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"The Glass Menagerie," Scene Five, by Tennessee Williams (1944)

Author: Tennessee Williams

“Scene Five.” The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, New Directions, 2011.

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Scene 5

LEGEND ON SCREEN: 'ANNUNCIATION'. Fade With music.

[It is early dusk on a spring evening. Supper has jot been finished in the Wingfield apartment. AMANDA and LAURA in light-colored dresses are removing dishes from the table, in the upstage area, which is shadowy, their movements formalized almost as a dance or ritual their moving forms as pale and silent as moths.

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Paragraph 4 changes
TOM, in white shirt and trousers, rises from do the table and crosses toward the fire-escape.]

TOM, in white shirt and trousers, rises from the table and crosses toward the fire-escape.]

AMANDA [As he passes her]: Son, Will you do me a favor?

TOM: What?

AMANDA: Comb your hair! You look so pretty when your hair is combed! [Tom slouches on sofa with evening paper. Enormous caption 'Franco Triumphs'.] There is only one respect in which I would like you to emulate your father.

TOM: What respect is that?

AMANDA: The care he always took of his appearance. He never allowed himself to look untidy. [He throws down the paper and crosses to fire-escape] 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: 'ALL 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 telegraph 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, ban, 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 front de 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 grace 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?

TOM: Um-hum.

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

from the warehouse. I think that I've made that suggestion more than once.

TOM: Yes, you have made it repeatedly.

AMANDA: Well?

TOM: We are going to have One.

AMANDA: What?

TOM: A gentleman caller!

[THE ANNUNCIATION IS CELEBRATED WITH MUSIC. AMANDA rises

IMAGE ON SCREEN: CALLER WITH BOUQUET.]

AMANDA: You mean you have asked 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.

AMANDA: Soon?

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.

AMANDA: Tomorrow?

TOM: Yep. Tomorrow.

AMANDA: But, Tom!

TOM: Yes, Mother?

AMANDA: Tomorrow gives me no time I

TOM: Time for what?

AMANDA: Preparations! Why didn't you phone me at once, as soon as you asked him, the minute that he accepted? Then, don't you see, I could have been getting ready!

TOM: You don't have to make any fuss.

AMANDA: Oh, Tom, Tom, Tom, of course I have to make a fuss! I want things nice, not sloppy! Not thrown together. I'll certainly have to do some fast thinking, won't I?

TOM: I don't see why you have to think at all.

AMANDA: You just don't know. We can't have a gentleman caller in a pigsty! All my wedding silver has to be polished, the monogrammed table linen ought to be laundered! The windows have to be washed and fresh curtains put up. And how about clothes? We have to wear something, don't we?

TOM: Mother, this boy is no one to make a fuss over!

AMANDA: Do you realize he's the first young man we've introduced to your sister? It's terrible, dreadful, disgraceful that poor little sister has never received a single gentleman caller! Tom, come inside! [She opens the screen door.]

TOM: What for?

AMANDA: I want to ask you some things.

TOM: If you're going to make such a fuss, I'll call it off, I'll tell him not to come !

AMANDA: You certainly won't do anything of the kind. Nothing offends people worse than broken engagements. It simply means I'll have to work like a Turk! We won't be brilliant, but we will pass inspection. Come on inside. [Tom follows, groaning.] Sit down.

TOM Any particular place you would like me to sit?

AMANDA: Thank heavens I've got that new sofa! I'm also making payments on a floor lamp I'll have sent out! And put the chintz covers on, they'll brighten things up! Of course I'd hoped to have these walls re-papered. ... What is the young man's name?

TOM: His name is O'Connor.

AMANDA: That, of course, means fish- tomorrow is Friday! I'll have that salmon loaf - with Durkee's dressing! What does he do? He works at the warehouse?

TOM: Of course! How else would -

AMANDA: Tom, he - doesn't drink?

TOM: Why do you ask me that?

AMANDA: Your father did!

TOM: Don't get started on that!

AMANDA: He does drink, then?

TOM: Not that I know of!

AMANDA: Make sure, be certain! The last thing I want for my daughter's a boy who drinks!

TOM: Aren't you being a little bit premature? Mr. O'Connor has not yet appeared on the scene!

AMANDA: But will tomorrow. To meet your sister, and what do I know about his character? Nothing! Old maids are better off than wives of drunkards!

TOM: Oh, my God!

AMANDA: Be still!

TOM [leaning forward to whisper]: Lots of fellows meet girls whom they don't marry!

AMANDA: Oh, talk sensibly, Tom - and don't be sarcastic!

[She has gotten a hairbrush.]

TOM: What are you doing?

AMANDA: I'm brushing that cow-lick down! What is this young man's position at the warehouse?

TOM [submitting grimly to the brush and the interrogation]: This young man's position is that of a shipping clerk, Mother.

AMANDA: Sounds to me like a fairly responsible job, the sort of a job you would be in if you just had more get-up.

What is his salary? Have you any idea?

TOM: I would judge it to be approximately eighty-five dollars a month.

AMANDA: Well - not princely, but

TOM: Twenty more than I make.

AMANDA: Yes, how well I know! But for a family man, eighty-five dollars a month is not much more than you can just get by on. . . .

TOM: Yes. but Mr O'Connor is not a family man.

AMANDA: He might be, mightn't he? Some time in the future?

TOM: I see. Plans and provisions.

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!

TOM: I will think that over and see what I can make of it.

AMANDA: Don't be supercilious with your mother! Tell me some more about this - what do you call him?

TOM: James D. O'Connor. The D. is for Delaney.

AMANDA: Irish on both sides! Gracious! And doesn't drink?

TOM: Shall I call him up and ask him right this minute?

AMANDA: The only way to find out about those things is to make discreet inquiries at the proper moment. 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 now.

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 be 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 anymore.

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. . . . [Gets Up. AMANDA remains holding 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 door.]

AMANDA [sharply]: Where are you going?

TOM: I'm going to the movies. [Out screen door.]

AMANDA: Not to the movies, every night to the movies! [Follows quickly to 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 portières.] Laura! Laura! [LAURA answers from kitchenette.]

LAURA: Yes, Mother.

AMANDA: Let those dishes go and come in front! [LAURA appears with dish towel. Gaily.] Laura, come here and make a wish on the moon!

[SCREEN IMAGE: MOON.]

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 violin rises and the stage dims out.]

CURTAIN

DMU Timestamp: February 21, 2020 23:45