The Glass Menagerie
The Glass Menagerie By Tennesse Williams About the Author Tennessee Williams based “The Glass Menagerie” on “Portrait of a Girl in Glass,” a short story he wrote in 1943 and published in 1948. Both works drew upon Williams’s own experiences. When he was growing up, he was close to his sister, Rose, who resembled the fragile and psychologically disturbed Laura Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie. ” His mother resembled Laura’s mother, Amanda. Williams himself resembled Laura’s brother, Tom Wingfield. Williams was even nicknamed Tom in his youth.
Plot Summary Tom begins by introducing the play as a memory play of his own memory of his past. He introduces the character. The start of the play shows the Wingfield family eating dinner. Amanda keeps telling Tom to chew is food, and Tom gets thoroughly annoyed and leaves the table to smoke. Amanda tells her story of 17 gentleman callers. The next day, Laura is sitting at her desk in front of the typewriter chart when Amanda comes in angry. She asks Laura about the business college and tells Laura she found out that she dropped out.
Laura explains that she couldn’t handle the class and went walking every day. Later Amanda sits with Laura and asks her about a boy she liked. Laura points out Jim in the yearbook. Later, Tom gets into an argument with Amanda. Amanda cannot understand why Tom goes to the movies every night. Tom says he cannot stand working for the family like he does. Tom makes his speech about being an assassin and leaves to the movies. He returns late at night drunk, but loses the key. Laura opens the door and Tom tells her about the movie and the magic show he saw, giving her a scarf from the magic show.
The next morning, Amanda makes Tom wake up as usual and prepares him for his work. Before he leaves, she asks him to bring home a gentleman caller for Laura. That night Tom informs his mother that he asked Jim O’Conner to dinner the next day. The next day, Laura and Amanda prepare furiously for the dinner getting well dressed and decorating everything. At night, Tom arrives with Jim. After they eat dinner, the lights go out and Amanda brings out the candles. Laura sits alone with Jim. They talk for a while, and Jim kisses Laura, but regrets it.
He tells her that he is already engaged, and Laura is devastated. She gives him a glass unicorn which was broken during the night. Jim says good-bye to the family and leaves. Amanda is angry with Tom for not telling them that Jim was engaged, but Tom insists that he did not know. As Tom speaks at the end of the play, it becomes clear that Tom left home soon afterward and has never returned. In Tom’s final speech, he bids farewell to his mother and sister, telling Laura to blow out the candles in her room, which she does as the play ends. Characters Main Characters: Laura Wingfield – She is the crippled and very shy daughter of Amanda who keeps her hard pressed to finding a husband. * Tom Wingfield – As Laura’s sister, he is also pressed by his mother to find his sister a gentleman caller, and to keep the job at the shoe factory to support the family. * Amanda Wingfield – She is the mother of Tom and Laura and often digresses back to memories of her former days on the southern plantation farm and her night with 17 gentleman callers. * Jim O’Conner – He is a friend of Tom from the factory who Tom invites to dinner and Amanda treats as Laura’s first gentleman caller.
Minor Characters: * Mr. Wingfield – He is Amanda’s husband who deserted the family about 16 years ago and is only seen in the play as a large photograph hung on the wall, but he is often referred to. Settings * The Wingfield house – This takes up most of the stage and the different room is separated by curtains. There is the living and the kitchen. * The fire escape – This is on the side of the stage and is what the characters use to get into and out of the apartment. Themes Escape Tom wishes to escape from his life, just as the magician escaped from the coffin.
He is most impressed by the magician’s ability to escape without destroying the box or removing a single nail, and he marvels that anyone can accomplish such a feat. Tom’s goal is to likewise extricate himself from his life without damage to the coffin that is his family – Amanda and Laura make him feel buried alive – but in the end this turns out to be impossible. Responsibility to Family The principal tension in the Wingfield family is responsibility which is accountable for, and to whom. Tom struggles to be the breadwinner of their family after they were abandoned by their father while Amanda was strained for having a crippled daughter.
Abandonment Each member of the Wingfield family has experienced abandonment. As a unit, they were all abandoned by Mr. Wingfield when he left the family, but this especially applies to Amanda – for her, being abandoned by her husband. Laura has been abandoned by the world at large, falling into her own quiet little rhythm outside the perimeter of everyday society. Finally, Tom fears being abandoned by his dreams and goals, and chooses instead to abandon his family the way his father did – becoming another looming absence in the Wingfield family, tantamount to the man whose portrait hovers over the sitting room.
Illusions and Reality Amanda never stops believing that a gentleman will soon call upon her and make everything right. She inflicts illusions and reality on her children – insisting that if Tom finds a husband for Laura, it will take care of all their problems. Memory Memory plays an important part; we see the detrimental effect of memory in the form of Amanda’s living in the past. As far as the play’s presentation is concerned, the entire story is told from the memory of Tom, the narrator. He makes it clear that, because the play is memory, certain implications are raised as to the nature of each scene.
Style The writing style classified as modified realism and southern gothic which “The Glass Menagerie” as Williams termed it, a “memory play. ” It contains autobiographical elements wherein the three primary characters in the play hold direct correlation between Williams, his sister Rose and his mother Edwina, but also employs theatrical techniques that take the play out of the realistic realm. This departure from realism is a part of the format that Williams sites for memory plays. Point of view
The author used the “First Person Point of View” wherein the first person point of view, the narrator who is Tom does participate in the action of the story. The organization of the play is out of the ordinary. Tom’s role as a narrator, character, and stage director is somewhat off the wall, and the use of the screen where the pictures are projected is not common. However, it does serve the purpose well as the pictures set the mood, and Tom acting as a character and narrator allows us to enter into Tom’s mind and his inner world and thoughts. Form and Structure The play has seven scenes.
The first four take place over a few days’ time during the winter season. The remaining scenes occur on two successive evenings during the following spring. Since the play contains no formal “acts,” a director can prescribe an intermission at any time. The play takes into account the passage of time, climactic moments in the play, and the development of the characters. Williams attempted to unify the several episodes by devising a series of projected images and words on a screen, but most directors don’t bother using the technique. The story, they feel, can stand unaided, despite repeated jumps between present and past.