I believe that the fire escape in this story is the way out for all the characters. The only thing can bring these people into the real world. You could even say is separates them from the real world. When they are in the house, they are living on a different world. The story is all about people who can not enter the real world. The are so involved in a dream that they are living in they can not decipher truth from the lies.
Tom is brain washed he thinks that there is adventure in the world like in the movies. He goes to the movies hoping that one day that he could be one of the movie stars. He desired adventure so much that he was blinded by the absurdity around him. All he wanted to do is run down those stairs and search for the ultimate adventure that doesn't exist.
He is the only person in this book that eventually does face reality. He felt guilt about leaving his sister, but it was meant to be.
Amanda is the leader of these illusions. She has filled their minds with dreams of another time. She is stuck in the 1940's; it is as if time is moving around the house. Her goal in this book is to get Laura, her daughter, to have a husband. She knows that she isn't going to be there forever and she wants there to be someone to take care of her. She is trying to push Laura down the stairs but she knows that there has to be someone there to help her.
Laura, who has so kind of disease, is living her life through a set of glass ornaments. Life for her could not get any worse. Her mother tried to enroll her in Business School but she ended up quitting after the first few days. Therefore, she wandered around in the cold until she got sick. Her mother eventually found out and Laura was in trouble. She was in love with someone, and ended up having dinner with the man. The man, who ended up being engaged, was a disaster. The whole family was dreaming that maybe-just maybe that this man could have been Laura's husband. Of course, this was not to be because this is the dream world.
Tom left the house eventually. He left to purse his adventure in the Merchant Marines. He left his sister with his mother. He would never forget that, and always have guilt about leaving her. We don't know if Laura ever walked down those stairs, we can only hope that someday she does. Finally Amanda, she is and will always be an enigma to the world down the fire escape.