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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1336

Act 1 Anna Freeman and Tom Lattimer are in the midst of a heated exchange. Tom is trying to find out why Anna has decided not to marry him. Anna avoids the subject. She responds to Tom’s words by talking about something completely unrelated. For example, she mentions the man...

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Act 1
Anna Freeman and Tom Lattimer are in the midst of a heated exchange. Tom is trying to find out why Anna has decided not to marry him. Anna avoids the subject. She responds to Tom’s words by talking about something completely unrelated. For example, she mentions the man she sees standing in the street outside, the man who often stands there, apparently because he is in love with a woman who lives in a nearby apartment. Finally, however, Anna explains herself. She says that she cannot stand the idea of Tom having taken a job at a popular women’s magazine. Tom accuses Anna of being a romantic, insisting that she will one day regret not having a regular job herself.

They hear a noise at the door, the voice of the woman from whom Anna rents rooms. The woman is Mary Jackson; she is calling her cat. She enters the room not knowing Tom is there to ask Anna if she wants to go out for a cup of coffee. She sees Tom and figures out what is going on. She is cavalier about the situation, asking Tom how it was he thought the two of them would ever get married.

They hear the doorbell ring. Mary exits and returns with the visitor. It is Harry Paine, one of Anna’s friends. Harry has come for sympathy from Anna. He is married but has affairs. His latest girlfriend has left him; she is going to marry. He wants Anna to go with him for a few drinks so that he can pour his heart out. Anna refuses. He asks Mary to go instead, and Mary is very pleased.

As Mary does, Harry tells Tom that Anna would never have married him. He tells Tom that Tom is turning into a conventional person. Tom responds by telling Harry that Harry has a similar job, that they are not so very different. This makes Harry stop making fun of Tom. The four then begin to speak of Dave Miller, a friend of Anna, whom Harry says Anna should marry instead of Tom. Anna says she never will and predicts that Dave, despite his apparent unconventionality, will end up like Harry—married and routinely cheating on his wife. Harry is angry at Anna’s portrait of him.

While they are talking, the doorbell rings again. Mary exits to see who it is. With Mary gone, Tom uses Mary to scare Anna. He says that Anna is on her way to becoming Mary, an older lady obsessed with cats, because cats will be her only company if she continues to refuse marriage proposals. Anna insults Tom, in turn, to defend Mary. Her last word is that she would rather be lonely and true to herself than a compromiser like Tom.

Harry and Mary leave, and the person who rang the doorbell reaches Anna’s room. It is Janet Stevens, one of Dave Miller’s casual girlfriends. Tom leaves.

With Tom gone, Janet explains why she has come. She is pregnant by Dave, having decided to trap him into marriage by not using birth control. She has not seen him for days and is fearful that he may have left her for good. She knows that Dave is in love with Anna. She wants Anna to tell Dave about her situation. She leaves upset but glad about what she has done. She says it will be good for Dave to settle down.

Next, Dave arrives. Anna is by now deeply frustrated and upset. She has broken an engagement with a man she has been in love with. She is in love with Dave, and she knows that her relationship with Dave is bound to end as well. At first, Anna behaves coldly towards Dave, and he does not know why. Finally, she melts. They sit cross-legged on the carpet facing each other, as if to begin a ritual, and it is clear they have done this before. The lights dim and the walls of Anna’s room fade away. The two seem to be floating in the midst of the great city of London.

Act 2
Anna and Dave are as they were at the end of act 1. Anna stands and becomes as she was when she was a child, mimicking her childhood Australian accent. She is speaking to her mother as she apparently did sometime in the past, declaring that she will never become like her mother: isolated, on a farm, tied to the home by endless duties.

Next Dave goes back into his past. He acts out a scene from his childhood on the streets of Chicago. He is with friends. They are pretending that they are depression-era gangsters. He recalls how he had strong political convictions even then, going through anarchist and socialist phases.

Dave next talks about how he once went to see a psychoanalyst. He begged the psychoanalyst to explain to him how to be content. The doctor tells him to marry and to have a couple children. Dave is both scoffing and nervous as he tells the story, as if he is worried that the analyst is right in telling him to live and believe like most everybody else. Dave also explains how his parents were hardly present as he was growing up. They were both union organizers and often traveled.

They hear a commotion in the street. The women across the way are fighting, as Anna says they did the previous night. Anna and Dave speak anxiously about wanting a better world and wanting to be better people themselves. Anna says she once tried very hard to conjure a vision of herself as an entirely different person. What she saw was a tiger. She called the tiger to her, and it was purring. Then it slashed her and began to snarl. Next she heard its keepers calling and wheeling out its huge cage.

The phone rings, but Anna does not answer it. She tells Dave that his future might simply be marriage to a typical American girl. Anna announces that she is very tired of trying to be good.

Act 3
Anna turns on the light. The walls of the room return. She declares to Dave that her and Dave’s relationship is over. Dave is frustrated. He tries to force Anna to interact with him. She repeats that their relationship is over. She says that they are not so very special, that they are merely egotists. She says that egotists are people for whom self-respect is more important that anything else, even other people. She belittles herself and Dave. They speak briefly of Anna’s child. Dave asks what the child means to Anna. She says the child gives her hope in a better future.

Harry and Mary return; their drunken, boisterous voices are heard. There is the sense that Harry will spend the night with Mary. Mary enters but leaves shortly thereafter. Harry enters and says that Mary has fallen asleep. Anna tells Harry to go home to his wife, Helen, which angers Harry. The telephone rings. Harry is sure it is Tom. Anna repeats that Harry must go home to Helen. He does so.

Anna finally tells Dave about Janet’s visit and her situation. Dave is not particularly shocked. He says that he will marry Janet if that is what she wants but that he will not really change. He accuses Anna of using Janet as an excuse to end their relationship.

The telephone rings. It is Janet. Dave consoles her. He hangs up. Dave and Anna look at each other. He leaves.

Anna begins to cry. She pours herself a drink. Mary comes in and takes the drink away from Anna. Anna says Dave has gone to get married. Mary says he was bound to. The play ends with the two women speaking about how Anna’s boy will be coming home from boarding school soon. The walls of Anna’s room once again dissolve. The curtain falls.

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