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The Glass Menagerie
Literapedia Book Notes for
The Glass Menagerie
by Tennessee Williams
(the mother)--“A little woman of great but confused vitality clinging frantically to another place and time....There is much to admire in Amanda, and as much to love and pity as there is to laugh at. Certainly she has endurance and a kind of heroism, and though her foolishness makes her unwittingly cruel at times, there is tenderness in her slight person.”
(her daughter)--“A childhood illness has left her crippled, one leg slightly shorter than the other, and held in a brace....Stemming from this, Laura’s separation increases till she is like a piece of her own glass collection, too exquisitely fragile to move from the shelf.”
(her son)--“And the narrator of the play. A poet with a job in a warehouse. His nature is not remorseless, but to escape from a trap he has to act without pity.”
(the gentleman caller)--“A nice, ordinary, young man.”
A “transparent fourth wall” of a tenement apartment rises to reveal where the Wingfield family lives. In front is the living room, behind it is the dining room, and stage left is the fire escape. The play begins in “memory” and changes to an evening meal. Tom, as narrator, sets the scene and introduces the photograph of his father, who abandoned the family. The family sits at the table, and Amanda harasses Tom. Amanda has a soliloquy reminiscing about the gentlemen callers she had as a girl. As she clears the table, Laura observes that she is not as popular as her mother had been.
Amanda returns from a trip to a D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) meeting and confronts Laura with the fact that Laura hasn’t been attending classes at Rubicam’s Business College. Laura admits that she has been pretending to go to class but actually spent her time walking in the park. Laura tells her mother about Jim O’Connor.
Tom narrates the passing of time and Amanda’s becoming consumed with procuring Laura a “gentleman caller.” Amanda attempts to sell magazines by phone. As Laura watches, Amanda and Tom fight about what Tom reads and how Tom spends all of his time at the movies. Tom accidentally breaks one of Laura’s glass figurines.
Tom comes home late from the movies and a magic show. In the morning Laura urges Tom to make up with Amanda, and he does after Laura leaves for the store. Tom tries to explain his desire for adventure, and Amanda convinces him to try to help get Laura married by bringing home an eligible bachelor from the warehouse.
Tom muses over the moon, the Paradise Dance Hall, and the coming war. Tom tells Amanda that he has invited a fellow worker at the warehouse, Jim O’Connor, over for dinner. Amanda asks for details and becomes excited at the prospects. Tom tries to tell Amanda that Laura is “peculiar” and then leaves. Amanda makes Laura wish upon a star.
Tom, as narrator, describes Jim. Amanda tells Laura about gentlemen callers. Tom and Jim arrive home, Laura answers the door, and dinner finally begins with a nervous Laura stretched on the sofa in the living room.
Dinner ends as the electricity is cut off. Tom and Amanda go to the kitchen to clean up, and Jim goes to the living room to talk to Laura. Jim recognizes Laura and decides her trouble is her inferiority complex. Laura shows him her glass figurine collection. Jim dances with Laura and accidentally jostles the table, breaking the horn off her unicorn. Jim tells her she’s beautiful and kisses her, and then he tell s her he’s engaged and leaves. Tom, as narrator, ends the play as the scene focuses on Amanda and Laura.
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