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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
On an early spring evening, the Wingfields have just had supper. As Tom rises from the table, Amanda asks Tom to comb his hair, for it makes him appear "pretty." This is the only respect in which she would like him to emulate his father, who always appeared tidy. Tom starts to leave, and Amanda asks him where he is going. When he tells her that he going to have a cigarette, she reprimands him for smoking too much. She comments that the amount he spends on a pack each day would be enough to pay for a course in accounting at Washington University. Tom, however, is not interested in college.
In an aside, Tom turns to the audience and describes the Paradise Dance Hall across the alley. He refers to contemporary world events and contrasts them with the adventureless preoccupations of the frustrated American youth of the times.
Amanda joins Tom on the fire escape. Both make a wish on the moon. Amanda reveals that she wishes for success and happiness for her "precious children". Tom wonders why she did not wish for a gentleman caller for Laura. He then tells Amanda that he is bringing a young gentleman home for dinner the following evening. Amanda protests, for she does not have enough time to prepare. She wants the house to be neat and tidy; she plans to use fresh linen, polish the silver, and put up fresh curtains. She also wants everyone properly dressed. Tom tells his mother that Jim is no man to be fussed over. When she learns that Jim is Irish, Amanda decides to have fish for the main course. She also worries that Jim may drink too much. Amanda knows that "old maids are better off than wives of drunkards," a telling statement about her own situation.
Amanda inquires about Jim's salary, which is the same as Tom's. She decides it is enough for a couple to live on. She is especially pleased to learn that Jim takes night courses in an effort at self- improvement. She also hopes he is not too handsome, for good- looking gentlemen, like her husband, are not to be trusted. Tom reassures her that Jim is not. He also warns Amanda that the guest is unaware of Laura. Amanda replies that the surprise will be all the sweeter for Jim when he finds what an attractive sister Tom has.
Tom warns Amanda not to expect too much from this visit. He is aware of his sister's limitations. Although tom and Amanda love her dearly, Laura is a very different kind of girl. She appears peculiar to outsiders because she is a cripple and has a preoccupation with the glass menagerie. Amanda tries to prevent him from using the word "cripple," but Tom tells her to "face the facts".
When Tom prepares to depart for the movies, Amanda calls Laura outside and asks her to "make a wish on the moon". Laura seems to come out of a reverie and asks in a puzzled manner, "Moon?" Amanda seizes her shoulders and endearingly asks her daughter to wish for happiness and good fortune as the curtain closes.
Amanda continues to try and control her children. She tells Laura what to wish for and tells Tom how to comb his hair. She also nags at him about his smoking and says he should spend his cigarette money on taking an accounting course, but he has no interest in college. The scene also gives additional information about Amanda's husband. He was handsome, always dressing neatly and possessing an attractive, innocent smile. As a result, she no longer trusts good-looking men and hopes that Jim is not too handsome. Tom assures her that he is not; he also warns his mother not to be too optimistic about anything coming from Jim's visit. He reminds Amanda that most outsiders find Laura very strange. In spite of Tom's warnings, Amanda will blame her son when the dinner party goes sour. She also blames Tom for not knowing more about Jim O'Connor.
It is important to notice how completely Amanda refuses to look at life realistically. When Tom tries to tell her that Laura is different, she ignores his comments and warns him never to call his sister a cripple. In spite of Tom's warnings about Jim, Amanda is quickly convinced that this young man will surely become Laura's husband. Amanda, like Laura, lives in a glass menagerie world, where life is filled with dreams and illusions.
Tom's reference to the Paradise Dance Hall and its activities is Tennessee Williams' attempt to relate his play to contemporary world events and to indicate the time of the action. It also reveals Tom's interest in the larger world, something beyond the world of movies.