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Oh, be careful—if you breathe, it breaks!
A half hour later, dinner is winding down. Laura is still by herself on the living-room couch. The floor lamp gives her face an ethereal beauty. As the rain stops, the lights flicker and go out. Amanda lights candles and asks Jim to check the fuses, but of course, he finds nothing wrong with them. Amanda then asks Tom if he paid the electric bill. He admits that he did not, and she assumes that he simply forgot, as Jim’s good humor helps smooth over the potentially tense moment. Amanda sends Jim to the parlor with a candelabra and a little wine to keep Laura company while Amanda and Tom clean up.
In the living room, Jim takes a seat on the floor and persuades Laura to join him. He gives her a glass of wine. Tongue-tied at first, Laura soon relaxes in Jim’s engaging presence. He talks to her about the Century of Progress exhibition in Chicago and calls her an “old-fashioned” girl. She reminds him that they knew each other in high school. He has forgotten, but when she mentions the nickname he gave her, Blue Roses, he remembers. They reminisce about high school and Jim’s glories. Laura also remembers the discomfort and embarrassment she felt over the brace on her leg. Jim tells her that she was far too self-conscious and that everybody has problems. Laura persuades him to sign a program from a play he performed in during high school, which she has kept, and works up the nerve to ask him about the girl to whom he was supposedly engaged. He explains that he was never actually engaged and that the girl had announced the engagement out of wishful thinking.
In response to his question about what she has done since high school, Laura starts to tell Jim about her glass collection. He abruptly declares that she has an inferiority complex and that she “low-rates” herself. He says that he also suffered from this condition after his post–high school disappointment. He launches into his vision of his own future in television production. Laura listens attentively. He asks her about herself again, and she describes her collection of glass animals. She shows him her favorite: a unicorn. He points out lightly that unicorns are “extinct” in modern times.
Jim notices the music coming from the dance hall across the alley. Despite Laura’s initial protests, he leads her in a clumsy waltz around the room. Jim bumps into the table where the unicorn is resting, the unicorn falls, and its horn breaks off. Laura is unfazed, though, and she says that now the unicorn can just be a regular horse. Extremely apologetic, Jim tells her that she is different from anyone else he knows, that she is pretty, and that if she were his sister he would teach her to have some self-confidence and value her own uniqueness. He then says that someone ought to kiss her.
Jim kisses Laura on the lips. Dazed, Laura sinks down onto the sofa. He immediately begins chiding himself out loud for what he has done. As he sits next to her on the sofa, Jim confesses that he is involved with an Irish girl named Betty, and he tells her that his love for Betty has made a new man of him. Laura places the de-horned unicorn in his hand, telling him to think of it as a souvenir.
Amanda enters in high spirits, carrying refreshments. Jim quickly becomes awkward in her presence. She insists that he become a frequent caller from now on. He says he must leave now and explains that he has to pick up Betty at the train station—the two of them are to be married in June. Despite her disappointment, Amanda bids him farewell graciously. Jim cheerily takes his leave.
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The Glass Menagerie is a five-character memory play by Tennessee Williams that premiered in 1944 and catapulted Williams from obscurity to fame. Highly recommend it to everyone!
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