Tennessee, Williams: The Glass Menagerie


by Tennessee Williams

Title and Author

"The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams

Thomas L. Williams is his original name. He was born in 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi, where his grandfather was the episcopal clergyman. When his father, a travelling salesman, moved with his fanily to St Louis some years later, both he and his sister found it impossible to settle down to city life. He entered college during the evenings writing. He entered the University of Iowa in 1938 and completed his course, at the same time holding a large number of part - time jobs o f great diversity. He received a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1940 for his play Battle of Angels, and he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 and 1955. Among his namy other plays Penuin habe published A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Baby Doll (1957), Orpheus Descending (1957), Something Unspoken (1958), Suddenly Last Summer (1958), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), Period of Adjustment (1960), The Night of Iguana (1961), The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1963; revised 1964) and Small Craft Warnings (1972).
Tennessee Williams died in 1983.

Type of book

The story can be defined to "fiction". It is a memory play with biographic elements. Tom has two characters united. He’s the narrator and an actor.


The play deals with the difficult relationship in a family.


The story happens in the South of the United States, in St Louis in the 30ies.


Like everyone in that family, Amanda also has her own world, which she can escape into, - her memories.
She fluctuates between illusions and the brutal reality. Amanda treats her already grown - up children like babies, so that Tom feels more and more trapped (like in a coffin). One of thee main problems are that Amanda somehow can’t accept the fact that Laura is different.
She is a very devoted mother, she just wants the best for her children, who, however, experience that "devotion" as just continuas nagging. Amanda fears that Tom becomes like his father, who had deserted the family, someday.
She often exaggerates, makes a lot of fuss about anything, but apparantly she enjoys that. As she really had loved him Mrs Wingfield had married her husband although she could have married a rich man.
Amanda’s greatly positive quality is that she’s good at making conversation, no matter how the situation is like. She emanates charme and vivacity. Her aim is to provide Laura’s future and find somebody - but not a drunkard - for her.
After Jim finally tells her that he is engaged, her hopes are shattered and she is desperate.

Laura is extremely introverted and shy. She also lives in her own world - the glass collection - because she’s not fit to live in a real world. So she’s dependend on other people (mother). Laura has a slight disability, which makes her feel different. Her weakness and patience shows that she’s more a passive character. She tries to avoid quarrels; she suffers much when her mother and Tom quarrel, because she knows that she’s the source of that conflict.
As she’s so isolated from the outside world, she’s unable to establish any contact. Laura can be identyfied with a piece of her collection: she has beauty, charme, but it’s unearthly.
Her mother’s energy makes Laura feel more and more crushed.
Laura’s inferiority - complex is "a stumbling block" for getting into a relationship.

Tom is like his father; he also wants to escape. He has a talent for poetry.
Tom wants to experience adventures, which he can’t have in reality respectively in his dissatisfying job. And the real adventures are too expensive. Therefore he flees to the movie theatre, his own world. He wants to escape from his mother, from her overprotection, he feels almost "stifled" of that.
He has to support the family, he is the link between Amanda and Laura, and the outside world. Tom is tired of his responsibility and resents sacrificing his own dreams.
At last the picture of Laura, which reminds him of his not - fulfilled responsibility and that he’s guilty, haunts him.

Actually Jim is just a nice, ordinary, young, friendly man, open, warm - hearted but plain. He’s very much interested in other characters and is understanding, which make them feel comfortable. He also wants to improve his science knowledge.
Because of his effected dynamic, he even makes Laura to overcome her shyness.
Probably his easy manners and fallibility lets him appear nicer. He likes Laura because her difference from other girls fascinates him.


Amanda, Tom and Laura lived in a small cramped apartment in St. Louis. Amanda harasses Tom about going out to the movies every night and reminds Laura to stay fresh and pretty for gentlemen callers. When Amanda discovers that Laura has not been going to her business classes, she begins to panic about Laura's future. Amanda talks Tom into inviting a nice young man from the warehouse over for dinner at the apartment. When Jim O'Connor comes to dinner, Laura recognises him as the boy that she had a crush on in high school. Laura becomes so sick that she has to be excused from dinner. After dinner, Amanda tells Jim to keep Laura company in the parlor. Initially, Laura is petrified but she begins to feel more comfortable around him as they reminisce over high school days. Then Jim dances with Laura and kisses her, only to reveal that he is engaged to another woman and must leave. Amanda believes that Tom has purposely made them look like fools and Tom leaves just as his father had. At the end of the play, Tom realises that he will never be able to forget the sister he left behind.

Scene 1:
Tom, Amanda and Laura are sitting at the table, having dinner. But Tom is unable to enjoy his meal, because of his mother’s overdevoted behaviour.
Amanda doesn’t want Laura to do any work in the household, trying to keep her daughter "fresh and pretty" for a gentlemen caller. After she had told her experiences with 17 gentlemen callers, Amanda can’t believe that anybody will come.

Scene 2:
Amanda is shocked about the fact, that Laura just pretends to attend the Rubicam’s business college, a typewriting school. Both discuss about Laura’s future, whether she wants to make a career or marry some nice young man. Laura keeps realistic, and makes her mother aware of her crippled leg. Amanda tries to cheer Laura up by telling her to develop charm.

Scene 3:
Tom and Amanda get into a quarrel, because she had brought Tom’s books back to the library. Tom lets out all his aggression and in his hysterical acting he accidently drops one of the glass animals. Laura reacts as if that glass figurine is a part of she.

Scene 4:
Tom is drunk and comes home at 5 o’clock in the morning, but he’s unable to open the door. Laura lets him in. After Amanda had woken up, Tom breaks his vow not to speak to his mother, and they start talking about Laura and that Tom has to catch up a gentlemen caller somewhere. In that discussion he also admits that he needs some more adventures, which he partly can get by watching movies.

Scene 5:
Tom proudly presents his achievement: he had found a gentlemen caller, who is going to come for dinner the next day. There is just one problem: that gentlemen caller doesn’t know of Laura and that he’s going to be her gentlemen caller.

Scene 6:
Jim, the "gentlemen caller", and Tom come into the apartment. Laura opens them the door and Jim notices immediately her shyness. On the terrace, by themselves, Tom tells Jim about his plans joining the Union of Merchant Seaman. Instead of paying the electricity bells Tom "invested" that money for the dues.
He doesn’t want anyone else to know about that yet!

Scene 7:
After dinner Jim and Laura are finally sitting together on the ground next to the couch table. Because it plays classical music at that moment, they start to dance. Accidently Jim hits the table and makes a glass animal, which is shaped like a unicorn, fall down. The "unique horn" of that figurine breaks apart, but although it happened to be her prefered animal she doesn’t mind that incident.
Jim is impressed by her humour and difference from other girls and suddenly kisses Laura. Afterwards he apologizes to her because he is already in love with a girl, named Betty. Jim tells her that they probably won’t see each other again.
Amanda thinks that Tom had wanted to fool them and scolds at him.
At last Tom leaves his family and joins the Union of Merchant Seaman but he can’t forget his left - behind sister Laura.


Whenever there’s a conflict respectively a quarrel, Laura plays the victrola that reminds her of her father. So she can retreat in her imagination and forget the reality.

It’s Laura’s favourite figurine of her glass collection. It should represent Laura herself, virginity and purity. That horn could symbolize her shyness because when Jim accidently breaks it Laura also loses a bit of her shyness.

That is also a symbol for Laura, fragile. Besides it should show her world. The unicorn is the freak in her collection like Laura.

It is Tom’s escape from his mother to the movies. It represents the only connection between outside world and that isolated family. When once Laura wanted to go outside she already stumbled. That’s a hidden message, which shows us that Laura is not able to cope with the reality, at least not yet.


The neurotic family is unable to solve the difficults and conflicts about their future. Tom can’t bear his responsibility anymore. Everyone dreads the reality and has is own world, illusions, imaginations.
Life deluds them.

My opinion

(wird nachgeholt)

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