The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie Summary and Analysis of Scene 6


Tom addresses the audience and talks about Jim. The two men went to the same high school, where Jim was the class hero. In high school he was the basketball star, class president, and male lead in the annual light operas, and now, six years later, his job is not much better than Tom's. He and Tom are on friendly terms, partly because Tom remembers his former glory. Jim's affection for Tom has helped Tom along socially with the other workers, who initially disliked Tom because of his aloofness and oddness. Jim also knows that Tom steals away at work to write poetry, and so he has given Tom the nickname "Shakespeare."

Stage directions indicate that the Wingfield apartment looks beautiful. Amanda has worked hard to make the apartment ready for the gentleman caller. There is a brief comical interaction where Amanda encourages Laura to stuff her bra. Amanda dresses in a girlish outfit from her youth. It is the dress in which she led the cotillion, and she speaks feverishly of the days when she spent all her time going to parties and dancing. She also speaks of her youthful obsession with jonquil flowers. The story ends mournfully with Amanda meeting Tom's and Laura's father.

Laura, for the first time, hears the name of the gentleman caller, and she realizes that it might be the same Jim on whom she had a crush back in high school. She tells Amanda that if it is the same Jim, she will not come to the table. The idea of facing Jim horrifies her. When the doorbell rings, a terrified Laura argues with an increasingly irate Amanda about who will answer the door. Laura finally lets the two men in but flees after being introduced to Jim.

Jim is boisterous and constantly talks about the self-improvement courses in which he is involved. As they wait for the women, he tries to convince Tom to enroll in a public speaking course with him. Tom is uninterested. Jim warns Tom that the boss is not pleased with Tom and he may soon be out of a job. Tom responds that he is preparing for a change. He gives a speech about being tired of the movies: movies tranquilize people, making them content to watch other people's adventures without having any of their own. He tells Jim of his plans to join the Merchant Seamen. This month he has paid his dues to the Merchant Seamen instead of the light bill, and he plans to leave St. Louis. Amanda does not know of his plans, and Jim is incredulous, but before the two men can really talk about it, Amanda enters, dressed as if she were a young Southern belle, and immediately begins to talk Jim's ear off.

Tom goes to fetch Laura for supper, but Laura refuses to come to the table. Scene Six ends with Amanda, Jim, and Tom sitting down for dinner. The audience can see Laura in the living room, where she is stretched out on the sofa, trying not to cry.


Amanda's expectations for this evening are very high. The apartment has been made over - with great expense - and she has worried Laura by making such a fuss over the evening. Amanda is vicariously reliving her youth, and her longing for that youth is made clear when she dresses in the old frock she wore as a young girl. The escapism of living in the past, however, can never last long for Amanda, since all stories of her glory days end with her married to the faithless Mr. Wingfield. Although Jim is charmed by Amanda, Tom is slightly embarrassed by her behavior. She is not acting her age.

Tom is also preparing for his own escape. He now rejects his previous escape of the cinema and its vicarious adventuring, in favor of a more literal escape to the Merchant Seamen. Tom finally sees a route away from Amanda and Laura, adrift at sea without any true destination or goal. (There is also clear gay subtext in the idea that Tom chooses to be aboard a boat of only men for a limitless amount of time.) Jim, meanwhile, disapproves of his plan – his life may not have gone where he wanted it to, but at least he is trying to redirect his path, rather than leave it altogether.

But Tom's intentions are a perverse alteration of the deal offered by Amanda. Amanda insisted that he wait until Laura could find a husband. But Tom has only provided a gentleman caller and is already planning to leave. Indeed, he has even stopped paying the bills. He does not have the patience to escape the coffin without busting the nails, and has decided to not even try.

We know from Tom's description of Jim that he enjoys praise. Jim was once the big man on campus, and life has yet to prove as rewarding as he'd once found it. He likes the company of people who admire him, and who moreover remember his glory days - much like Amanda, who likewise seeks appreciation for the promise she once showed. Laura, meanwhile, sees Jim as a warden of the past - who can't let her move forward with her hopes and dreams because he is such a potent reminder of her own disappointments. Jim's interaction with Laura in Scene Seven will show how this love of admiration compromises his consideration of others.

This scene also features Amanda's second famous speech, about the jonquils. Like her first story about the 17 gentlemen callers, this story also ends when Amanda meets her husband, making her marriage the symbolic end of her life. The imagery of the jonquils is beautiful but also telling – another name for the jonquil is the narcissus, derived from the Greek youth who fell in love with his own reflection (think narcissist). Ultimately, Amanda sinks under the weight of her own self-image.