The Glass Menagerie: Novel Summary: Scenes 4
Tom does not return until five o'clock in the morning, and Laura tells him to be careful not to wake Amanda. Tom does not care, and he tells his sister about the night's entertainment at the movie theater. He says there was a show, which featured, among other things, a man who escaped from a nailed-up coffin without removing a nail. He compares his own life to a "nailed-up coffin," and asks who ever got out of such a thing except by removing one nail. As he speaks, the photograph of the father (who did manage to escape) lights up.
After that scene dims about, a clock strikes six. Amanda, who is not speaking to Tom, tries to get Laura to summon Tom for his coffee. Laura urges Tom to apologize to his mother for his earlier outburst.
Laura goes out to buy butter. Tom enters, and for some moments, he and Amanda do not speak. She stands with her back to him. Then Tom apologizes to her. She cries, and says she worries so much that she cannot sleep. She urges him not to fail in his career. He must try, and then he will succeed. Tom speaks gently to her, with understanding. She asks him to promise her he will never be a drunkard, which he does, grinning.
Amanda then tries to tell him what he should have for breakfast, and he politely insists that all he will have is a cup of coffee. She then says that she sent Laura out so she could discuss her with Tom. She starts by saying that Laura has told her that he is unhappy living in their apartment and working in the warehouse. Tom denies that he goes out at night just to get away, and Amanda again asks him where he goes. He gives the same answer that he gave in the previous scene. He goes to the movies a lot because he likes adventure.
After their discussion about what Tom wants in life goes nowhere, Amanda turns to the subject of Laura. She says it frightens her that Laura is just drifting along, and they must make some provisions for her. She tells Tom that as soon as Laura has a husband and a home of her own, he will be free to pursue his own dreams. But up until then he must look out for her, since none of Amanda's efforts have worked out, and all Laura does is stay at home, play records and fool around with her glass animal collection.
As Tom is about to go to work, Amanda asks if any nice young men work there. She wants Tom to ask a suitable young man back to their apartment, so he can become acquainted with Laura. Tom is impatient and unsympathetic, but he agrees to do what his mother wants.
Amanda starts to make more phone calls in connection with renewing subscriptions for the women's magazine.
Amanda seems oblivious to the fact that her controlling, critical nature is certain to drive Tom away. But she cannot bear the thought that Tom is going to take after his father, and she sees the warning signs already. Their dialog shows that not only are they trapped as far as their external situation is concerned, they are also (like many of the characters in Williams's plays) unable to communicate their feelings fully. There is an entire emotional world that exists somewhere beyond the grasp of words. Amanda says, for example, that "There's so many things in my heart that I cannot describe to you!", and Tom replies, "There's so much in my heart that I can't describe to you!" Tom's solution is that they should just accept this and respect each other's privacy, but this is not something that Amanda would ever be able to do.
When Tom tells his mother that "Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter," he is probably influenced by his reading of D.H. Lawrence, since that sounds like something from the Lawrentian creed. Amanda, on the other hand, aspires, or convinces herself she aspires, to a higher realm of being, beyond instinct, which is something humans share with the animals. She wants "superior things! Things of the mind and spirit!" and she mentions Christianity. There is obviously going to be no meeting of minds between these two, however long they talk. But they do have a common concern for Laura.