Symbolic illustration of Laura's hands holding a glass unicorn

The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

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Scene 7 Summary

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Thirty minutes later, dinner is almost over, and Laura is still resting on the sofa. The rain slows down as the moon emerges in the night sky. The lights go out in the apartment, and Amanda lights candles, assuming a fuse has blown. She asks Tom about the electricity bill, “the one I told you we got the notices about,” and Tom acknowledges that he did not pay the bill. Jim checks the fuses, which are all intact, and when Jim tries to diffuse the tension between Tom and his mother, Amanda responds to Jim flirtatiously. Amanda gives Jim two glasses of wine so that he can have a drink with Laura while Tom washes the dinner dishes as punishment for neglecting the light bill.

When Jim comes near, Laura sits up on the sofa. They greet each other, and Jim is charming and friendly. Jim sits on the floor with his wine, and he invites Laura to join him. She moves to the floor from the sofa to sit near him. Jim’s manner is conversational and easygoing, and though he asks Laura directly if she is a shy person, she keeps her composure, going as far as to ask Jim if he still sings. Jim is surprised to hear Laura talk about his singing, but after a few moments, he remembers Laura from their high school days. They reminisce about the chorus class they shared, and Laura confesses that she felt self-conscious in those days about having to walk in front of people. Jim’s response to Laura’s frank mention of her disability is encouraging and positive; he remembers that he used to call Laura “Blue Roses,” and he reminds her that “practically everybody has got some problems.” Together, they look at Laura’s old high school yearbook and reminisce. Laura grows less shy as Jim shows her warmth and genuine friendliness, but when Jim denies that he is engaged to marry Emily, his old girlfriend from high school, Laura again becomes distracted and withdrawn.

Laura tells Jim about her glass figurines. She also mentions that she dropped out of business college because it gave her “indigestion,” and he tells her that she has an “inferiority complex.” Jim talks about his own interest in self-improvement and advises Laura to “[t]hink of yourself as superior in some way!” Laura talks more about her collection of glass animals and gives Jim a tiny glass unicorn to hold, telling him that she trusts him to hold the fragile object. Jim places the unicorn on the table when he hears music coming from the dance hall across the alleyway. He asks Laura to dance, and they waltz around the living room; Laura’s disability makes her clumsy, but Jim does not seem to notice. As they dance, they bump into the table, causing the glass unicorn to fall; the glass unicorn’s horn breaks off, and “[n]ow it is just like all the other horses.” Jim compliments Laura, telling her that she is different from other girls and that she is pretty; he kisses her. They hear Amanda laughing in the kitchen, and the moment is broken. Jim says out loud that he “shouldn’t have done that” before offering Laura a mint. Awkwardly, Jim explains to Laura that he can’t call on her again, because he loves a girl named Betty. Jim tries to excuse his actions by saying he did not know Tom was inviting him to dinner to introduce them; he explains that Tom had not mentioned that he had a sister, and Jim just happened to be free that evening to join Tom for dinner. Jim tries to be kind, but Laura is disappointed. Laura gives Jim the broken unicorn and winds up the victrola as Amanda enters with a pitcher of lemonade. Amanda tries to leave the living room to give Jim and Laura more privacy, but Jim explains that he needs to leave, mentioning Betty and identifying her as “[t]he girl I go steady with.” Jim thanks Amanda for dinner and says goodbye to Laura, reminding her to follow his advice.

Amanda confronts Tom angrily, accusing him of playing a joke on her and Laura by inviting a man who is engaged to be married to dinner. Tom denies knowing that Jim is engaged, and Amanda berates him. Tom heads toward the door, saying he is going to the movies, while Amanda blames him for his insensitive behavior and calls him a “selfish dreamer.”

Tom delivers his closing speech from the fire escape as Amanda comforts Laura on the sofa. Tom explains that soon after this dinner, he is fired from his job at the shoe warehouse for “writing a poem on the lid of a shoebox” and that he leaves the city “pursued by something.” Though he has left his sister and their mother behind, he cannot forget Laura. The play ends when Tom says goodbye.

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Scenes 5–6 Summary