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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
When the scene opens, Laura is alone and seated in the delicate ivory chair at the small claw-foot table, washing and polishing her glass collection with great care. When she hears Amanda on the fire escape, Laura catches her breath, hastily hides the collection and takes her place behind the typewriter, pretending to be engrossed in her practice.
Amanda enters with a martyred look on her face. When Laura innocently inquires what the matter is, Amanda accuses her of deception. She relates how she has stopped at Rubicam's Business College in route to her D.A.R. meeting and has learned that Laura has stopped attending her business course. Amanda theatrically tears up the diagram of the typewriter keyboard. She laments that the fifty-dollar tuition fee has been wasted. When she questions her daughter, Laura explains that her fear over the speed tests physically make her sick. She feels she can never go back to the school. She tells Amanda that instead of going to class she has spent time walking in parks, visiting museums, watching the animals in the zoo, going to movies, and spending the afternoons at the "big glass-house where they raise the tropical flowers." Laura claims that she did not tell her mother the truth about dropping out, for she wished to spare her anxiety and disappointment. Now Laura feels she has failed her mother.
Amanda wonders what Laura will do for the rest of her life since she is not "prepared to occupy a position." It will be difficult for her daughter to lives as a spinster, depending on the charity of realties. Amanda decides that the only answer is for Laura to get married. She asks her daughter if she has ever liked a boy. Laura pulls out her high school yearbook and shows her mother a picture of Jim, the high school hero. The girl admits she has always liked Jim. She loved to sit in the school auditorium and listen to his wonderful voice. She also remembers that he used to call her by the strange name of "Blue Roses." The yearbook states, however, that Jim was engaged to a girl named Emily Meisenbach; Laura presumes that he must be long married.
When Amanda stands firm in her resolve to see her daughter married, Laura objects and argues that no one will want her since she is a cripple. Amanda reprimands her and tells her never to use the word cripple again. She claims that Laura's handicap is only a small defect, hardly noticeable. She encourages Laura to cover up her small disadvantage by cultivating charm and vivacity. Amanda makes it seem a very simple thing to do. She ends the conversation and the scene with the remark that charm was the one thing Mr. Wingfield, Laura's father, never lacked.
This scene vividly shows the contrast between the mother's temperament and the daughter's introverted personality. The description of the crippled Laura seated in the ivory chair and cleaning her glass animals is a perfect picture of her; she is a symbol of frailness. This pale girl's defect is like the claw-foot table before her; both of them are beautiful despite a small abnormality. When Laura hears her mother enter, she quickly puts away the glass animals, knowing that her mother does not like her to spend time with them. Amanda wants her daughter to be happy, lively, and gregarious; she cannot understand Laura's shyness or inferiority complex. She tells the girl that she needs to become more charming and outgoing, as if this were an easy thing to accomplish.
The mother's theatrics, bordering on the comic, are evident in her martyred look and exaggerated gestures. In fact, Amanda is a figure of extremes. Her temperament oscillates between being a truly concerned mother anxious about her daughter's future and her silly hysteria and incessant nagging. Amanda is horrified that Laura has deceived her by quitting the business school while still pretending that she is going to classes. She is also worried that her daughter will never be able to provide for herself, since she has no skills. Amanda knows how hard this is since she has no skills and cannot hold down a real job. As a result, Amanda decides that the only solution is marriage; the insensitive woman never considers her daughter's feelings about the subject.
Laura's introvertedness is extreme. Interactions with others in the outside world make the girl physically sick. She has quit business school, for when she had to take a typing speed test, she grew physically ill and threw up in the classroom; as a result, she is ashamed to return. In truth, she cannot handle any stressful situation. To complicate her problems, Amanda makes her feel guilty about being shy and fearful. She lies to her mother about dropping out of school because she could not bear to see her mother's pain and disappointment over the news. Instead of attending class, Laura visits museums, parks, the zoo, and the greenhouse for tropical flowers. Of course, her interest in birds and animals is also reflected in her devotion to her glass animals, a symbol of her safe world of make-believe.
When Amanda presses Laura about a man she might be interested in pursuing, Laura shows her a picture of Jim in the high school yearbook. He was the popular and outgoing class "hero," and Laura had an adolescent crush on him. Unfortunately, the yearbook states that Jim was engaged to be married.