Williams’s notes for Jim describe him as “a nice, ordinary young man,” a direct contrast to the Wingfield family’s depressed and lonely dreamers. Like the Wingfields, Jim is not living the life he dreamed he’d live. Back in high school, he was a popular golden child whom everyone believed was destined for greatness, but now he works at the same warehouse as Tom. However, while certainly disappointed by his setback, Jim sets his face constantly forward to the future, believing in self-improvement and possibility. He takes night classes, working toward an executive position and networking in the radio industry because he believes there’s advancement there. As he describes it to Laura, “Knowledge — Zzzzzp! Money — Zzzzzzp! — Power! That’s the cycle democracy is built on!” In other words, Jim has total faith in the American dream and the idea that he has limitless potential for growth if he keeps pulling himself up. In that sense, Jim, too, is a dreamer, but his dream aligns with the way his society functions and helps him function in the real world instead of retreat from it.
Jim’s conversation with Laura temporarily disrupts his forward gaze. Laura casts a romantic version of Jim’s past on him, almost like the candlelit room makes everything softer and dreamier, and Jim seems to fall under the Wingfield spell of escapism. When Laura brings him her copy of the Torch, their school yearbook, the stage direction tells Jim’s actor to take it “reverently,” treating this record of his past successes with great importance. He signs her old program from the school production of The Pirates of Penzance, joking that his signature might be worth something someday although he is unlikely to return to singing. This temporal displacement into the past is incomplete. Rather, he ties his past glory to imagined future success, regaling Laura with self-help speech. Laura’s worship of him allows him to downplay his unremarkable present, speaking of his future success in radio as if it’s guaranteed. His dancing with and kissing Laura also seems primarily motivated by her unmitigated praise. However, Jim is too progress-minded to dwell in escapism. When Jim kisses Laura, he realizes that he’s gone too far into another time and pulls back, remembering what time he’s living in.