The words "After the fiasco--" appear on the screen as the scene opens. Tom stands on the fire escape landing and addresses the audience. In the wake of what Tom refers to as the "fiasco at Rubicam's Business College," Amanda has become obsessed with procuring a gentleman caller for Laura. It is a topic perpetually under discussion and the object of Amanda's planning. In order to make a little extra money "to feather the nest", Amanda is running a telephone subscription campaign for a magazine called The Homemaker's Companion.

Tom's monologue ends. Amanda makes a cheerful, breathless, unsuccessful sales pitch on the telephone. The lights dim. When they come up again, Tom and Amanda are engaged in a loud argument while Laura looks on desperately. Tom is enraged because his mother has taken back to the library the D.H. Lawrence novel he was reading. She will not permit "such filth" in her house. In his anger, he points out that he pays the rent. Amanda insists that Tom hear her out. She attributes his attitude of late to the fact that his doing something shameful (and not going to the movies, as he claims) when he goes out every night. He comes home late, gets no sleep; he's endangering his job, and therefore the family's security. Tom's response is fiery. He hates the factory; he envies the dead when he hears Amanda's daily reveille of "Rise and shine!" Yet he goes to work each day and brings home the pay. He's suppressed all his dreams, and if he truly were as selfish as Amanda claims, he would have left long ago.

Tom makes a move towards the door. His mother demands to know where he's going. When she does not accept "the movies" as a response, he goes into a sarcastic litany of all the illegal, immoral, blood-curdling things he's really doing. He ends the tirade with an insult and tries to put on his coat before storming out. The coat resists his clumsy movements so he throws it across the room. It hits Laura's glass collection. Glass breaks; Laura utters a cry and grabs the mantel for support. Amanda declares she will not speak to Tom until he apologizes. Tom bends down to pick up the glass while Laura looks away. The theme music kicks in.

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