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Analysis of Tennessee Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie": summary and reviews
Analysis of Tennessee Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie": summary and reviews

Peru the outstanding American playwright and prose writer, winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize Tennessee Williams (full name - Thomas Lanier (Tennessee) Williams III) owns the play "The Glass Menagerie" (The Glass Menagerie).

At the time of writing this work, the author was quite young - he was 33 years old. The play was staged in Chicago in 1944 and was a resounding success. Reviews of "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams were so numerous that the author quickly became famous. This served as a good springboard for him to start a successful writing career.

Tennessee Williams

Very soon, the remarks of the characters of the "Glass Menagerie" were already heard in the theater on Broadway, and, having received the New York Theater Critics Circle Award "for the best play of the season",the play began to be considered a hit.

The further fate of this work was also successful - many times it went on the stage and was filmed.

This article provides a summary of Williams' The Glass Menagerie and an analysis of the play.


This work is not accidentally designated by the author as a "memory play", that is, it is partly written on autobiographical material. It can be said that the Wingfield family depicted in the play is "written off" from the playwright's own family, in which he grew up. Among the characters there is a mother prone to fits of anger, and a sister with depression, and even an absent, but as if invisibly influencing the fate of the protagonist, father.

Illusions or reality - which is more important? To understand this, the main character will have to make his choice. The existential theme of the uniqueness of each human being is one of the main ones in the play.

At the same time, according to reviews of "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams by modern critics, the material from an emotional point of view is not yet presented with such force as in subsequent works of the playwright. In fact, this is only the first, rather timid attempt.

Title of the play

The author called the glass menagerie a collection of figurines that the hero's sister Laura collects. According to Williams, these few glass figurines were supposed to symbolize the fragility, playfulness, illusory life in which the characters, members of the Wingfield family, live.

Symbolic unicorn

Mother and sister are so good"hidden" in this glass world, absorbed by it, that themselves, indulging in self-deception, become fake, and have no desire to think about the goals and tasks that reality sets before them.

"The Glass Menagerie" as an Experimental Play

So, the play is called a memory play. In a brief summary of the "Glass Menagerie" we mention the introductory word of the narrator. He says that memories are an unstable thing, everyone has their own, so some, when staged, should be muffled depending on its significance for the rememberer, and some, on the contrary, should be presented brightly and convexly. To emphasize the importance of individual memories, the author at the beginning of the play explained by what means this artistic task can be achieved.

From the point of view of the textual material, the play "The Glass Menagerie" contains many remarks, which is not typical for a regular dramatic work.

The designation of time is also unusual: "now and in the past." It means that the monologue is worn out by the narrator at the present time and talks about the past.


At the stage, according to Tennessee Williams, a screen should be installed on which a special lantern will project various images and inscriptions. Actions must be accompanied by a "single repeated melody". This is the so-called through music, which serves to emotionally enhance what is happening.

To accentuate events on the hero who is on the stage, a beam of light should fall.If there are several characters, the light spot will highlight the one whose emotional stress is stronger.

Scene from the play

All these violations of tradition, according to Williams, should prepare the emergence of a new plastic theater,

…which should replace the exhausted theater of realistic traditions.

Main character

Tom Wingfield, the protagonist and "narrator of the play" is a

…a poet who works in a store. By nature, he is not insensitive, but in order to get out of the trap, he is forced to act without pity.

The hero lives in St. Louis and works for the Continental Shoes Company. This work torments him. More than anything in the world he would have dreamed of dropping everything and leaving as far as possible. There, far away, he would live his life, doing only writing poetry. But this plan is impossible to implement: he has to earn money to support his mother and sister with a disability. After all, after their father left them, Tom became the sole breadwinner of the family.

To forget from the oppressive dreary everyday life, the hero often spends time in cinemas and reading books. These activities are severely criticized by his mother.

Other characters

There are only four characters in the play besides Tom Wingfield. This is:

  • Amanda Wingfield (his mother).
  • Laura (his sister).
  • A significant character for the development of the plot is Jim O'Connor, a visitor, an acquaintance of Tom.

Let's give the characteristics of these characters, according to the text of the play andthe author's own remarks.

Scene from "The Glass Menagerie"

Laura, Tom's sister. Due to illness, the girl's legs have become of different lengths, so she feels uncomfortable in the company of strangers. Her hobby is a glass figurine collection located on a bookcase in her room. Only among them she is not so alone.

Regarding the image of Tom's mother, Amanda, the author gives the following explanation:

A small woman of enormous but erratic vitality, clinging furiously to another time and place. Her role must be carefully crafted, not copied from an established pattern. She's not paranoid, but her life is full of paranoia. There is much to admire in her; she is funny in many ways, but she can be loved and pitied. Of course, her fortitude is akin to heroism, and although sometimes her stupidity unwittingly makes her cruel, tenderness is always visible in her weak soul.

The narrator himself calls his father the last and inactive character - in the photo. He once left his family "for fantastic adventures".

Summary. Part One

It's called "Waiting for a Visitor".

Narrated by Tom, who appears and moves across the stage towards the fire exit. He says that his story turns back the clock, and his speech will be about America in the 30s.

The play begins in the living room of the apartment where Tom lives with his mother and sister. The mother looks forward to the fact that the son is about to build his career in a shoe company, and the daughter will marry favorably.She does not want to see that Laura is unsociable and is not going to seek love, and Tom hates his job. True, the mother tried to enroll her daughter in typing courses, but this work turned out to be beyond Laura's strength.

Amanda Wingfield

Then mother turned her dreams towards a good marriage and asked Tom to introduce Laura to a decent young man. He invites Jim O'Connor, his colleague and only friend.

Second part

In the summary of the "Glass Menagerie" we will mention the name of the second part - "The Visitor Comes". It starts from the sixth scene. Although this division for the play is conditional: after all, the whole work is a monologue of the narrator, that is, Tom himself.

Laura immediately recognizes Jim - she remembers him from school. Once she was in love with him. He played basketball and sang in school plays. To this day, she keeps his photograph.

And shaking Jim's hand at the meeting, the girl is so embarrassed that she runs to her room.

Under a plausible excuse, Amanda sends Jim to her daughter's room. There, Laura confesses to the young man that they have known each other for a long time. And Jim, who has completely forgotten about this strange girl, whom he once called the Blue Rose, remembers her. Thanks to Jim's benevolence and charm, a conversation is struck up between them. Jim sees how awkward the girl is and how insecure she is, and tries to convince her that her lameness is completely invisible. Don't think she's the worst.

Laura and Jim

Note in the summary of the "Glass Menagerie"Tennessee Williams the climax of the play: a timid hope appears in Laura's heart. Trusting her, the girl shows Jim her treasures - glass figurines standing on a bookcase.

W altz sounds are heard from the restaurant opposite, Jim invites Laura to dance, and the young people begin to dance. Jim compliments Laura and kisses her. They hit one of the figures, it falls - it's a glass unicorn, and now its horn is broken off. The narrator emphasizes the symbolism of this loss - from a mythical character, the unicorn turned into an ordinary horse, one of many in the collection.

However, seeing that Laura is fascinated by him, Jim is frightened by her reaction and, in a hurry to leave, tells the girl common truths - that she will be fine, you just need to believe in yourself and so on. Saddened, deceived in her dreams, the girl gives him a unicorn as a memento of this evening.


Amanda appears. Her whole appearance exudes confidence that the groom for Laura has been found, and it's almost on the ointment. However, Jim, saying that he needs to hurry to meet the bride at the station, takes his leave. In the summary of Williams' "Glass Menagerie", we especially note Amanda's ability to restrain her emotions: smiling, she escorts Jim and closes the door behind him. And only after that she gives vent to her emotions and, furious, rushes at her son with reproaches that, they say, what was the dinner and such expenses for, if the candidate is busy, etc. But Tom is no less furious. Tired of constantly listening to his mother's reproaches, he also yells at her and runs away.

Book "Glass Menagerie"

Silently, as if through glass, the viewer sees Amanda comforting her daughter. In the form of a mother

…stupidity disappears and dignity and tragic beauty emerge.

And Laura looks at her and blows out the candles. So the play is over.


Giving a summary of Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie", it is necessary to note the importance of the final scene. In it, the narrator reports that shortly after that he was fired from his job - for a poem that he wrote on a shoe box. And Tom left St. Louis and went on a journey.

When analyzing W. Tennessee's play "The Glass Menagerie", it is worth noting that Tom acts exactly like his father. That is why, at the beginning of the play, he appears to the audience in the form of a sailor of a merchant ship.

And yet the past in the form of a sister haunts him:

Oh Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind; I'm more faithful to you than I would like!

His imagination once again draws the image of his sister blowing out the candle: "Blow out your candles, Laura - and goodbye," Tom says sadly.

We have provided an analysis, summary and reviews of the "Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams.

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