Laura is polishing her collection of glass animals, and Amanda returns home visibly disturbed. She has made an unsettling discovery. On the way to her D.A.R. meeting (Daughters of the American Revolution), Amanda stopped at Rubicam's Business College, where Laura has supposedly been taking lessons, to tell the teachers that Laura has a cold and to ask about Laura's progress. Amanda discovered that Laura has not been going to class everyday, but instead dropped out of the school after only a few days of attendance. The teacher remembered Laura only as the shy girl who trembled so much that she couldn't hit the keys.
Amanda, bemoaning the waste of fifty dollars for the tuition, asks Laura where she has been everyday. Laura, clearly shaken and guilt-stricken, admits that she has spent all of these days walking in the park or going to museums, keeping up the deception because she could not bear Amanda's disappointment.
Amanda talks about her fears - economically, Laura has no way of supporting herself, and women without husbands and jobs end up dependent on resentful relatives. She asks if Laura has ever liked a boy, and Laura responds shyly that in high school she had a crush on a boy named Jim. He used to call her "Blue Roses," having misheard her when she told him that she had been ill with an attack of pleurosis. However, the yearbook says that Jim and his high school girlfriend were engaged, and so Laura assumes that the two of them must be married.
Amanda tells Laura that she must try to find a husband. Laura reacts doubtfully and with great sadness, responding that she is crippled and therefore cannot find a husband. Amanda reminds Laura that she has told her daughter never to use the word "cripple," and says that Laura should overcome her "little defect" by cultivating charm.
This is the first scene where the audience sees Laura taking care of her glass menagerie. The glass menagerie is the most important symbol for Laura and her fragility. Her engagement with the tiny animals reveals how painfully afraid she is of interaction with other humans. The qualities of glass parallel Laura's characteristics: like the tiny glass animals, she is delicate, beautiful in her oddness and terribly fragile. The little collection, like Laura, is locked completely in the realm of the home. The animals must be kept on a little shelf and polished; there is only one place where they truly belong. In a similar way, Laura is kept and cared for, dependent on her mother and brother for financial support.
The Blue Roses are another important symbol of Laura. The image of blue roses is a beautiful one, and it is the image that is indicated as being on the screen at the start of Scene Two. But blue roses are also pure fantasy, non-existent in the real world. Laura, like a blue rose, is special, unique even, but she is also cut off from real life.
Laura's attempt to learn job skills at Rubicam's Business College was a terrible failure. Her true crippling ailment is not her leg but her shyness, and this anxiety becomes manifest as physical illness. Laura could not bear to continue going to class. Her subsequent deception and fear of her own mother's disappointment shows how oppressive Amanda can be; although Amanda is not intentionally cruel and means to be only loving, her investment in her children and her need to live through them is a terrible burden for both Tom and Laura.
Amanda's anxieties show the difficulty of their financial situation. She is sincerely fearful of what will become of Laura, now that Laura has given up any hope of a career. Amanda works, but the Wingfield family is dependent on Tom's wages. This dependency puts Tom in a difficult position, and we'll see more of that difficulty in Scene Three.
Throughout the play, Amanda vacillates between a realistic appraisal of her situation and a willful blindness towards the truth. Here, early in the play, we see Amanda in brutally honest form - she knows, deep down, that Laura is not going to be easy to marry off, and her attempts to make Laura support herself have failed. It is after this crushing disappointment that Amanda begins to retreat back into the illusion of a gentleman caller swooping in to save the day.