Essential Passages by Character: Tom Wingfield
Essential Passage 1: Scene 1
TOM: 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.
In the opening scene, Tom Wingfield, a twenty-four-year-old worker in a shoe warehouse in St. Louis, Missouri, introduces himself as the play's narrator and one of its main characters. He announces from the beginning that the play will be a depiction of illusion, of dreams that never come true. It takes place in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, when everyone believes that dreams may still come true despite the harsh reality around them. Tom hints at the conflicts in Europe that will soon develop into World War II. In America, there is civil unrest, most notably in the form of labor strikes. Tom also takes the time to portray himself as a poet, one who thinks in symbols.
Essential Passage 2: Scene 4
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.
It is the morning after yet another argument between Tom and Amanda. Tom has called his mother an ugly, babbling old witch. Amanda, having vowed not to talk to Tom until he apologizes, ignores her son, speaking through Laura. She sends Laura to the market, giving Tom a chance to apologize, which she is sure he will do. He in fact does, though reluctantly. Amanda wants this opportunity to talk to Tom about Laura and her future. Because Laura is excessively shy and unable to complete business school, Amanda pins her hope on finding Laura a “gentleman caller” who will prove to be a prospective husband. She approaches the topic by telling...
(The entire section is 1035 words.)
Essential Passages by Theme: Deception
Essential Passage 1: Scene 1
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.
Tom explains that his purpose as the play's narrator is not to present an illusion that has the appearance of the truth, but to give truth in the guise of an illusion. Tom says that the play takes place in the 1930s (“a quaint period”) in Saint Louis, Missouri, in the midst of the Great Depression. It is a time when the happy illusions of the “Roaring Twenties” have been striped away by a U.S. economic disaster that has spread worldwide. In Europe, the people are revolting, instigating a violent change that will result in the fascist governments of Hitler and Mussolini. In America, labor unions go on strike and have physical confrontations in what were once peaceable cities. In these unsettled times, the play opens on Tom Wingfield's unsettled family.
Essential Passage 2: Scene 2
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 up. 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 in your face, like the picture of Jesus’ mother in the museum!
Amanda returns home, clearly upset. She did not have the courage to go to her DAR meeting as she had originally planned, so Amanda dropped by Rubicam Business College, where Laura is ostensibly...
(The entire section is 1368 words.)