Summarise scene three of The Glass Menagerie.

Expert Answers
gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The action of scene three begins several weeks after the preceding scene. We know this from the background information that Tom as narrator provides. Since the ‘fiasco’ of Laura’s failed business course, shown in scene two, he states that Amanda has spent much of the intervening winter and spring trying to earn extra money in a bid to try and attract a gentleman caller for Laura. She does this by collecting – or attempting to collect – subscriptions to various magazines on the telephone.

The typewriter, formerly used by Laura for the business course, is now apparently, being used by Tom to write stories, and the quarrel that he has with Amanda in this scene was probably begun, we are told, by her interruption of his ‘creative labours’. In this quarrel, the two of them take their frustrations out on each other. Amanda accuses Tom of shirking his duties to the family by neglecting his job to spend time on what appears to her to be wholly fruitless pursuits like going to the cinema and reading books. She is particularly incensed at his reading material which she considers to be obscene, like the novels of D.H. Lawrence.

Tom, meanwhile, is infuriated at Amanda interfering and confiscating his books. His resentment of the burden of responsibility on his shoulders also comes to the fore. He points out that although he hates his dreary warehouse job so much, he sticks with it just for the sake of the family, and he is upset at his mother’s seeming failure to recognise his self-sacrifice.

When Tom is about to leave to go to the movies, Amanda taxes him yet again over this, and his exasperation reaches boiling point. He reels off a string of lurid claims that he is a gangster, an opium addict, a gambler, a killer. None of this, obviously, is true, but he simply wants to get back at Amanda by casting himself as the kind of characters that he watches on the movies, which she so disapproves of. He ends by declaring that his enemies are planning to blow up the family apartment:

I’ll be glad, very happy, and so will you! You’ll go up, up on a broomstick, over Blue Mountain with seventeen gentleman callers! You ugly, babbling, old witch

As is clear from this quote, Tom takes a certain vicious joy in the thought of the apartment being destroyed, which shows just how frustrated he is feeling with his life. Even more, he mocks his mother’s fondest memory of her successful youth, the afternoon when she had seventeen gentleman callers, and this really stings her.

At the end of the scene, Tom, in his anxiety to leave the house, accidentally knocks over Laura’s treasured glass menagerie. This is symbolic of what will happen at the end of the play; Tom will leave for good, and in so doing he will hurt Laura, who depends on him as a provider.


amysor | Student

Scene 3 is all about Tom and Amanda disagreeing about Tom's wishes. Tom is not happy with his current condition. He is a dreamer, who wants to go out and live adventure, and write! A job at the warehouse does not give him that, he is forced to work to support his family. Also, throughout the novel, each character has their own escape from reality (Laura with her glass menagerie, Amanda recalling her glory from the past). Tom's escape from reality is go to the movies. He likes going to the movies because it gives him adventure, what he craves for. Amanda does not believe Tom when he says this. Their disagreements blow up into a arguement. In the end of scene 3, Tom and Amanda leave on a bad note and are not on speaking terms.

Read the study guide:
The Glass Menagerie

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question