The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

BACKGROUND

Tennessee Williams wrote this as a play, though it has also been made into a movie. This play is based a little on the authorís life. A famous American playwright, Williams also wrote "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." A menagerie is a collection of animals. The girl in this play has a collection of little glass animals, hence the name "The Glass Menagerie."

MAIN CHARACTERS

Tom Wingfield: Tom is the narrator and main dude of the story. The whole play is basically Tom telling the audience about his family. Tom is always in a bad mood. He is depressed and sometimes gets bitter. He loves to write poetry.

Amanda Wingfield: Amanda is Tomís mom. All she does is nag Tom. Sheís an annoying woman who lives in a fantasyland, and thinks that her kids (Tom/Laura) are gonna do something great in life. She also tells stories that arenít true.

Laura Wingfield: Laura is disabled and weak. She has a brace on her leg. She loves her glass animals (especially the unicorn). She is always in fantasyland and shuts out the outside world. Laura is very shy.

Jim OíConnor: Jim is an average nice guy. He works hard, and is a cool dude. He comes to Tomís house to meet Laura. Jim kinda feels bad about his life because heís such a great guy, but heís still working a crappy job. Jim is engaged but meets Laura and sweeps her off her feet anyway just to boost his ego.

PLOT

This story takes place in St. Louis. The story starts out with Tom looking back in the past. Now in the Marines, the play is a flashback that tells the story about why he left home. Tom talks about his mom and what a jerk she is. He says she was always nagging him. Then he talks about his dad. His dad left the family a long time ago. After he left, it was just Tom, Amanda (mom) and Tom’s sister, Laura.

Then the story goes back to before Tom left. Amanda starts to see that Tom and his father are similar. She notices that he hates his life, and all he does is slack off at work and go to movies. She begs him not to leave the family until his sister has a good husband. Then the play talks about Laura (Tom’s sister). She is a disabled girl, who really doesn’t do anything. All she does is sit at home and listen to records and play with her glass animals (the collection is called a "glass menagerie"). Amanda asks Tom to bring home some guy from work, so Laura can get married. So Tom brings home this dude named Jim O’Connor. Jim is a really nice guy. He acts like such a gentleman when he meets Laura. Laura remembers him from high school, and she used to have a big crush on him. So Jim is there and he talks to her. Then they dance. When they dance, Jim accidentally breaks the horn of Laura’s glass unicorn. Laura is really happy because she meets Jim and Jim is such a nice guy. But then she finds out that he isn’t coming back because he is engaged to some other chick. Then her mom finds out and gets mad at Tom for bringing some engaged guy home to meet Laura. The mom yells at him and accuses him of trying to make her look stupid. Then Tom gets fed up with the whole house, and leaves for the marines.

SCENE BY SCENE

SCENE 1

  • In the beginning of the play, there’s a description of the Wingfield’s house.
  • Tom comes out and starts talking to the audience (remember, this is a play).
  • He talks about himself, and the other people in the story. Then the play goes back and time, and Tom is a young man. The scene is dinner at his house.
  • He eats dinner with his mom (Amanda). Amanda yells at him for chewing his food like a pig. Tom gets pissed and goes outside for a cigarette.
  • Amanda goes to do the dishes after dinner. She starts telling the kids about all the guys who wanted to jump her bones when she was growing up in the south. Tom doesn’t believe her.

SCENE 2

  • Laura sits in the house playing with her glass animals. Amanda comes in and Laura pretends to study some typing chart. Then Amanda gets pissed at her because she finds out that Laura has been skipping typing school.
  • Laura hates school and couldn’t handle it. She didn’t tell her mom she was skipping though, so she’d go to the city, kill some time, then come home.
  • All Laura wants to do is sit at home and play with her glass animals. But Amanda is worried about her future, so she tells her to get married.
  • Amanda wants to hook her daughter up with some stud, but Laura doesn’t think she can because she’s disabled.

SCENE 3

  • In the beginning of this scene, Tom is talking to the audience.
  • Tom talks about how his mom really wants to hook Laura up with a man.
  • He talks about his mom, and sounds sarcastic but is good -natured too. Kind of a love/hate thing going on.
  • Then the story goes back to the play and Tom isn’t talking to the audience anymore. Tom is arguing with his mom.
  • She is yelling at Tom because she thinks that the books he reads are dirty. He yells at her about saying he pays all the rent.
  • Laura breaks the argument up. Then Tom tells Amanda how much his life sucks. He hates his job, and he hates living with his mom.
  • Tom gets pissed and goes to a movie. Amanda yells at while he is leaving on his way out, he puts on his coat and accidentally breaks some of Laura’s glass animals.
  • Amanda is pissed at Tom.

SCENE 4

  • Tom comes back at 5AM drunk as a skunk. Laura is awake. He tells her that he went to a movie theater and saw a magician (old movie theaters had live performers). Then he said something about how the magician escaped from a coffin and how he’d like to escape from the apartment.
  • Amanda wakes up and she and Tom are still mad at each other. They do not talk to each other.
  • Amanda sends Laura to go to the deli. On her way there she falls down some stairs.
  • Tom and Amanda kiss and make up. Then Amanda talks to him about going to movies too much and drinking too much.
  • Tom tells her he needs an exciting change of pace — one reason he goes to the movies.
  • Amanda agrees to let him leave the house and go do his own thing. But she asks him to find a guy for Laura to marry before he can split. He tells her he will bring a friend from work.

SCENE 5

  • Couple months pass, and Amanda is still bitching at Tom to get a better job. Tom gets pissed and goes outside.
  • When he’s outside, he starts talking to the audience again. He tells them about people who go to dance clubs in his town and how they make out and stuff. Then he talks about World War II and the fighting the Nazis.
  • Then Amanda comes outside and starts talking to Tom. He tells her that he finally found a guy to bring home for Laura. They will have dinner the next day.
  • Amanda is really happy. She starts getting all stressed out about what she will serve and cleaning the house.
  • Then she asks Tom about his friend. Amanda really wants Laura to get married.
  • Tom tells her not to blow it out of proportion. Amanda thinks that Laura will be meeting her future husband. Tom just invited his friend over to hang out and eat dinner.
  • Tom doesn’t expect too much because he tells Amanda that guys would be turned off by Laura because she’s weird.

SCENE 6

  • Tom talks about his friend that he’s bringing home to meet Laura. The guy is Jim O’Connor.
  • Tom says that when Jim was in high school, he was a really cool dude. He was like Mr. Perfect, good at everything and popular. Unfortunately the guy has a lame job.
  • They all wait for Jim to come. Laura has some sexy dress on and Amanda has cleaned the house.
  • Amanda also wears a sexy dress because she is slutty and thinks that if Laura doesn’t hook up with him, she will.
  • Right before Jim arrives, Amanda tells Laura who the guy coming to dinner is. Laura recognizes the name and gets all scared because she’s shy.
  • Jim finally shows up. Amanda tells Laura to answer the door. Laura answers the door then hides.
  • Jim comes in and starts talking to Tom about work. He tells Tom that the boss doesn’t like Tom and might fire him because he is a lazy slacker.
  • Tom doesn’t care because he wants to quit and go somewhere else.
  • Tom says he’s going to join the marines.
  • Amanda comes in to talk to Jim. She is wearing her sexy dress and Tom is surprised. She tells him that Laura is feeling sick — she’s hiding because she’s shy.

SCENE 7

  • They eat dinner and the power goes out because Tom hasn’t paid the electric bill. Amanda gives Jim a candle and tells him to go check on Laura. Amanda is happy because Jim and Laura are finally alone.
  • Jim and Laura talk. Jim does all the talking and Laura just sits there.
  • Then they talk about their high school days (they were classmates) and how great Jim was.
  • Then Jim says he’s upset because he was great but ended up with a bad job.
  • They talk more and Laura finds out that Jim broke up with his high school sweetheart a long time ago. Now she is happy.
  • Then Jim talks to Laura about her self-esteem. He tells her that she should feel better about herself and have more confidence.
  • Then Jim and Laura dance. They dance and bump into a shelf. One of Laura’s glass animals (Unicorn) falls and the horn snaps off.
  • Now that Laura has a new perspective on life (thanks to Jim) she’s normal like other girls.
  • Jim apologizes for breaking it but Laura doesn’t get mad.
  • Jim kisses Laura but realizes it was a mistake right away.
  • Jim kinda likes Laura but he is engaged. He feels guilty that he led her on. So he tells her that he has a fiancée and that he can’t date Laura.
  • He leaves and Laura gives him the unicorn as a gift.
  • Then Amanda finds out that he is engaged. She gets really pissed and yells at Tom. She accuses him of tricking Laura on purpose by not telling her Jim was engaged.
  • Tom apologizes and tells her he had no idea. She is still pissed, so Tom takes off. He gets fired from his job and then leaves home.
  • Then the story goes back to the present where Tom is a marine now thinking back about his family.
    He tells the audience that he thinks about his sister a lot.

THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART

  • There is a lot of symbolism in this play. The glass menagerie itself has deeper meanings.
  • Amanda lives in a fantasy world. She is one of those people that cannot see bad things ahead and believes everything will be all right. Even though her daughter, Laura, is screwed up, Amanda thinks she’ll be okay because she’s going to typing school. Amanda also thinks that Jim will save Laura from her pathetic life.
  • Laura is another person living in a fantasy world. Since she is disabled, she’s different. By shutting out the rest of the world, the glass menagerie becomes her reality.
  • There are a lot references to light in the play -- the Wingfields lose their power, and the menagerie reflects light. This could suggest that inside the imaginary worlds, all is light and shiny, but that outside, things are dark.
  • Think of how trapped all the characters are – either in their own heads or in the house or in some lame job. They are like the glass animals, all in cages of their own.