The Glass Menagerie Scene 1-2 Summary

Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" opens with a very thorough set of stage directions to set the feeling and appearance of the play. He describes the Wingfield apartment as a small unit in a congested area of St. Louis, which is entered via fire escape. Through the window of the apartment is a tight alleyway. Featured prominently on the wall is a portrait of the absent patriarch of the family. Also displayed is Laura's large collection of transparent glass animals. Also present is a phonograph with records, and a typewriter flanked by a stenography chart.

Tom, the narrator, is the first character to appear on stage he is dressed in a merchant sailor's suit. He begins to address the audience while standing by the fire escape smoking. He compares himself to a magician, but points out that while a magician presents illusions disguised as truths, he will give the audience truth disguised in illusion. Tom further informs the audience that the story he is about to tell takes place in the 1930's during a war and Spain, and a period of turmoil in America. He describes the cast of characters as his mother Amanda, a sister named Laura, a gentlemen caller, and Tom and Laura's father, who, while not present, plays an important role. Their father abandoned the family many years before the play takes place; his last communication had been a postcard from Mexico that said simply "Hello! Goodbye."

The scene transitions, and Amanda is calling a younger (though still adult) Tom to the dinner table. Amanda is overbearing, and dictates how Tom should eat his food. Her intentions are clearly good, but her insistence is clearly too much for Tom. Despite the fact that Tom supports the family, Amanda constantly criticizes his every move. Her interactions with her daughter Laura are just as strained. When Laura attempts to clear the table, Amanda intervenes, telling her daughter that she needs to "stay fresh" for her "gentlemen callers." Laura points out that she isn't expecting any visitors that evening, but Amanda ignores her, pointing out that they often come when you least expect them. Laura then lapses into a story she has clearly told many times before.

In it, young Amanda has seventeen callers in one day. Wistfully, she recounts their names and what they went on to become later in life; Champ Laughlin who became vice-president of a bank, the Fitzhugh boy who moved to New York and made a fortune on Wall Street. And then she laments that of all of the possibilities she had the misfortune of picking their father.

Again Amanda asks Laura when her gentlemen callers are going to start arriving, and again Laura responds quite nervously that she isn't expecting any. Amanda is incredulous, and insists that her daughter must be expecting a flood of callers. Laura uneasily informs her mother that she is not as popular as her when she was a teenager. Tom groans, and Laura makes an excuse for her mother in telling him that their worries that Laura will end up an old maid.

The second scene opens with Laura polishing her collection of glass animals. When Amanda comes in the apartment she is visibly disturbed. On the way to her Daughters of the American Revolution meeting she had stopped by the college Laura had said she was taking lessons to tell them that her daughter would be absent because she has a cold, and ask about her progress. The staff at the school informed her that Laura had stopped attending classes a few days after enrolling. The teachers told Amanda that all they remembered of Laura was that she is shy and quiet, and so nervous that she trembled so much that she could not properly type.

Amanda is infuriated that she spent fifty dollars on the typing classes that Laura is not attending. She demands Laura to tell her where she has been every day, since she wasn't in class. Laura, who is clearly traumatized by the events, confesses that she had spent the days walking in parks and visiting museums because she was ashamed, and scared to face her mother's disappointment.

Amanda expresses her fears for Laura: she explains that she is concerned that the young woman has no way to support herself financially. Since Laura has no job, and no prospective husband Amanda worries that she will end up dependent on Tom, who might grow to resent her. She asks Laura if she has a crush on any boys. Abashed, Laura responds that in high school she had been enamored with a boy named Jim. She recounts how he used to call her "blue roses" after he misheard her explaining that she had once been ill with attack of pleurisies. However, she also explains that he had a girlfriend, and that the personal section of the paper had said that they are now engaged.

Amanda assures Laura that girls who aren't cut out for business careers usually end up married to nice men. Amanda is clearly pained by this statement, and tells her mother that she is "crippled," suggesting that nobody will want to marry her. Her mother tells her that it's nonsense, that she only has a slight defect, which is hardly noticeable, and that she will develop traits that make up for it.

Related Links:

The Glass Menagerie Scene 3-4 Summary
The Glass Menagerie Scene 5-7 Summary
The Glass Menagerie Quiz
The Glass Menagerie Summary
Literature Summaries

To link to this The Glass Menagerie Scene 1-2 Summary page, copy the following code to your site: