The lights come up on an evening meal, with Laura and Amanda clearing dishes. Tom leaves to go smoke. He stands out on the fire escape and describes to the audience the scene outside. The Paradise Dance Hall is across the alley. In spring, he says, they leave the doors open and music wafts in to the Wingfield's. He watches couples kissing outside in the relative privacy of the street. He imagines that the couples have come out there to escape the public display that kissing in the dance hall would provide. He believes that these clandestine encounters are their "compensation" for unadventurous lives -- lives without change. In Spain, he says, revolution was going on, but here in America there was only swing music and alcohol -- imagined adventures produced by intoxication. Movies and sex replaced thought, writing, and travel.
Amanda comes and joins him on the landing. They watch the moon rise. Tom reveals that he will be bringing home a gentleman caller the next evening for dinner. A man that he works with at the factory. Amanda is very excited and surprised. She is somewhat incredulous that the man has accepted Tom's invitation. She asks the young man's name -- James O'Conner -- and if he drinks. Tom then reveals that Jim will be coming to dinner the following night. Amanda chastises him for giving her such short notice. She needs more time to prepare, she tells him. Tom is confused, protesting that Amanda needn't make such a "'fuss'" over Jim, but Amanda is adamant that the dinner be brought off well. This will be the first man introduced to Laura in such a capacity and she's anxious that it go well. She is embarrassed, she adds -- she finds it a disgrace, in fact -- that Laura has never had a gentleman caller up until this point.
Amanda is also particularly worried about alcoholism because Tom and Laura's father, she reminds Tom, was a drinker. She asks if Jim is a big drinker. Tom says he doesn't know Jim to be a big drinker. He says that he thinks Jim is motivated to make something of himself, because he's interested in radio engineering and public speaking, and takes a night course in it. Amanda is thrilled about these executive aspirations. She asks what Jim's position at the warehouse is, and Tom answers that Jim is a shipping clerk. She pries further, inquiring what Tom thinks Jim's salary to be. He approximates it at 85 dollars a month -- 20 more than he makes.
Amanda gets distracted again by the alcoholism question: she notes that Jim is Irish, and doesn't that mean that he may have a drinking problem, she asks. Tom teases Amanda about her prejudicial assumptions, asking if she wants him to call Jim up that minute and ask him about his drinking. Amanda says that when she was growing up in Blue Mountain, if a girl suspected the boy she was seeing of drinking, she (or her father) would ask the minister about the boy's character. She said that this system kept terrible mistakes from happening.
If it was such an airtight system, Tom objects, how did Amanda make such a terrible mistake with their father -- a deadbeat alcoholic if ever there was one. Amanda responds by saying that their father had a deceptively innocent smile that fooled everyone, cast a sort of spell on girls -- herself included. Their father was so good-looking, she adds, that it was hard to resist him. She hopes that Jim isn't particularly good-looking.
Tom replies that Jim isn't overly handsome -- he's got lots of freckles and a small nose. At this point, Amanda interrupts to make sure that Jim isn't too unattractive. She seems unappeasable. He's not too ugly, says Tom, getting exasperated.
Tom has one warning, though: Jim doesn't know that Laura will be at dinner -- doesn't, in fact, know that this is a blind date. He is worried that Jim will be put off by Laura's attachment to fantasy and to the glass menagerie. He notes that Laura's quite different from most other girls. He says she's a bit too shy and might seem strange to those who don't know her. Amanda pooh-poohs him.
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