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 the fire escape stairs, she hastily puts away the glass figures and pretends to be studying a keyboard diagram at the typewriter.
Laura escapes from her mother’s expectations (the typing) by playing with her perfect glass menagerie of figurines. Her focus on these fragile items suggests her own fragility .
Amanda enters, dressed in the outfit she wears to her Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) meetings: cheap velvet coat, outdated hat, outsized pocketbook.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.
Amanda wants to portray herself as a member of high society and clings to the trappings of appearance. She is upset by Laura’s deception and failure to meet her expectations rather than concerned for her daughter’s well-being.
Amanda tells Laura that she stopped by the business college where Laura has supposedly been enrolled. One of the instructors informed her that Laura stopped coming to class after the first few days, when she was so anxious that she became physically ill. Laura explains that instead of going to school, she has been walking in the park, the museum, the zoo, and the “Jewel Box” greenhouse.
The stress of public exposure and expectation is too much for Laura to bear. She escapes into her own thoughts and into the beautiful realm of objects untouched by the pressure of social interactions.
Amanda wonders what will become of Laura, now that her career opportunities have been ruined, and warns her about spinsters dependent on the “crust of humility” their entire lives. The only alternative, she says, is marriage.
Amanda projects her own idea of ambition onto Laura. Instead of listening to what Laura wants, she doggedly pushes her daughter to fulfill Amanda’s visions, though it's clear that these visions are driven by Amanda's sadness about her own desperate, lonely state.
Amanda asks whether Laura has ever liked a boy, and Laura admits that she once had a crush on Jim, the high school hero, who sat near her in chorus. Laura once told Jim that she had been out of school for a while because she had pleurosis, but he misheard the word as “Blue Roses,” which became his nickname for her. Amanda declares that Laura will marry some nice man. Laura reminds her mother that she is crippled, that her two legs are different lengths, but Amanda insists that she not use that word and that she must develop charm.
Laura’s recollection of Jim has been as carefully polished and cared for as one of the glass animals in her menagerie: he made her feel special, and she cherishes this memory in a special place in her heart, but to Laura, this is firmly in the past, not a possibility for the future. It's safer that way. Amanda’s relentless insistence that Laura is normal signifies Amanda’s desire to cling to her own dreams.