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The Glass Menagerie

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.

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.


TOPICS: drama + comedy + postmodern + time + space + writer + play + plays/theory + death + sex + family + generations + wrong subjects + [ 0 ] [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ]
2008 --

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Other PLAYS -- williams.html

* Folks, what I have -- my notes and you probably should read first much better organized pages, like moonstruck, wich give you the facts about Williams. As a director I staged his two plays, but only Menagerie has some "electronic" trace. I don't know if I can get to "Streetcar" (on my long wish list). As a writer I learn something new every time I teach Williams...

Williams (bio-page) *

... The Glass Menagerie:

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 which isn’t a reality in the ghetto’s of St. Louis. Laura has her own imaginary reality. Another philosophy is that of escape. Tom tries to escape, and eventually does in the footsteps of his father. Laura is not seeking as hard to escape as Tom, although it would do her some good to escape her world and Amanda’s. She comes close with Jim, but is devastated and regress back into her world, probably deeper than she was before.

The Glass Menagerie -- 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.

Study Guide

the glass managerie = an american memory?!

AMANDA: ... Why I remember one Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain-
TOM: I know what's coming!
LAURA: Yes. But let her tell it.
TOM: Again?
LAURA: She loves to tell it.

[ Dialogue -- "Chekhov After Chekhov" ]



The Glass Menagerie:

Why is the fire escape important in the play?
Who do you think is the main character of the play—Tom, Laura, or Amanda? Why? Is the main character the protagonist? Is there an antagonist?
What might happen to Laura after Tom's departure? What might happen to Amanda?
What is the effect of the images and phrases that appear on the screen throughout the play?
Generally, plays do not have narrators. How does the fact that Tom is the narrator affect the style and content of the play?


"Ecclectic Theatre" -- the beginning?


* Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Drama Study Guides [ sparknotes ] *

Suggestions for Further Reading: "Young Tom" *


Student Companion to Tennessee Williams by Nancy M. Tischler; Greenwood Press, 2000


CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT (am. types, heroes... and archi-types?)


STYLISTIC AND LITERARY DEVICES ... Williams settled on the device of a narrator to give both form and perspective to the story.

Memory Play and Plastic Theatre:

[ The first scene, at the table, uses pantomimes of eating. ]

In his "Production Notes", he describes his plans for the color and quality of light.


One device he planned, which has rarely been adopted in the productions of this play, was the use of the "legend."

The NOTES on The Glass Menagerie are in SHOWS directory:

Lab Theatre UAF production *

[ Two Toms; I made Tom-Narrator into "Tennessee Williams", even dressed like him, with the silk scarf... see photos ]

I thought of doing "Menagerie" in THR413 only, I believe that we cannot skip Williams in THR215 Dramatic Literature...

413 -- Williams vs. Miller

Script Index * Thr w/Anatoly Index * PLAYS * 215 DramLit * 413 Playscript Analysis * Themes Scripts subdirectory! *
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RICHARD SEYD: It's exposition more than anything else. I've never come across a writer, with the possible exception of Chekhov, who weaves exposition into the psychological reality of the characters so that it is completely effortless. You never feel you're being set up for the story. You suddenly find as an audience, you suddenly find yourself in the story. And unless you're a writer or worked a lot with writers and understand what a difficult craft theatrical writing is--I mean, generally I think writing for the theater is probably the most difficult form of writing there is. And it's only when you meet a master that you really go, oh, my God, this is incredible, what he pulled off.

Memory Play

[ explain the subtitle -- new genre? ]
Time: Now and the Past
I began to write plays not because of Chekhov or Gogol, but because in the sixties in Moscow somehow was published a little book with plays of T. Williams (it was before 1968 when they discovered that art is the most dangerous disease for the state). The language was so simple, as if it was our speech recorded by this American. They talked about their little problems, there was no big history and historical figures, no fundamental themes or metaphysical topics -- everything Russian literature is famous for. I want even to say "primitive" or "naive" -- and at the time I didn't know how it sounds in English... I saw him at Columbia University, that crazy old man (1911-1983).


The Glass Menagerie 1944
Production Notes (p.600) and Commentaries (p.631) -- read!
[ image ]

The American Age & American Woman

Lycos Gallery freebies end with the images from the twenties (copyright). You can see some shots from "The Glass Menagerie" on Theatre UAF page. I directed another Williams' play in Virginia, but I don't know where are the photos. I'll skip "American Theatre" (get it in Theatre History classes). I do not treat O'Neill and Williams as "American" writers (they are, and the same goes for Albee), but in Dramatic Literature/ Playscript Analysis classes my aim is more at the evolution of craft rather than historical and social connotations.

I love Williams the way he loved Chekhov. Williams is called a "poet" of American stage.

If you didn't read notes on Chekhov, go there...

Or maybe you should read first notes on Strindberg -- Symbolism -- Williams is from the Post-Freudian generation.

Ibsen... But you can read them after Williams, too.

Williams was the last from the classic world, an imressionist, when blue color still had its life...


TOM: ... Blow out your candles, Laura -- and so good-bye...

(She blows the candels out.)
(The scene dissolves.)

[ image ]
For video and shots from the UAF show "Glass Menagerie" go to Productions

Ask Yourself

Is this play about Laura?

"Tennessee"? Is it his real name?

Why do you think he made Tom a "narrator"?

Why does he need the slides?

Amanda, the mother. Single mother in 1944! World without Husbands?

[215 DramLit]

Student Papers

I will be posting some students' papers from the archives of DramLit Open Class/Forum

Amy Taylor
Dramatic Literature THR215
Response Paper: The Glass Menagerie

I love this play. It is so haunting. I feel like I am every person in the play, like I can relate to them from the inside out - to empathize. How does Williams do that? How does he understand people and especially women so well?

I totally disagree with the essay by Benjamin Nelson where he says that Laura is not a deeply realized character. We may not have a lot of monologues from her telling us her feelings and motivations, but that is because she is not a talkative person. We can see that she is in a world of her own and understand that without her telling us exactly what she is thinking. I feel like she is the most real person in the play in a way, because her tragedy is so clearly drawn. She haunts you, like she haunts Tom. Because you can't do anything for her, but you want to, you want to save her. It's so sad!

I also disagree with Nelson's statement that the play cannot be a tragedy. I think it is the ultimate modern tragedy. One of the differences in modern tragedy and classic tragedy as I see it is that the modern hero's fate comes upon him/her whether or not he/she acts. At least with Oedipus & Hamlet, they sought out the truth about themselves that the knowledge of, in the end, brought about their tragedy. With Laura, the truth comes to her without her seeking it; there is no way to escape it. That is the situation with the everyman hero; we are all heros now, we are all miserable with the responsibility of being the hero, even the most fragile of us bear this responsibility. It is terrifying.

I suppose you could say that Laura, as the tragic hero, acted by being present and interacting with Jim. She could have let herself get so sick she that she threw up on his shoes before they had a chance to talk at all. So, in a sense she could fit in the classic tragic hero role because she does choose to talk with him. She is above average in sensitivity, and imagination, and deep feeling. She doesn't have questions that she shares with us overtly, but they are there. She is asking Jim if she is special, if her life means anything ultimately. He tells her that she is very special, but then he is not willing to love her and so to affirm her uniqueness in such a way that Laura can know it herself, in that special way that someone being in love with you and you with them affirms you and give meaning to your life. So, in this brief conversation with Jim, Laura learns that she is unique and that her uniqueness, her soul, her life, will be wasted and not appreciated; she will be just one of the many horses, just another unmarked cross in the graveyard.

You cannot tell me that Laura does not die that day, as a good tragic hero does. I think she does die, and part of her mother and her brother and Jim dies with her. This is a tragedy. Very definitely.

2004 & After



New key terms and definitions

Metaphor and Theme Analysis





Drama **

* Bedford Intro to Drama *

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playsChekhov, Ibsen, Shakespeare

play writing amazon list *

[200 words + submission to the DramLit List]


Read the production notes for The Glass Menagerie in SHOWS directory. Williams and the End of Modernism. Traditions: Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg.

Compare The Glass Managerie with Mother Courage: point the elements of Epic Theatre in Willams.


Use the play for introduction of line-by-line analysis.
Next: realism

Dialiogue Analysis (style), in class:

Maggie: Why are you looking at me like that?
Brick: Like what, Maggie?
Maggie: Like you were just lookin'.
Brick: I wasn't conscious of lookin' at you, Maggie.
Maggie: (seductively) I was conscious of it. (He coldly turns from her and rises on his crutches) If you were thinkin' the same thing I was...
Brick: No, Maggie.
Maggie: Why not?!
Brick: Will you please keep your voice down.
Maggie: No! I know you better than you think. I've seen that look before. And I know what it used to mean. And it still means the same thing now.
Brick: You're not the same woman now, Maggie.
Maggie: Oh, don't you think I know that? Don't you think I know that...
Brick: (cooly detached) Know what, Maggie?
Maggie: That I've gone through this horrible transformation, that I've become hard and frantic and cruel...Oh Brick, I get so lonely.
Brick: Everybody gets that.
Maggie: Living with somebody you love can be lonelier than living entirely alone - if the one you love doesn't love you.
Brick: ...Would you like to live alone, Maggie?
Maggie: No! No, I wouldn't.
[ "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" ]

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