Last Reviewed on March 31, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 818
Tom appears on the landing of the fire escape and tells the audience that his mother is obsessed with the idea of a gentleman caller for Laura. He explains that Amanda has begun selling magazine subscriptions over the phone in order to earn extra money, with which she will “feather the nest and plume the bird.” Amanda enters the scene while talking on the phone to a potential subscriber; she talks incessantly until the woman on the other end of the phone hangs up on her. Amanda appears surprised when she finds out that there is no one on the line.
Tom and Amanda argue behind the curtains. Tom expresses anger at the fact that Amanda has taken his library books away when he is the one who pays the rent on the apartment in which they all live. When Tom comes through the curtains, Amanda also appears, wearing a bathrobe that once belonged to Mr. Wingfield. When Tom says he is leaving, Amanda scolds him for his self-centeredness. Her tirade continues with an accusation: “I think you’ve been doing things that you’re ashamed of.” Tom loses control and shouts at his mother about his dissatisfaction with his job at the shoe warehouse. During his rant, Tom denies that he has been acting selfishly. He tries to leave to go to the movies, but Amanda is suspicious and accuses him of lying about his destination. Tom grows emotional again and taunts his mother by saying that he is going to “opium dens, dens of vice and criminals’ hang-outs.” In fury, Tom calls Amanda an “ugly—babbling old—witch” as he makes his way to the door of the apartment. When Tom becomes tangled in his coat sleeves, he throws the garment across the room in frustration. The coat hits the shelf on which Laura stores her glass animals, accidentally breaking some of the fragile objects. Laura becomes upset at the sound of broken glass.
Amanda tells Tom she won’t speak to him again until he apologizes to her, and she leaves the scene through the curtains. Laura is preoccupied with her loss. Tom goes to the shelf and “[d]rops awkwardly on his knees to collect the fallen glass.”
As a church bell rings, indicating that the time is five o’clock, Tom stands outside on the fire escape and “shakes a little noise-maker” in time with the bell. He has been drinking alcohol. Laura appears in her nightgown. When Tom tries to enter the apartment, he drops his key. Laura lets her brother in and asks him where he has been. Tom claims that he has been at the movies all night and describes a magician’s stage show he attended. Laura tells Tom to lower his voice so as not to wake their mother, and he lies down and falls asleep.
As the church bell sounds for six o’clock, an alarm clock rings, and Amanda’s voice orders Laura to wake Tom. Laura pleads with Tom to apologize to their mother, but he is still exasperated. Tom is reluctant to say he is sorry and asks his sister if their mother’s silence is “such a tragedy.” When Amanda appears, she pressures Laura to go to the shop for butter and to pay for the purchase on credit; Laura resists, finding such transactions uncomfortable, but she goes to the store as Amanda comes into the living room, where Tom is standing. After a few moments of silence, Tom apologizes to his mother, and Amanda becomes emotional. As she weeps, she talks of her devotion to her children and praises Tom for his “natural endowments.” After he promises her that he won’t become a “drunkard” like his father, Amanda asks Tom to have a discussion with her about Laura.
Amanda tells Tom that Laura is upset because Laura can sense that Tom is “not happy here.” Amanda confronts Tom again about his whereabouts at night, and he insists he goes to the movies because he “like[s] adventure.” Tom tries to exit the conversation with his mother, but she refuses to let him go, insisting that he talk with her about Laura. Amanda tells Tom that she feels frightened about Laura’s future. When Tom displays confusion at Amanda’s obsession over a house and a husband for Laura, Amanda confronts Tom and tells him that she knows about the letter he recently received from the Merchant Marines. Amanda accuses him of behaving selfishly like his father. She goads Tom, encouraging him to abandon his family as his father did, but “not till there’s somebody to take your place.” Amanda explains to Tom that Laura needs somebody to take care of her, and she asks him to bring someone home for Laura from the shoe warehouse. Tom agrees and leaves the apartment as Amanda calls another potential magazine subscriber.
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