The Glass Menagerie

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Laura Wingfield Character Analysis

Tom’s sister and Amanda’s daughter. Laura is deeply fragile, both emotionally and physically: she is painfully shy, and a childhood illness has left one leg slightly shorter than the other, making her walk with a limp. The glass menagerie of the title refers to Laura’s prized collection that she carefully polishes and rearranges. Laura herself is as delicate, beautiful, and otherworldly as her miniature animals, and she retreats from the anxiety of social interactions and the pressures of daily life by slipping into a fantasy world populated with beautiful, immortal objects: she goes walking in the park, visits the zoo and the greenhouses, plays the Victrola, and immerses herself in her glass collection. Her nickname, “Blue Roses,” derives from Jim’s mishearing of “pleurosis,” the disease that left her crippled. Both Tom and Jim see Laura as like a blue rose, exotic and frail in her rarity. Yet despite her fragility, Laura does not willfully delude herself about the nature of her reality. She accepts her leg injury and her shyness without trying to pretend that she is another version of herself. When she confesses her schoolgirl crush for Jim O’Connor before he enters the play as the Gentleman Caller, she does not spin a wild fantasy life of wedded bliss between herself and Jim, but rather presents the memory as though it were a glass animal itself, a beautiful but immobile creature. Indeed, although Laura is symbolically linked with the fragile glass and the exotic Blue Roses, she may have the most strength and willpower of anyone in the play. Laura serves as peacemaker between Tom and Amanda, soothing both parties and helping to mend some of the wounds. When Tom escapes at the end of the play, he realizes that as far as he goes, he can never abandon Laura: “Oh, Laura, Laura,” Tom exclaims, “I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!”

Laura Wingfield Quotes in The Glass Menagerie

The The Glass Menagerie quotes below are all either spoken by Laura Wingfield or refer to Laura Wingfield. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New Directions edition of The Glass Menagerie published in 1999.
Scene 1 Quotes

Resume your seat, little sister—I want you to stay fresh and pretty—for gentleman callers!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Amanda projects her own past and her own relationships onto Laura. Rather than seeing and appreciating Laura for who she is, Amanda insists on attempting to mold Laura after the ingénue that she envisioned herself as being. Amanda calls Laura “little sister,” which accentuates the psychologically strange nature of their relationship. On the one hand, “little sister” is a term of endearment, a nickname that demonstrates the affection and familiarity between these two characters. Yet “little sister” is a strange term of endearment from a mother to a daughter. Amanda wants to retain the image of herself as an young, flirtatious woman who still receives gentleman callers, even though that version of herself is far in the past. By referring to Laura as her “sister,” rather than her daughter, Amanda can still maintain her fiction about herself. Amanda also projects her memory of her former self onto Laura’s present self, even though Laura, in reality, is hardly the same person as Amanda. Amanda prepares Laura for “gentlemen callers” not because Laura wants them, but because Amanda wants to demonstrate her own power and re-live her youth. 

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Scene 2 Quotes

I went in the art museum and the bird houses at the Zoo...Lately I’ve been spending most of my afternoons in the Jewel Box, that big glass house where they raise the tropical flowers.

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Laura spends her days attempting to escape from reality. The art museum and the Jewel Box are, symbolically, other iterations of the glass menagerie that Laura keeps in the living room. Laura herself is like a rare tropical flower in a glass box. She is a delicate creature, unable to withstand the harsh realities of daily life. Secretary school proves too difficult for her not because of the subject matter, but because being exposed to the world day in and day out is too intense. She retreats from the school, and then she retreats from admitting to her mother that she has left the program, because this conversation is likewise too harsh a reality to face. Instead, Laura attempts to keep herself in her beautiful, delicate, and false idea of the world.

The audience also must remember that Laura’s character might seem even more frail because she is being portrayed at all times through Tom’s biased narration and Tom’s memory. Tom remembers all the events of the play through the lens of his own guilt. He knows that he has left his family, and he feels as though this action has betrayed Laura, so he can’t help but remember her as even more exquisite yet fragile than she actually might have been in real life. Tom wants Laura to seem as beautiful, delicate, and helpless as possible, because this is the vision of her that he keeps in his memory.

What is there left but dependency all our lives? I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren’t prepared to occupy a position. I’ve seen such pitiful cases in the South—barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister’s husband or brother’s wife!—stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room—encouraged by one in-law to visit another—little birdlike women without any nest—eating the crust of humility all their life!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

When Laura drops out of secretarial school, Amanda paints a gruesomely exaggerated picture of the sorry fate that an unwed, unemployed single woman must face. Since Laura has failed to secure a career, Amanda suggests that the only thing she can do is marry, even though Laura is extremely shy and does not seem very eager to pursue romance. Amanda wants to make the best of what she perceives to be a dire situation, and she latches onto her idea of what might be a sliver of hope.

Amanda is fearful about her own future. Her husband has left her, she is not trained in a career, and she is no longer an attractive young woman, which, in her own calculus, means that she may have to live off the charity of others. But instead of admitting her worries about herself, Amanda projects her fears onto Laura. Amanda still pretends that she lives as a golden past version of herself, and to admit a lack of self-confidence in her own capabilities would be to face the real world and her own flaws in a way that she’s not capable of doing yet.

Scene 4 Quotes

But the wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without removing one nail. [He has come inside.] There is a trick that would come in handy for me—get me out of this two-by-four situation!...You know it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Related Symbols: The Movies
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom’s description of the coffin trick to Laura is deeply symbolic of the way he feels about his own life. Tom escapes the apartment when he goes to the movies at night, but the movies can only offer an imaginary, temporary escape, and he still feels trapped day after day. Because he perceives himself to be stuck and stagnant, with no foreseeable change in his future, he feels dead, caught physically and emotionally in the same place. Tom feels as though the external forces of his mother and the world at large have kept him nailed into place, and the magician’s ability to escape represents his greatest desire. However, Tom never quite articulates what he would do with his freedom.

It's important to note that Tom is also trapped inside his own head and his own memories. The apartment is a coffin, but the stage itself is also a trap for Tom. He keeps putting himself voluntarily back into the coffin of his memories because he feels too guilty to escape completely.

Scene 5 Quotes

Amanda: A little silver slipper of a moon. Look over your left shoulder, Laura, and make a wish! ... Now! Now, darling, wish!
Laura: What shall I wish for, Mother?
Amanda [her voice trembling, and her eyes suddenly filling with tears]: Happiness! Good fortune!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire Escape
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

Laura and Amanda are in a co-dependent relationship, which stifles both of them and keeps them stuck in the past and in their own imaginations instead of moving forward into the future. Laura does not know how to desire anything for herself, so she defers to Amanda to tell her what to wish for. Laura has not had the opportunity to practice any sort of independence for herself. Amanda, meanwhile, projects her own wishes and desires onto Laura. Amanda says that she wants Laura to be happy, but Amanda does not really listen to what Laura wants. Instead, Amanda wants Laura to want Amanda’s definition of happiness.

Indeed, Amanda projects all her desires onto her children. Earlier that evening, when she and Tom had been looking at the moon over the fire escape, Amanda tells Tom that she has wished for success and happiness for her children. Tom then reveals to her that he has arranged for a gentleman caller for Laura. In the first scene of the play, Tom calls himself a “magician,” and now, it seems as though he is making Amanda’s wishes come true. However, the scene is also tragic, since the audience knows that the happily-ever-after ending Amanda seeks will not come to pass.

Scene 6 Quotes

A fragile, unearthly prettiness has come out in Laura: she is like a piece of translucent glass touched by light, given a momentary radiance, not actual, not lasting.

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

This description of Laura as a piece of glass comes from the stage directions for the scene in which the family is preparing for Laura’s gentleman caller. Since the description is written for the reader or the actor to internalize rather than for the audience to witness, the line does not move the action forward, but rather sets the symbolic tone for the scene. The stage direction also indicates that this description of Laura as glass-like is intended as symbolic. In Tom’s memory, Laura is just like one of the creatures from her beloved menagerie. Like the glass, Laura is beautiful but fragile, seemingly about to break at any moment. She is also removed from the realities of the world. The world is too harsh and cruel for her, and just as Tom breaks the glass animals when he lashes out against Amanda, Laura cracks under the pressures of reality. Laura would rather live in a dream world, kept safe and untouched in a beautiful bubble.

Scene 7 Quotes

Jim lights a cigarette and leans indolently back on his elbows smiling at Laura with a warmth and charm which lights her inwardly with altar candles.

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield, Jim O’Connor
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

The stage direction about Jim’s cigarette emphasizes light, and throughout the scene, Williams depicts many different kinds of light, which symbolize different aspects of both hope and melancholy. The fuse box goes out and they all have to light candles, which makes the scene seem more magical and removed from harsh realities. Throughout the scene when Jim comes to visit the Wingfields, the many different kinds of light that appear are highly symbolic. Jim’s cigarette demonstrates control and confidence, since it keeps a tiny, private spotlight around him at all times. Laura idolizes Jim, so to her, the cigarette comes to look like altar candles, since he represents hope. Tom describes the high school version of Jim as seeming to be under a spotlight at all times, and Jim is certainly symbolically in the spotlight throughout this whole scene. Amanda, Tom, and Laura all wish on the moon, calling attention to the moonlight, which is a softer light that symbolizes both romantic hope and foolish dreams. Jim is also like a shooting star, both in his personal life and in the role he plays in the Wingfield family. Although Jim had been a rising star in high school, his rising has stalled and his star has dimmed. When Jim comes into the Wingfield house, he seems to be a shooting star again, a ray of light that cuts through their life. However, like a shooting star, he only passes through without staying.

Jim: What kind of glass is it?
Laura: Little articles of it, they’re ornaments mostly! Most of them are little animals made out of glass, the tiniest little animals in the world. Mother calls them a glass menagerie!...Oh, be careful—if you breathe, it breaks!...There now—you’re holding him gently! Hold him over the light, he loves the light! You see how the light shines through him?

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield (speaker), Jim O’Connor (speaker)
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie, Glass Unicorn
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

When Laura describes her glass menagerie to Jim, she is also describing herself. Laura is like a tiny, delicate animal, kept in careful seclusion from the world, living in a protected fantasy life rather than entering harsh reality. However, the fact that she lives separate from the real world doesn’t mean that she doesn’t experience emotions and desires. Laura projects some of these emotions into the glass animals. The glass animals seem to be static and ornamental, yet they react to how they are treated and the environments they are in. The glass unicorn that Jim holds is especially symbolic of Laura herself. When he holds the unicorn to the light, the unicorn itself seems to glow (to "love the light"). The light that appears again in this quote reminds the audience of the importance of light throughout this entire scene. Even the high school yearbook is called “The Torch.” Jim and Laura aren’t exactly old flames, but in this moment, Jim brings light into Laura’s life, which makes her glow.

Jim: Aw, aw, aw. Is it broken?
Laura: Now it is just like all the other horses.
Jim: It’s lost its—

Laura: Horn! It doesn’t matter...I don’t have favorites much...I’ll just imagine he had an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less—freakish!

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield (speaker), Jim O’Connor (speaker)
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie, Glass Unicorn
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

When Jim dances with Laura, they knock into the table where Jim had set the glass unicorn. The unicorn falls and its horn falls off. Laura attempts to put on a brave face, but she identifies strongly with the glass unicorn, so she feels its pain acutely. However, she suggests that the break comes as a possible blessing in disguise, as she puts it, because now, the unicorn could be treated normally ("just like all the other horses").

The unicorn’s broken horn also serves as a parallel to Laura’s own disease. In high school, Laura’s pleurosis caused her leg to hurt quite badly, and she had to wear a brace for some time. Just as Laura’s leg had been struck, now the unicorn’s horn is gone. When the unicorn’s horn breaks, Laura is shaken, but she masks her disappointment by suggesting that now the unicorn is like all the other horses, and doesn’t have to feel ostracized for being "freakish." If Laura had never had the disease, Jim would never have noticed her in high school and called here “Blue Roses,” a mishearing of “pleurosis.” Yet if she had not healed, Jim would not be dancing with her in the living room. Breaking the unicorn’s horn also has subtle sexual undertones, suggesting a possible erotic charge to the scene.

They’re common as—weeds, but—you—well, you’re—Blue Roses!

Related Characters: Jim O’Connor (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Related Symbols: Blue Roses, Music
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

After he dances with Laura and breaks the unicorn, Jim suddenly takes much closer notice of Laura. He has been kind to her throughout the scene, but now, he sees her as not only a sweet but lonely woman, but as a pretty ingénue, someone who could possibly be the object of his affections. “Blue Roses,” once a lighthearted childhood nickname, is now presented to Laura as though it were a rare bouquet. Jim moves from polite interaction to what appears to be genuinely emotional courting.

The stage direction notes that the music changes as soon as Jim calls Laura “Blue Roses.” Although she is quiet, Laura is extremely overcome with emotions as Jim shifts from describing her as though she were a sister to starting to view her as a potential lover. The scene seems like one of Tom’s magic tricks, however, since he is, after all, the magician of the play. Jim’s speech is beautiful, but, like the glass menagerie, feels doomed to shatter.

The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow. Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

In Tom’s final monologue, memory, reality, symbols, time, and space all swirl together in Tom’s head. Although Tom thinks that he can escape the prison of his stifling home life when he leaves the Wingfield apartment and travels far afield, Tom cannot escape the memories of his past. Tom is heartbroken at the end of the play because he feels as though he has betrayed his sister. Even though Tom left the family to obtain his own freedom, which is what he thought he wanted, he hadn’t counted on the deep bond between himself and his sister, and his deep love and affection for her. He sees images of her everywhere, representing the guilt he feels. Tom shattered a bond between himself and Laura when he left, and every time he sees delicate glass objects, he is reminded of this symbolic shattering, because glass reminds him of Laura. Tom also sees himself in the glass, or, rather, the memory of his former self. 

For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura—and so goodbye...

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom’s final line of the play emphasizes the symbolic importance of the many different kinds of light and darkness that appear throughout the play. The lightning that strikes in this line is a very violent kind of light. Lightning is even more cruel and harsh than electric light or the light of the sun, since it is so highly concentrated and powerful. The lightning here also represents Tom’s feelings of guilt at leaving his family behind. Like the moon or the stars, lightning is a natural phenomenon, but it is quick, powerful, temporary, and all too real. The lightning also symbolically divides Tom’s present from his past. Tom knows that he can never return to the world of moonlight and candlelight that Laura and Amanda inhabit, because this world doesn’t even exist anymore. The memories of his family haunt Tom, but he must live in the present day. He thinks about Laura all the time, and his interior life has been lit by her memory since he left the family physically, but he also knows that he has to let her go in order to move forward with his own life.

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Laura Wingfield Character Timeline in The Glass Menagerie

The timeline below shows where the character Laura Wingfield appears in The Glass Menagerie. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1
Memory Theme Icon
Abandonment Theme Icon
...tells the audience about the four characters in the play—himself, his mother Amanda, his sister Laura, and a man named Jim they knew from high school—and adds that the father is... (full context)
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Tom enters the apartment and joins Amanda and Laura at the dining-room table. The words “Ou sont les neiges” [“Where are the snows”] are... (full context)
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Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
...clearly told many, many times before. The lights dim and music begins to play. At Laura’s gentle urging, Tom mechanically plays along, asks his mother questions about the story, as though... (full context)
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Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
Amanda suggests that Laura practice her typing as she waits for gentleman callers to arrive. The music of “The... (full context)
Scene 2
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Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
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An image of blue roses appears on the screen. Laura sits in the apartment, polishing her menagerie of glass figures. When she hears Amanda ascending... (full context)
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...American Revolution (D.A.R.) meetings: cheap velvet coat, outdated hat, outsized pocketbook. She looks upset, and Laura becomes visibly nervous and guilty. Amanda tears the keyboard diagram and typewriting alphabet in two. (full context)
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Amanda tells Laura that she stopped by the business college where Laura has supposedly been enrolled. One of... (full context)
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Amanda wonders what will become of Laura, now that her career opportunities have been ruined, and warns her about spinsters dependent on... (full context)
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Amanda asks whether Laura has ever liked a boy, and Laura admits that she once had a crush on... (full context)
Scene 3
Memory Theme Icon
Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
...become obsessed with the idea that a gentleman caller must come to the house for Laura, and an image of a young man carrying flowers appears on the screen. Tom says... (full context)
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Tom and Amanda are heard arguing behind curtains hanging over a door. Laura is standing in front of them, and throughout Tom and Amanda’s entire argument, the light... (full context)
Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
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...curtains over the dining room door open, and he and Amanda continue to fight as Laura watches helplessly. The typewriter and Tom’s manuscripts are scattered across the dining room. Tom attempts... (full context)
Scene 4
Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
...an empty bottle spill out of his pockets as he fumbles for his door key. Laura opens the door for Tom, and he tells her about the movies and about a... (full context)
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...bell tolls six times and Amanda calls out her customary “Rise and Shine!” She asks Laura to relay the message to Tom, as they are still not speaking. Laura begs Tom... (full context)
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Amanda turns the discussion to Laura, and “The Glass Menagerie” theme begins to play. Amanda says that she has caught Laura... (full context)
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Amanda tells Tom that they have to make “plans and provisions” for Laura. She knows that he has received a letter from the merchant marines and that he... (full context)
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Amanda asks Tom to bring home a gentleman from the warehouse to introduce to Laura, and as he leaves the apartment, Tom reluctantly agrees. Still troubled but faintly hopeful, Amanda... (full context)
Scene 5
Abandonment Theme Icon
Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
...is that the gentleman caller must not be a drinker, as she does not want Laura married to a drinker, which Tom sees as a little premature. (full context)
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Tom tells Amanda that he hasn’t told Jim about Laura: he just invited Jim over for a family dinner without any qualifications. Amanda is convinced... (full context)
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Tom leaves for the movies, and Amanda calls Laura to the front room. She points out the moon to Laura, turns her toward it,... (full context)
Scene 6
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...is amused by his writing rather than resentful or hostile. Tom knows that Jim and Laura knew each other, but doubts that Jim remembers Laura. (full context)
Memory Theme Icon
Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
...for the gentleman caller, Amanda has transformed the apartment with lampshades and curtains. She dresses Laura, who is visibly nervous, in a soft, pretty dress, and stuffs “Gay Deceivers” in Laura’s... (full context)
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When Laura learns that the caller is none other than Jim O’Connor, the boy she loved in... (full context)
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Tom and Jim arrive and ring the doorbell. Laura is terrified and begs Amanda to open the door, but Amanda refuses, forcing Laura to... (full context)
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After awkwardly greeting Jim, Laura dashes to the Victrola and then through the portieres. Tom explains that Laura is terribly... (full context)
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...young Southern belle. Amanda puts on her girlish mannerisms and thick Southern drawl. She praises Laura to Jim and recounts stories about her coquettish youth. (full context)
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Amanda sends Tom to fetch Laura for supper, but Tom returns and announces that Laura is not well and will not... (full context)
Scene 7
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Laura is still lying on the sofa, beautiful in the dim lamplight. As dinner is finished,... (full context)
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...a bottle of dandelion wine, instructing him to go to the living room and keep Laura company. Jim speaks to Laura gently and lightly. The incident is much more fraught and... (full context)
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Jim sets the candles on the floor, sits on the floor as well, and urges Laura to join him. As he chews a piece of gum, he talks about the Century... (full context)
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Laura asks Jim if he has kept up with his singing, and she reminds him that... (full context)
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Laura and Jim leaf through the high school yearbook, The Torch. Laura admits that she had... (full context)
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Jim asks Laura what she has done since high school, and she starts to explain that her glass... (full context)
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Laura tells Jim about her glass animals. She hands him the unicorn, her favorite, to hold.... (full context)
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Jim and Laura hear waltz music from the Paradise Dance Hall. Despite Laura’s protests, Jim leads her in... (full context)
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Jim tells Laura that she is as uncommon as blue roses and says that someone ought to kiss... (full context)
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Jim confesses to Laura that he is engaged to Betty, an Irish Catholic like himself. Laura is disconsolate, but... (full context)
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...glass on the floor and bursts onto the fire escape. Inside the house, Amanda holds Laura in her arms, stroking her hair. Tom delivers a passionate, emotionally fraught closing monologue. He... (full context)