The apartment...is entered by a fire escape, a structure whose name is a touch of accidental poetic truth, for all of these huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation.
The scene is memory and therefore nonrealistic.
Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.
[The gentleman caller] 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 we live for.
There is a fifth character in the play who doesn’t appear except in this larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel. This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances...The last we heard of him was a picture postcard...containing a message of two words: “Hello—Goodbye!”
One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain—your mother received—seventeen!—gentlemen callers!
What are we going to do, what is going to become of us, what is the future?
Fifty dollars’ tuition, all of our plans—my hopes and ambitions for you—just gone up the spout, just gone up the spout like that.
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.
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!
Look!—I’ve got no thing, no single thing...in my life here that I can call my OWN!
Listen! You think I’m crazy about the warehouse? [He bends fiercely toward her slight figure.] You think I’m in love with the Continental Shoemakers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that—celotex interior! with—fluorescent—tubes! Look! I’d rather somebody picked up a crowbar and battered out my brains—than go back mornings! I go!
I’m going to opium dens...I’m a hired assassin...I’m leading a double-life...I go to gambling casinos...Oh, I could tell you many things to make you sleepless!
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?
Try and you will succeed! [The notion makes her breathless.] Why, you—you’re just full of natural endowments! Both of my children—they’re unusual children! Don’t you think I know it? I’m so—proud!
I go to the movies because—I like adventure. Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies.
Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse!
Oh, I can see the handwriting on the wall as plain as I see the nose in front of my face! It’s terrifying! More and more you remind me of your father! He was out all hours without explanation—Then left! Goodbye! And me with the bag to hold.
In Spain there was Guernica! But here there was only hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars, and movies, and sex that hung in the gloom like a chandelier and flooded the world with brief, deceptive rainbows...All the world was waiting for bombardments!
No girl can do worse than put herself at the mercy of a handsome appearance!
[Laura] lives in a world of her own—a world of little glass ornaments, Mother...
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!
[Jim] seemed to move in a continual spotlight. ... He was shooting with such velocity through his adolescence that you would logically expect him to arrive at nothing short of the White House by the time he was thirty.
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.
All girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.
Finally there were no more vases to hold them, every available space was filled with jonquils. No vases to hold them? All right, I’ll hold them myself!
I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move!
Gone, gone, gone. All vestige of gracious living! Gone completely! I wasn’t prepared for what the future brought me.
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.
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?
Unicorns—aren’t they extinct in the modern world?
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!
They’re common as—weeds, but—you—well, you’re—Blue Roses!
Things have a way of turning out so badly.
Go, then! Go to the moon—you selfish dreamer!
I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two places.
Not long after that I was fired for writing a poem on the lid of a shoe-box. I left St. Louis.
I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space. I traveled around a great deal. The cities swept about me like dead leaves, leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches.
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!