I am the narrator of the play, and also a character in it. The other characters are my mother Amanda, my sister Laura and a gentleman caller who appears in the final scenes.
He is the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from. But since I have a poet's weakness for symbols, I am using this character also as a symbol; he is the long-delayed but always expected something that we live for.
LAURA: When I had that attack of pleurosis - he asked me what was the matter when I came back. I Said pleurosis he thought that I said Blue Roses ! So that's what he always called me after that. Whenever he saw me, he'd holler, 'Hello, Blue Roses ! I didn't care for the girl that he went out with. Emily Meisenbach. Emily was the best-dressed girl at Soldan. She never struck me, though, as being sincere. . . . It says in the Personal Section - they're engaged. That's - six years ago ! They must be married by now.
AMANDA: Girls that aren't cut out for business careers usually wind up married to some nice man. [Gets up with aspark of revival.] Sister, that's what you'll do !
[LAURA utters a startled, doubtful laugh. She reaches quickly for a piece of glass.]
LAURA: But, Mother
AMANDA: Yes ? [Crossing to photograph.]
LAURA [in a tone of frightened apology]: I'm - crippled !
AMANDA: Nonsense ! Laura, I've told you never, never to use that word. Why, you're not crippled, you just have a little defect - hardly noticeable, even! When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to make up for it - develop charm - and vivacity and - charm! That's all you have to do ![She turns again to the photograph.] One thing your father had plenty of - was charm![Tom motions to the fiddle in the wings.]
[TOM speaks from the fire-escape landing.]
TOM: After the fiasco at Rubicam's Business College, the idea of getting a gentleman caller for Laura began to play a more and more important part in Mother's calculations. It became an obsession. Like some archetype of the universal unconscious, the image of the gentleman caller haunted our small apartment. ...IMAGE: YOUNG MAN AT DOOR WITH FLOWERS.]
An evening at home rarely passed without some allusion to this image, this spectre, this hope.Even when he wasn't mentioned, his presence hung in Mother's preoccupied look and in my sister's frightened, apologetic manner - hung like a sentence passed upon the Wingfields !Mother was a woman of action as well as words.She began to take logical steps in the planned direction. Late that winter and in the early spring - realizing that extra money would be needed to properly feather the nest and plume the bird - she conducted a vigorous campaign on the- telephone, roping in subscribers to one of those magazines for matrons called The Home-maker's Companion, the type of journal that features the serialized , sublimations of ladies of letters who think in terms of delicate cup-like breasts, slim, tapering waists, rich, creamy thighs, eyes like wood-smoke in autumn, fingers that soothe and caress like strains of music, bodies as powerful as Etruscan sculpture.
TOM [bitterly]:: One crack -and it falls through !
[LAURA opens the door.]
LAURA: Tom ! Tom, what are you doing?
TOM: Looking for a door-key.
LAURA: Where have you been all this time?
TOM: I have been to the movies.
LAURA: All this time at the movies?
TO M: There was a very long programme. There was a Garbo picture and a Mickey Mouse and a travelogue and a newsreel and a preview of coming attractions. And there was an organ solo and a collection for the milk-fund - simultaneously - which ended up in a terrible fight between a fat lady and an usher !
LAURA [innocently]: Did you have to stay through everything?
TOM: Of course ! And, oh, I forgot ! There was a big stage show ! The headliner on this stage show was Malvolio theMagician. He performed wonderful tricks, many of them, such as pouriing water back and forth between pitchers.First it turned to wine and then it turned to beer and then it turned to whisky. I knew it was whisky it finally turnedinto because he needed somebody to come up out of the audience to help him, and I came up - both shows ! It wasKentucky Straight Bourbon. A very generous fellow, he gave souvenirs. (He pulls from his back pocket a shimmeringrainbow-coloured scarf.) He gave me this. This is his magic scarf. You can have it, Laura. You wave it over a canarycage and you get a bowl of gold- fish. You wave it over the gold-fish bowl and they fly away canaries. . . . But thewonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without rernoving one nail, [He has come inside.] There is a trick that would come in handy for me - get me out of this 2 by 4 situation ! [Flops on to a bed and starts removing shoes.]
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