Summary of Scene 5 of The Glass Menagerie
Summary of The Glass Menagerie—Scene Five
Scene Five begins with music playing and the word "Annunciation" appearing on the screen on the wall. (Williams uses the word "Annunciation" to make audience members think about the event in the Christian Bible when the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that God had made her pregnant with Jesus).
The playwright writes that time has passed since the last scene ended, and it is now spring in the year 1937. (Spring is a symbol of new life and hope.) Williams writes that the women wear "light-colored dresses" and Tom wears a white shirt and pants. Williams also says that the women move like pale, silent moths and that their movements as they clear the dishes from the table are like a dance. (Williams' descriptions use symbols that create a mood of hope fighting against hopelessness. There is light and there is shadow. There is good and there is bad. The unusual silence makes audience members wonder about what will happen.)
Amanda and Laura continue to put the dishes away after dinner (the last meal of the day).
Tom walks toward the fire escape, but Amanda stops him to ask him to comb his hair because she thinks he looks so handsome when he does. Instead, Tom sits down and opens the newspaper to read. The title of the article appears on the screen on the wall: "Franco Triumphs." (These words show that Tom was reading a newspaper article about Spanish General Francisco Franco bombing his own people, with the help of Germany's Hitler and Italy's Mussolini, in the town of Guernica so that he could become the new leader of Spain.)
Amanda tells Tom that his father did one thing well—he always "took care of his appearance." She says Tom should follow his father's example in that one thing. Tom walks to the fire escape, telling his mother he is going out to smoke. His mother says if he stopped smoking, he could save enough money to take a night-school college accounting course. Tom says he'd rather smoke; he leaves, slamming the door.
Amanda says to herself that she knows Tom would rather smoke. She says it's a tragedy, and she looks at her husband's picture. (By looking at the picture, Amanda is showing that she is worried that her son will be like her husband and leave her and Laura.) Then the song, "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise" plays. (The song is a romantic song about young love growing and blossoming like roses. Williams is continuing to show that life is made up of light and dark, hope and fear. Will Tom bring more darkness to the family by leaving them? Will Laura find lightness by finding love?)
Tom steps onto the fire escape landing and becomes again the narrator of the play. He speaks directly to the audience, sharing his memories about the apartment's location. He says that the Paradise Dance Hall was across the alley from the apartment. On spring evenings, he and his family could hear the music played for the dancers. From the windows of their apartment, the Wingfields could see rainbows created by "a large glass sphere that hung from the ceiling." Tom says that couples would come out of the hall and kiss in the alley. Tom says the dancing and kissing were the only "change or adventure" the "kids" thought they would experience. Tom says change and adventure were "waiting around the corner." (The Paradise Dance Hall is like the Bible's Garden of Eden. Both are places where people were happy even though they should have been worried about bad times that were coming. The people in the dance hall should have been worried about the events that showed that World War II was coming. Adam and Eve, who lived in God's garden, a paradise and beautiful place, should have been worried about having to leave the garden forever because they would listen to the snake in the garden instead of listening to God.)
Tom, the narrator, says that the time period was important. He makes allusions (references) about Berchtesgaden (Adolf Hitler's summer retreat), Chamberlain (the British prime minister who had thought he had negotiated a peace treaty with Hitler), and Guernica. (Tom's allusions show that soon the "kids" Tom spoke of who went to the Paradise Dance Hall soon would be involved in World War II.) During that spring, Tom says, there were only the adventures of music, alcohol, dances, movies, and sex that "that hung in the gloom [darkness and sadness] like a chandelier and flooded the world with brief, deceptive rainbows …. All the world was waiting for bombardments!" (Tom is saying that young adults made their lives more interesting by having fun, but the fun things that people without much money could do were like lights in the darkness or like rainbows between storms. None of the happiness lasted.)
With the statement that the world was waiting for bombs to fall, Tom stops being the narrator and again becomes a character in the play.
Amanda turns away from the picture of her husband and goes to Tom on the fire escape. She says that a fire escape is not as good as a porch on a house. The stage directions say that she sits down as if she were sitting down on "a swing on a Mississippi veranda." (This description reminds viewers that Amanda escapes reality by living in her past. Her apartment becomes a Southern plantation, and the fire escape becomes a porch. Amanda's character of the fallen Southern belle (a woman admired for her beauty and charm) is like Williams’s own mother who grew up in a well-known Mississippi family but who had little money or success as an adult. )
Amanda asks Tom what he is looking at, and he says, "The moon." His mother asks if there is a moon showing, and Tom answers, "It's rising over Garfinkel's Delicatessen." (A delicatessen is a store selling prepared foods.) This exchange of words shows both the romantic moon and the realistic store. This is important because having both romance and realism together shows again that an escape from reality does not last long. Escape is only as long as a song, a dance, a movie, a kiss, or a look at the moon.
Amanda looks up, sees the moon, and agrees with Tom that it is rising, "So it is! A little silver slipper of a moon. Have you made a wish on it yet?" (Amanda is in a hopeful mood. She poetically compares the moon to a "little silver slipper." Williams may have written these words into Amanda's speech to make audience members think of the Cinderella fairy tale. In the story, a handsome young prince rescues a woman from a lifetime of poverty by identifying her as his future wife when her foot fits into a glass slipper. Amanda hopes that a gentleman caller will rescue Laura.)
Tom says he has made a wish on the moon. Amanda makes a wish, too. Tom will not say what his wish is, but Amanda says that she wishes for the success and happiness of her children. Tom says that there will be a gentleman caller. The stage directions say, "The annunciation [Tom's statement] is celebrated with music" and "Amanda rises." (This is another reference to the announcement by an angel to Mary that she was pregnant with Jesus. Williams, the playwright, is saying that Amanda is very dramatic because she finds the idea of a gentleman caller to be as important as Mary finding out she was pregnant with the son of God.)
An image of a gentleman caller holding a bouquet of flowers is projected onto the screen. (Remember that the words and images projected onto the screen are Tom's strongest memories from the days he lived in the apartment with his mother and his sister.)
Tom says that he has asked a nice young man from the shoe warehouse where he works to dinner. Amanda is very happy, and Tom says that the caller will be coming the next day. This information makes Amanda worry because she doesn't think she will have enough time to prepare for a visitor. Tom tells her she does not have to make a lot of preparations, but Amanda is worried about making the apartment look better. She says she will have to "work like a Turk."(The word "Turk" does not mean a person from Turkey. "Turk" comes from the Irish word "torc," which means a wild male pig. In the United States, the word became "Turk" and its meaning became "a muscular worker.")
Amanda asks what the caller's name is, and Tom says "O'Connor." Recognizing the name as an Irish one, Amanda says that she will need to have fish for dinner (because Irish Catholics would follow their religion's rule of eating only fish, not meat, on Fridays). Amanda asks if O'Connor is a drunkard (because some people thought that all Irish men drank too much alcohol). Tom says, "Not that I know of!" Amanda asks him to make sure because she doesn't want her daughter to marry "a boy who drinks!" She says, "Old maids [unmarried women] are better off than wives of drunkards!" Tom thinks his mother should not be thinking about Laura marrying a visitor who hasn't even come to dinner yet. Amanda learns from Tom that O'Connor is a shipping clerk at the warehouse where Tom works. Tom says that Jim makes eighty-five dollars a month, twenty dollars more a month than Tom does. Amanda continues to ask Tom questions about the caller and learns from Jim's full name that his mother's and his father's families both are Irish. Amanda tells Tom that when she was a girl and it was thought that a young man drank, his girlfriend would talk to the minister of his church or her father to find out if her boyfriend was known to be a good man. Amanda says that was how it had been possible to keep a young woman from marrying a bad man. When Tom asks his mother why then she had made the mistake of marrying his father, she says that her husband had looked innocent and handsome, so he had fooled everyone.
Amanda continues to ask Tom questions about O'Connor. She asks if Mr. O'Connor is good-looking. Tom says O'Connor is "medium homely" (medium unattractive). She asks if Tom is the type of man who "is up and coming" (working to earn better positions and more money). Tom says O'Connor is going to night school and is studying "radio engineering and public speaking." That news makes Amanda very happy because she thinks O'Connor is working to have more money and power.
Tom tells his mother that Jim does not know that he has been invited to meet Laura. Tom says that he only asked Jim to come over for dinner. He says, "…that was the whole conversation." Amanda says, "I bet it was! You're eloquent as an oyster." (Calling Tom an oyster is saying that he keeps his mouth closed and does not talk a lot.)
Tom asks Amanda not to expect too much of Laura. He reminds Amanda that Laura is "crippled," socially odd, and lives in a fantasy world. To outsiders, Tom says, Laura must seem "peculiar." ("Peculiar" means "unusual.") Amanda tells him not to use words like “crippled” and “peculiar.” The stage directions say that the music from the dance hall changes to a tango that has an "ominous tone" (a sound that would make people worry). Amanda asks, "In what way is she peculiar - may I ask?" Tom says that his sister lives in "a world of little glass ornaments" and "plays old phonograph records and - that's about all."
Tom gets up to leave. Amanda asks where he is going. He says that he is going to the movies and leaves even though his mother doesn't want him to. Amanda is unhappy, but then her excitement returns. She tells Laura to come out to the fire escape and tells her to look over her left shoulder to make a wish on the moon. (This is an old superstition that if people see the moon over their left shoulder, any wish they make will come true. The moon is a symbol of magic and unity (togetherness). All of the Wingfields wish on it.) Laura asks what she should wish for. Amanda, with tears in her eyes, tells Laura to wish for happiness and good fortune.
A violin plays and the stage becomes dark.