Williams, Tennessee The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie

By Tennessee Williams
(1911-1983)

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 are 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.

Plot

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 tell Laura she found out that
she dropped out. Laura explains that she couldn’t handle the class
and went walking everyday. 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 looses 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. Tom leaves never to return.

Symbols
victrola - the escape and the private world
of Laura.
jonquils - a reminder of Amanda’s glorious
past.
magic show - the escape so desired by Tom.
glass menagerie - Laura’s private world,
and the breaking of it.
fire escape - simply the escape from Amanda’s
world. Tom seeks to leave it, but Laura stumbles whenever she does.
unicorn - Laura’s singularity, her return
to reality, and her return to her retreat back into her world.
candelabrum - Tom’s relationship (or lack
thereof) with his family.
scarf - Tom’s attempt to share his magic
and desire for escape with Laura.
gentleman caller - the real world as opposed
to Amanda’s imagined one.

Style

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.

Philosophy

The idea conveyed in this play is
that of image versus reality. Amanda has a picture of the world and
of gentlemen callers but