” The Glass Menagerie” is a play written by the American playwright Tennessee Williams, who lived from 1911 to 1983. He has also written other plays, such as ” A Streetcar Named Desire”, ” Sweet Bird of Youth” and ” American Blues”. ” The Glass Menagerie” was first published in 1945, and became Williams’ great breakthrough,
The setting of the play is a rather dingy apartment in St. Louis in the end of the 1930’s. The 1930’s was the time of the New Deal, when President Roosevelt introduced a new kind of economics politics. This helped America overcome an economic crisis. After this, everybody wanted the American dream. To live in a country where you had everything you needed. ” The Glass Menagerie” is a play about people waiting for better days.
Right across the street from the apartment is a club called Paradise Dance Hall. This is one of the contrasts in the play. Paradise is the exact opposite of the apartment. The family who lives there is not very wealthy, and the members of the family all want to go to a better place.
The main characters in the play are the elderly woman Amanda, and her grown-up children Tom and Laura. Amanda’s husband, Mr. Wingfield, left his family many years ago. The family still got a picture of him hanging on the wall.
Tom is working at a warehouse. He hates his job, but has to earn money to support his mother and sister. He’s not happy with his life, and would rather do something completely different. Tom doesn’t like to stay at home. He goes out every night, drinking, and going to the movies. Tom doesn’t like the way Amanda always tells him what to do. All he wants is for his mother to leave him alone.He’d like to run away and leave his family behind, just like his father did, but he’s not sure how to do it.
Laura is a very shy young woman. She hardly ever talks to anyone besides her family. She’s disabled, and because of that, she has no self- confidence. She can’t see how any decent man would like to marry her. The most important things in Laura’s life are some old records that belonged to her father, and her collection of glass figures.
Amanda is not happy about the way her life turned out to be. When she was young, she had gentleman callers coming over every day. She loves to tell stories from her youth. Then she was a prosperous young woman who believed she’d live happily for the rest of her life. But fate wanted it different. The man she chose, left her, and she had to take care of the children all by herself. Now the only thing she wants, is for her daughter to get married.
Amanda wants Laura to get married. But no gentleman caller seem to arrive. Amanda therefore talks Tom into inviting one of his colleagues home for dinner. Jim O’Connor says yes to the invitation and shows up at the Wingfield’s apartment. What they don’t know, is that Laura and Jim went to high school together, and that Laura had a crush on him back then. When Jim arrives, and Laura sees who it is, she doesn’t want to talk to him. Jim doesn’t recognize Laura at first, but when they start talking, he remembers her.
As already mentioned, Jim also works at the warehouse. He doesn’t like his job either, but tries to make the best out of it. He’s taken classes in conversation, and has learned a lot about man’s psychology. He tells Laura that she’s got an inferiority complex. After listening to Jim for a while, Laura understands that it might make sense.
Laura tells Jim about her glass colletion. She shows him her favourite figure, a unicorn. Because the unicorn’s got a horn on his forehead, he’s different from the other glass figures that are just regular horses. That’s what makes him so special. While dancing with Laura, Jim accidentaly bumps in to the table where the unicorn is. The unicorn falls off, and loses the horn. Now it’s just like the other horses. Jim is terribly sorry, but Laura doesn’t seem to mind.
Jim tells Laura how special she is, and then he kisses her. Afterwards, he apologizes for his behavior. He tells Laura that he’s engaged, and the only reason why he accepted the dinner invitation was to be polite. He didn’t even know that Tom had a sister. Amanda gets very suprised when she hears about this. After Jim has left, she starts yelling at Tom because he didn’t tell them. But Tom didn’t know.
After this, everything’s back to normal in the Wingfield family. Amanda is still nagging at Tom about him going to the movies all the time, not staying at home. Tom therefore decides to leave his family behind, just like his father did.
The unicorn is one of the symbols used in the play. It represents Laura. It’s her favourite glass figure because it’s one of a kind. Laura believes that since she’s disabled, she’s very different from everybody else. But after she finds out that Jim didn’t take notice of the fact that she was disabled in high school, she realizes that she’s not so different after all. This is the reason why Laura didn’t get so upset when the unicorn lost it’s horn. Neither one of them is really that special.
The play is about escaping real life. None of the members of the family like their life situation. Amanda always believed her life would turn out well, but it didn’t. Her way of escaping real life is to think about and tell stories from her life as a young girl, when everything seemed possible.
Laura’s depressed because she’s got no self- confidence. She’s afraid to go out in the real world alone, and she doesn’t dare to talk to other people. Her way of escaping is to listen to all the old records and play with her glass figures.
Tom never liked his job at the warehouse. Neither does he like the way his mother is always telling him what to do. He wants to run away, just like his father. But he doesn’t at first. He goes to the movies instead. When he watches the movies, it’s like he’s in another world. He forgets all the pain and misery that he has to face every day at home. He also starts drinking. When he finally leaves, he finds out that things aren’t getting any better. He feels guilty because he left Laura behind. He realizes that leaving is not an escape at all, but a path of even more powerful desperation.
What Williams wanted to say with this play, is that escaping the real life is not a good option. No matter how bad things seem to be, one should rather try to solve the problems and do something about it, than run away. You can’t hide forever. It’ll just make things worse.
Personally, I think the play was quite alright. Tennesse Williams is a good playwright. If you’re able to read between the lines, you can see the hidden message he’s trying to tell the reader. Some parts of the play was a bit boring though. Since the play was written over 50 years ago, the language might seem a bit old- fashioned. But all in all it’s a rather good play written by one of Americas most famous playwrights.