’t call up next week and—ask for a date. I thought I had better explain the situation in case you—misunderstood it and—I hurt your feelings. . . .
[There is a pause. Slowly, very slowly, Laura’s look changes . . . Amanda utters another gay laugh in the kitchenette.]
LAURA [faintly]: You—won’t—call again?
JIM: No, Laura, I can’t. [He rises from the sofa.] As I was just explaining, I’ve—got strings on me. Laura, I’ve—been going steady! I go out all the time with a girl named Betty. She’s a home-girl like you, and Catholic, and Irish, and in a great many ways we—get along fine. I met her last summer on a moonlight boat trip up the Alton, on the Majestic. Well—right away from the start it was—love!
[Legend: Love !]
[Laura sways slightly forward and grips the arm of the sofa. He fails to notice, now enrapt in his own comfortable being.]
Being in love has made a new man of me!
[Leaning stiffly forward, clutching the arm of the sofa, Laura struggles visibly with her storm. But Jim is oblivious; she is a long way off.]
The power of love is really pretty tremendous! Love is something that—changes the whole world, Laura!
[The storm abates a little and Laura leans back. He notices her again.]
It happened that Betty’s aunt took sick, she got a wire and had to go to Centralia. So Tom—when he asked me to dinner—I naturally just accepted the invitation, not knowing that you—that he—that I—[He stops awkwardly.] Huh—I’m a stumblejohn!
[He flops back on the sofa. The holy candles on the altar of Laura’s face have been snuffed out. There is a look of almost infinite desolation. Jim glances at her uneasily.]
I wish that you would—say something.
- pp. 93-97—JIM: I have a couple of time-clocks to punch, Mrs. Wingfield. One at morning, another one at night!
AMANDA: My, but you are ambitious! You work at night, too?
JIM: No, Ma’am, not work but—Betty!
[He crosses deliberately to pick up his hat. The band at the Paradise Dance Hall goes into a tender waltz.]
AMANDA: Betty? Betty? Who’s—Betty!
[There is an ominous cracking sound in the sky.]
JIM: Oh, just a girl. The girl I go steady with!
[He smiles charmingly The sky falls.]
AMANDA [a long-drawn exhalation]: Ohhhh . . . Is it a serious romance, Mr. O’Connor?
JIM: We’re going to be married the second Sunday in June.
AMANDA: Ohhhh—how nice! Tom didn’t mention that you were engaged to be married.
JIM: The cat’s not out of the bag at the warehouse yet. You know how they are. They call you Romeo and stuff like that. [He stops at the oval mirror to put on his hat. He carefully shapes the brim and the crown to give a discreetly dashing effect.] It’s been a wonderful evening, Mrs. Wingfield. I guess this is what they mean by Southern hospitality.
AMANDA: It really wasn’t anything at all.
JIM: I hope it don’t seem like I’m rushing off. But I promised Betty I’d pick her up at the Wabash depot, an’ by the time I get my jalopy down there her train’ll be in. Some women are pretty upset if you keep ‘em waiting.
AMANDA: Yes, I know—the tyranny of women! [She extends her hand.] Goodbye, Mr. O’Connor. I wish you luck—and happiness—and success! All three of them, and so does Laura! Don’t you, Laura?
JIM [taking Laura’s hand]: Goodbye, Laura . . . And don’t you forget the good advice I gave you . . .Good night!
[He grins and ducks jauntily out. Still bravely grimacing, Amanda closes the door on the gentleman caller. Then she turns back to the room with a puzzled expression. She and Laura don’t dare to face each other. Laura crouches beside the Victrola to wind it.]
AMANDA [faintly]: Things have a way of turning out so badly. I don’t believe that I would play the Victrola. Well, well—well! Our gentleman caller was engaged to be married! [She raises her voice.] Tom!
TOM [from the kitchenette]: Yes, Mother?
AMANDA: Come in here a minute. I want to tell you something awfully funny.
TOM [entering with a macaroon and a glass of the lemonade]: Has the gentleman caller gotten away already?
AMANDA: The gentleman caller has made an early departure. What a wonderful joke you played on us!
TOM: How do you mean?
AMANDA: You didn’t mention that he was engaged to be married.
TOM: Jim? Engaged?
AMANDA: That’s what he just informed us.
TOM: I’ll be jiggered! I didn’t know about that.
AMANDA: That seems peculiar.
TOM: What’s peculiar about it?
AMANDA: Didn’t you call him your best friend down at the warehouse?
TOM: He is, but how did I know?
AMANDA: It seems extremely peculiar that you wouldn’t know your best friend was going to be married!
TOM: The warehouse is where I work, not where I know things about people!
AMANDA: You don’t know things anywhere! You live in a dream; you manufacture illusions!
[He crosses to the door.]
Where are you going?
TOM: I’m going to the movies.
AMANDA: That’s right, now that you’ve had us make such fools of ourselves. The effort, the preparations, all the expense! The new floor lamp, the rug, the clothes for Laura! All for what? To entertain some other girl’s fiancé! Go to the movies, go! Don’t think about us, a mother deserted, an unmarried sister who’s crippled and has no job! Don’t let anything interfere with your selfish pleasure! Just go, go, go—to the movies!
TOM: All right, I will! The more you shout about my selfishness to me the quicker I’ll go, and I won’t go to the movies!
AMANDA: Go, then! Go to the moon—you selfish dreamer!
[Tom smashes his glass on the floor. He plunges out on the fire escape, slamming the door. Laura screams in fright. The dance-hall music becomes louder. Tom stands on the fire escape, gripping the rail. The moon breaks through the storm clouds, illuminating his face.]
[Tom’s closing speech is timed with what is happening inside the house. We see, as though through soundproof glass, that Amanda appears to be making a comforting speech to Laura, who is huddled upon the sofa. Now that we cannot hear the mother’s speech, her silliness is gone and she has dignity and tragic beauty. Laura’s hair hides her face until, at the end of the speech, she lifts her head to smile at her mother. Amanda’s gestures are slow and graceful, almost dancelike, as she comforts her daughter. At the end of her speech she glances a moment at the father’s picture—then withdraws through the portieres. At the close of Tom’s speech, Laura blows out the candles, ending the play.]
TOM: I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two places. Not long after that I was fired for writing a poem on the lid of a shoe-box. I left Saint Louis. I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space. I traveled around a great deal. The cities swept about me like dead leaves, leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches. I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something. It always came upon me unawares, taking me altogether by surprise. Perhaps it was a familiar bit of music. Perhaps it was only a piece of transparent glass. Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I have found companions. I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow. Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful then I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger—anything that can blow your candles out!
[Laura bends over the candles.]
For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura—and so goodbye. . . .
[She blows the candles out.]