Study Guide

The Glass Menagerie Quotes

  • Freedom and Confinement

    The Wingfield apartment is in the rear of the building, one of those vast hive-like conglomerations of cellular living-units that flower as warty growths in overcrowded urban centers of lower middle-class populations and are symptomatic of the impulse of this largest and fundamentally enslaved section of American society to avoid fluidity and differentiation and to exist and function as one interfused mass of automatism. (stage directions, 1.1)

    Williams uses a description of the setting to establish the prison-like feel the Wingfield apartment takes on for Tom.

    The apartment faces an alley and is entered by a fire escape, a structure whose name is a touch of accidental poetic truth, for all of these large buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation. The fire escape is part of what we see - that is, the landing of it and steps descending from it. (stage directions, 1.2)

    The fire escape attached to the apartment speaks to Tom’s desired escape from the family.

    "A blown-up photograph of the father hangs on the wall of the living room, to the left of the archway. It is the face of a very handsome young man in a doughboy's First World War cap. He is gallantly smiling, ineluctably smiling, as if to say "I will be smiling forever." (stage directions, Scene One).

    While Tom is at first presented as confined to the Wingfield apartment, his father has already made the escape that Tom will later make (unsuccessfully) himself.

    Tom enters, dressed as a merchant sailor, and strolls across to the fire escape. There he stops and lights a cigarette. He addresses the audience. (stage directions, Scene One).

    Tom’s attire at the outset of the play highlights his having escaped – from the apartment and the family.

    There is a fifth character in the play who doesn't appear except in this larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel. This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances; he gave up his job with the telephone company and skipped the light fantastic out of town…

    The last we heard of him was a picture postcard from Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, containing a message of two words: "Hello - Goodbye!" and no address. (1.1, Tom).

    Tom’s father displays no guilt at having made his escape from the family.

    Tom speaks from the fire escape landing. (Scene Three, stage directions.)

    Tom the narrator often speaks from the fire escape, emphasizing that, at the time he tells the story, he is no longer confined to the apartment and family.

    "Look! I’ve got no thing, no single thing…

    …in my life that I can call my OWN! Everything is…

    …Yesterday you confiscated my books!" (3.11, 3.13, 3.15, Tom).

    Tom feels confined not only because of his job and position as breadwinner, but because of Amanda’s added restrictions on his life.

    "House, house! Who pays rent on it, who makes a slave of himself to—" (3.17, Tom).

    Tom uses hyperbole to emphasize the overwhelming sense of imprisonment he feels.

    "What do you think I’m at? Aren’t I supposed to have any patience to reach the end of, Mother? I know, I know. It seems unimportant to you, what I’m doing – what I want to do – having a little difference between them!" (3.30, Tom).

    Tom is trapped not only by his confining situation, but also by his mother’s inability to recognize his desires.

    "Listen! You think I’m crazy about the warehouse? [He bends fiercely toward her slight figure.] You think I’m in love with Continental Shoemakers? You think that I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that – celotex interior! with—fluorescent—tubes! Look! I’d rather somebody packed up a crowbar and battered out my brains—than go back mornings! I go! Every time you come in yelling that Goddamn ‘Rise and Shine! Rise and Shine!’ I say to myself, ‘How lucky dead people are!’ But I get up. I go! For sixty-five dollars a month I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever! And you say self—self’s all I ever think of! Why, listen, if self is what I thought of, Mother, I’d be where he is—GONE! [He points to his father’s picture.] As far as the system of transportation reaches!" (3.34, Tom).

    Tom uses hyperbole to emphasize the overwhelming sense of imprisonment he feels.

    "Where have you been all this time?"

    "I have been to the movies."

    "All this time at the movies?"

    "There was a very long program. There was a Garbo picture and a Mickey Mouse and a travelogue and a newsreel and a preview of coming attractions. And there was an organ solo and a collection for the Milk Fund—simultaneously—which ended up in a terrible fight between a fat lady and an usher!" (4.7).

    Just as Laura uses the glass menagerie as a means of escape from reality, so Tom uses the movies.

    "And, oh, I forgot! There was a big stage show! The headliner on this stage show was Malvolio the Magician…But the wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and hr got out of the coffin without removing one nail. There is trick that would come in handy for me—get me out of this two-by-four situation!

    […] "You know it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who the hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?" (4.9, 4.13, Tom).

    Tom recognizes that to escape from his own coffin of his job, apartment, and family obligations, he would have to upset his surroundings.

    "And you-when I see you taking after his ways! Staying out late-and-well, you had been drinking the night you were in that-terrifying condition! Laura says that you hate the apartment and that you go out nights to get away from it! Is that true, Tom?" (4.63, Amanda).

    Laura recognizes Tom’s desires more clearly than does Amanda.

    "But why—why, Tom—are you always so restless? Where do you go to, nights?

    "I—go to the movies."

    "Why do you go to the movies so much, Tom?"

    "I go to the movies because—I like adventure. Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies." (4.65-4.68).

    Tom seeks from the movies what his own life lacks, and thus uses them as a means to escape from the confines of his daily goings-on.

    "Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse!" (4.76, Tom).

    Tom seeks escape to the life he believes he was meant to lead.

    "Across the alley from us was the Paradise Dance Hall. On evenings in the spring the windows and doors were open and the music came outdoors. Sometimes the lights were turned out except for a large glass sphere that hung from the ceiling. It would turn rather slowly about and filter the dusk with delicate rainbow colors. Then the orchestra would play a waltz or a tango, something that had a slow and sensuous rhythm. Couples would come outside, to the relative privacy of the alley. You would see them kissing behind ash pits and telephone poles. This was the compensation for lives that passed like mine, without any change or adventure. Adventure and change were imminent this year. They were waiting around the corner for all these kids. Suspended in the mist over Berchtesgaden, caught in the folds of Chamberlain’s umbrella. In Spain there was Guernica. But here there was only hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars, and movies, and sex that hung in the gloom like a chandelier and flooded the world with brief, deceptive rainbows…All the world was waiting for bombardments! (5.10, Tom).

    Tom recognizes that many others, not just he himself, use dancing and movies as a means to escape the reality of their own lives.

    "You and me, we’re not the warehouse type." (6.84, Jim).

    Jim and Tom find camaraderie in their both wanting to escape.

    "I’m planning to change." [He leans over the fire-escape rail, speaking with quiet exhilaration. The incandescent marquees and signs of the first-run movie houses light his face from across the alley. He looks like a voyager.] "I’m right at the point of committing myself to a future that doesn’t include the warehouse and Mr. Mendoza or even a night-school course in public speaking." (6.110, Tom, Scene Six stage directions).

    Tom plots his escape well in advance; therefore his abandoning the family is a pre-meditated act, not something executed in the heat of an argument.

    "Yes, movies! Look at them—[a wave toward the marvels of Grand Avenue]. All of those glamorous people—having adventures—hogging it all, gobbling the whole thing up! You know what happens? People go to the movies instead of moving! Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them! Yes, until there’s a war. That’s when adventure becomes available to the masses! Everyone’s dish, not only Gable’s! Then the people in the dark room come out of the dark room to have some adventures themselves—goody, goody! It’s our turn now, to go to the South Sea Island—to make a safari—to be exotic, far off! But I’m not patient. I don’t want to wait till then. I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move! (6.114, Tom).

    Tom is so dissatisfied at his confinement that he would even prefer war to staying at home.

    "I’m starting to boil inside. I know I seem dreamy, but inside—well, I’m boiling! Whenever I pick up a shoe, I shudder a little thinking how short life is and what am I doing! Whatever that means, I know it doesn’t mean shoes—except as something to wear on a traveler’s feet!" (6.120, Tom).

    Tom describes his desire to escape in a way that makes him sound a victim helpless to his impulses, rather than a conscious, decision-making adult.

    Tom smashes his glass on the floor. He plunges out on the fire escape, slamming the door. Laura screams in fright. The dance-hall music becomes louder. Tom stands on the fire escape, gripping the rail. The moon breaks through the storm clouds, illuminating his face. (Scene Seven, stage directions.)

    Tom spends a lot of time on the fire escape, foreshadowing his eventual departure.

    "I didn’t go to the moon – I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two poles. Not long after that I was fired for writing a poem on the lid of a shoe-box. I left St. Louis. I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space." (7.321, Tom).

    Although they differ in their emotional responses to escape, Tom makes it clear that he left the Wingfield apartment in much the same way his father did.

    "Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest anything-anything that can blow your candles out! For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura-and so, goodbye… (7.321, Tom).

    Although he is able to literally escape the Wingfield apartment, Tom is never able to completely escape the ties of his familial obligations to Laura.

  • Duty

    A blown-up photograph of the father hangs on the wall of the living room, to the left of the archway. It is the face of a very handsome young man in a doughboy's First World War cap. He is gallantly smiling, ineluctably smiling, as if to say "I will be smiling forever." (stage directions, Scene One).

    Unlike Tom, Tom’s father seems to have shirked his responsibilities without thought or regret.

    "There is a fifth character in the play who doesn't appear except in this larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel. This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances; he gave up his job with the telephone company and skipped the light fantastic out of town…

    The last we heard of him was a picture postcard from Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, containing a message of two words: "Hello - Goodbye!" and no address." (1.1, Tom).

    Again, Tom’s father doesn’t seem to regret abandoning his family.

    "They knew how to entertain their gentlemen callers. It wasn't enough for a girl to be possessed of a pretty face and a graceful figure - although I wasn't slighted in either respect. She also needed to have a nimble wit and a tongue to meet all occasions." (1.27, Amanda).

    Amanda believes that, while men have the responsibility of bringing home money, women, too, have duties to fulfill.

    "I know so well what becomes of unmarried woman who aren't prepared to occupy a position. I've seen such pitiful cases in the South - barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister's husband or brother's wife! - stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room - encouraged by one in-law to visit another - little birdlike women without any nest - eating the crust of humility all their life!

    Is that the future that we've mapped out for ourselves? I swear it's the only alternative I can think of! [She pauses.] It isn't a very pleasant alternative, is it? [She pauses again.] Of course - some girls do marry." (2.34, Amanda).

    Amanda believes it is a woman’s duty to marry.

    "House, house! Who pays rent on it, who makes a slave of himself to—" (3.17, Tom).

    Tom makes it clear that he is fulfilling his responsibilities at the moment.

    "What right have you got to jeopardize your job? Jeopardize the security of us all? How do you think we’d manage if you were—" (3.33, Amanda)

    Amanda believes that, since her husband left, Tom is responsible for their family.

    She crosses through the portieres and draws them together behind her. Tom is left with Laura. Laura clings weakly to the mantel with her face averted. Tom stares at her stupidly for a moment. Then he crosses to the shelf. He drops awkwardly on his knees to collect the fallen glass, glancing at Laura as if he would speak but couldn't. (Scene Three, stage directions).

    Even when he is fighting with their mother, Tom never wavers in his care for Laura. This is one duty he never fails to fulfill.

    Tom glances sheepishly but sullenly at her averted figure and slumps at the table…Tom blows on his coffee, glancing sidewise at his mother. She clears her throat. Tom clears his throat…

    [hoarsely]: "Mother. I—I apologize, Mother." (Scene Four stage directions, 4.32, Tom).

    Tom’s responsibility is not only to support the family financially, but to hold it together emotionally.

    "I’ve had to put up a solitary battle all these years. But you’re my right-hand bower! Don’t fall down, don’t fail!" (4.37, Amanda).

    Amanda places the responsibility on Tom to hold the family together.

    "We have to do all that we can to build ourselves up. In these trying times we live in, all that we have to cling to is-each other…" (4.51, Amanda).

    Amanda believes that all members of the family have an obligation to each other

    "However, you do act strangely. I—I’m not criticizing, understand that! I know your ambitions do not lie in the warehouse, that like everybody in the whole wide world—you’ve had to—make sacrifices, but—Tom—Tom—life’s not easy, it calls for—Spartan endurance!" (4.61).

    Amanda believes that duty and responsibility are more important than one’s own dreams.

    "Oh, I can see the handwriting on the wall as plain as I can see the nose in front of my face! It's terrifying! More and more you remind me of your father! He was out all hours without explanation!-Then left! Goodbye! And me with the bag to hold. I saw that letter you got from the Merchant Marine. I know what you're dreaming of. I'm not standing here blindfolded. Very well, then. Then do it! But not till there's somebody to take your place." (4.91, Amanda).

    Amanda believes that duty and responsibility are more important than one’s own dreams.

    "I mean that as soon as Laura has got somebody to take care of her, married, a home of her own, independent-why, then you'll be free to go wherever you please, on land, on sea, whichever way the wind blows you! But until that time you've got to look out for your sister. I don't say me because I'm old and don't matter! I say for your sister because she's young and dependent." (4.93, Amanda).

    Amanda focuses on Tom’s obligation to his sister, rather than to herself.

    "What can I do about it?"

    "Overcome selfishness! Self, self, self, is that all you ever think of?" (4.94, 4.95, Tom and Amanda).

    Amanda constantly berates Tom for his dreams and ambitions.

    "We are going to have one."

    "What?"

    "A gentleman caller!" (5. 30-5.32).

    Tom fulfills the family duty of bringing home a man for Laura.

    "You don’t have to make any fuss."

    "Oh, Tom, Tom, Tom, of course I have to make a fuss! I want things nice. not sloppy! Not thrown together. I’ll certainly have to do some fast thinking, won’t I?"



    "You just don’t know. We can’t have a gentleman caller in a pigsty! All my wedding silver has to be polished, the monogrammed table linen ought to be laundered! The windows have to be washed and fresh curtains put up. And how about clothes? We have to wear something, don’t we?" (5.57, 5.59, Amanda).

    While Amanda believes it is Tom’s duty to bring home money, she takes on for herself many home-related tasks.

    "I paid my dues this month, instead of the light bill."

    "You will regret it when they turn the lights off."

    "I won’t be here." (6. 124-6.126, Tom and Jim).

    In contrast to Amanda’s selflessness, Tom at moments does indeed appear to be selfish.

    "That’s right, now that you’ve had us all make such fools of ourselves. The effort, the preparations, all the expense! The new floor lamp, the rug, the clothes for Laura! All for what? To entertain some other girl’s fiancé! Go to the movies, go! Don’t think about us, an unmarried sister who’s crippled and has no job! Don’t let anything interfere with your selfish pleasure! Just go, go, go—to the movies!" (7.319, Amanda).

    Because Jim was engaged, Amanda believes that Tom has failed to fulfill his obligations to the family.

    "GO, then! Go to the moon—you selfish dreamer!" (7.320, Amanda).

    Amanda views even the small pleasure of going out at night as a selfish endeavor.

    "Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest anything-anything that can blow your candles out! For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura-and so, goodbye… (7.321, Tom).

    Although he tries to escape his responsibility to his family through geographical distance, Tom never escapes the chains of family obligation.

  • Family

    "A blown-up photograph of the father hangs on the wall of the living room, to the left of the archway. It is the face of a very handsome young man in a doughboy's First World War cap. He is gallantly smiling, ineluctably smiling, as if to say, "I will be smiling forever." (stage directions, Scene One).

    Although he is absent physically, Tom and Laura’s father remains an ever-present member of the family.

    There is a fifth character in the play who doesn't appear except in this larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel. This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances; he gave up his job with the telephone company and skipped the light fantastic out of town…

    The last we heard of him was a picture postcard from Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, containing a message of two words: "Hello – Goodbye!" and no address. (1.1, Tom).

    Tom’s father has failed to fit the traditional role of father in the Wingfield family.

    "Honey, don't push with your fingers. If you have to push something, the thing to push with is a crust of bread. And chew - chew! Animals have secretions in their stomach which enable them to digest food without mastication, but human beings are supposed to chew their food before they swallow it down. Eat food leisurely, son, and really enjoy it. A well-cooked meal has lots of delicate flavors that have to be held in the mouth for appreciation. So chew your food and give your salivary glands a chance to function!" (1.6, Amanda).

    Amanda takes on an extremely mothering role towards her children, treating them as though they were still young.

    "I haven't enjoyed one bite of this dinner because of your constant directions on how to eat it. It's you that make me rush through meals with your hawklike attention to every bite I take. Sickening - spoils my appetite - all this discussion of - animals' secretion - salivary glands - mastication!" (1.7, Tom).

    Tom rebels against Amanda’s mothering as though he were a young child.

    "You smoke too much." (1.10, Amanda). Amanda constantly harps on Tom with orders and complaints.

    "I know what’s coming!"

    `"Yes, but let her tell it."

    "Again?"

    "She loves to tell it."

    (1.17-1.20, Tom and Laura).

    Laura has a great understanding of her mother and brothers, and often serves as referee between them.

    "It isn’t a flood, it’s not a tornado, Mother. I’m just not popular like you were in Blue Mountain." (1.38, Laura).

    Laura and Amanda, because of their roles as mother and daughter, are often compared.

    Seeing her mother’s expression, Laura touches her lips with a nervous gesture. (Scene Two, stage directions).

    Laura feels guilty for being unable to please her mother.

    "Oh! I felt so weak I could barely keep on my feet! I had to sit down while they got me a glass of water! Fifty dollars' tuition, all of our plans - my hopes and ambitions for you - just gone up the spout, just gone up the spout like that." (2.16, Amanda).

    Amanda fails in her attempts to mold her children as she desires.

    "Mother, when you’re disappointed, you get that awful suffering look on your face, like the picture of Jesus’ mother in the museum!" (2.31, Laura).

    Laura often displays her insight into her mother’s moods and actions.

    [in a tone of frightened apology]: "I'm crippled!"

    "Nonsense, Laura, I've told you never, never to use that word. Why, you're not crippled, you just have a little defect - hardly noticeable, even! When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to make up for it - develop charm - and vivacity - and - charm! That's all you have to do!" (2.47-2.50, Laura and Amanda).

    Amanda has a mother’s unconditional love for her children, so much so that she is unable to see anything wrong with her daughter.

    "Don’t you use that—"

    "—supposed to do!"

    "—expression, Not in my—"

    "Ohhh!"

    "—presence! Have you gone out of your senses?"

    "I have, that’s true, driven out!" (3.4-3.9, Amanda and Tom).

    Tom and Amanda frequently argue in stereotypical yelling matches of mother and son.

    "You will hear more, you—"

    "No, I won’t hear more, I’m going out!"

    "You come right back in—"

    "Out, out, out! Because I’m—"

    "Come back here, Tom Wingfield! I’m not through talking to you!"

    "Oh, go—"

    [desperately]: "--Tom!" (3.22-3.28, Amanda, Tom, and Laura).

    Laura watches helplessly as Tom and Amanda fight with each other.

    She crosses through the portieres and draws them together behind her. Tom is left with Laura. Laura clings weakly to the mantel with her face averted. Tom stares at her stupidly for a moment. Then he crosses to the shelf. He drops awkwardly on his knees to collect the fallen glass, glancing at Laura as if he would speak but couldn’t. (Scene Three, stage directions).

    Even while he is fighting with his mother, Tom maintains family loyalty and love for his sister.

    [beseechingly]: "Tom, speak to Mother this morning. Make up with her, apologize, speak to her!" (4.16, Laura)

    Laura frequently tries to intervene in Tom and Amanda’s fights.

    A second later she cries out. Tom springs up and crosses to the door. Tom opens the door.

    "Laura?"

    "I'm all right. I slipped, but I'm all right." (Scene Four stage directions, 4.29, 4.30, Tom and Laura).

    Tom displays a brotherly concern and protective attitude toward his sister Laura.

    [hoarsely]: "Mother. I—I apologize, Mother."

    Amanda draws a quick, shuddering breath. Her face works grotesquely. She breaks into childlike tears.

    "I’m sorry for what I said, for everything that I said, I didn’t mean it."

    [sobbingly]: "My devotion has made me a witch and so I make myself hateful to my children!" (4.32, Tom, Scene Four stage directions, 4.33, Amanda).

    Amanda struggles with doing what she believes is best for her children.

    [with great enthusiasm]: "Try and you will succeed! [The notion makes her breathless.] Why, you – you’re just full of natural endowments! Both of my children—they’re unusual children! Don’t you think I know it? I’m so—proud! Happy and—feel I’ve—so much to be thankful for…" (4.39, Amanda).

    Amanda has a mother’s unconditional love for her children, so much so that she is unable to see anything wrong with her children.

    "You can’t put in a day’s work on an empty stomach. You’ve got ten minutes—don’t gulp! Drinking too-hot liquids makes cancer of the stomach…Put cream in." (4.47, Amanda).

    Amanda, in her mothering, treats Tom as though he were a child.

    "We have to do all that we can to build ourselves up. In these trying times we live in, all that we have to cling to is—each other…" (4.51, Amanda).

    Amanda sees the family as a unit of support during tough times.

    "A few days ago I came in and she was crying."

    "What about?"

    "You."

    "Me?"

    "She has an idea that you’re not happy here." (4.55-4.59, Amanda and Tom).

    Just as Tom displays a brotherly concern for Laura, so she feels the same love and concern for her brother.

    "And you—when I see you taking after his ways! Staying out late—and—well, you had been drinking the night you were in that—terrifying condition! Laura says that you hate the apartment and that you go out nights to get away from it! Is that true, Tom?" (4.63, Amanda).

    While Amanda wants Laura to be more like she was, she fears that Tom will become like his father.

    "Oh, I can see the handwriting on the wall as plain as I can see the nose in front of my face! It's terrifying! More and more you remind me of your father! He was out all hours without explanation!-Then left! Goodbye! And me with the bag to hold. I saw that letter you got from the Merchant Marine. I know what you're dreaming of. I'm not standing here blindfolded. Very well, then. Then do it! But not till there's somebody to take your place." (4.91, Amanda).

    While Amanda wants Laura to be more like she was, she fears that Tom will become like his father.

    "I mean that as soon as Laura has got somebody to take care of her, married, a home of her own, independent-why, then you'll be free to go wherever you please, on land, on sea, whichever way the wind blows you! But until that time you've got to look out for your sister. I don't say me because I'm old and don't matter! I say for your sister because she's young and dependent." (4.93, Amanda).

    Despite all her nagging and otherwise unappealing qualities, Amanda displays a real selflessness with regard to her place in the Wingfield family.

    "Where is your muffler! Put your wool muffler on!" (4.95, Amanda).

    Amanda treats Tom as though he were a child.

    "There is only one respect in which I would like you to emulate your father."

    "What respect is that?"

    "The care he always took of his appearance. He never allowed himself to look untidy." (5.3-5.5, Amanda and Tom).

    Amanda repeatedly compares Tom to his father.

    "I'll tell you what I wished for on the moon. Success and happiness for my precious children! I wish for that whenever there's a moon, and when there isn't a moon, I wish for it, too." (5.23, Amanda).

    Amanda’s maternal instincts direct her every thought and desire.

    "What are you doing?"

    "I’m brushing that cowlick down! [She attacks his hair with the brush.] (5.82, 5.83, Tom and Amanda).

    Amanda treats Tom as though he were a child.

    "Laura seems all those things to you and me because she's ours and we love her. We don't even notice she's crippled anymore." (5.122, Tom).

    Tom recognizes that familial love can be blinding and misleading.

    "Laura Wingfield, you march right to that door!"

    "Yes—yes, Mother!" (6.60, 6.61, Amanda and Laura).

    Amanda orders and disciplines her children as though they were very young.

    "How about your mother?"

    "I'm like my father. The bastard son of a bastard! Did you notice how he's grinning in his picture in there? And he's been absent going in sixteen years!" (6.127, 6.128, Jim and Tom).

    Tom recognizes that he has become similar to his father.

    "That's right, now that you've had us all make such fools of ourselves. The effort, the preparations, all the expense! The new floor lamp, the rug, the clothes for Laura! All for what? To entertain some other girl's fiancé! Go to the movies, go! Don't think about us, an unmarried sister who's crippled and has no job! Don't let anything interfere with your selfish pleasure! Just go, go, go-to the movies!" (7.319, Amanda).

    Amanda believes that being a member of a family generates certain obligations.

    Tom’s closing speech is timed with what is happening inside the house. We see, as though through soundproof glass, that Amanda appears to be making a comforting speech to Laura, who is huddled upon the sofa. Now that we cannot hear the mother’s speech, she lifts her head to smile at her mother. Amanda’s gestures are slow and graceful, almost dance-like, as she comforts her daughter. At the end of the speech she glances a moment at the father’s picture—then withdraws through the portieres. At the close of Tom’s speech, Laura blows out the candles, ending the play.

    Although Amanda often nags and bother her children, her very maternal instincts take on a positive light in the direst of circumstances

    "I didn't go to the moon - I went much further-for time is the longest distance between two poles. Not long after that I was fired for writing a poem on the lid of a shoe-box. I left St. Louis. I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father's footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space." (7.321, Tom).

    Tom recognizes that he is like his father.

    "Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger-anything that can blow your candles out! For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura--and so, goodbye… (7.321, Tom).

    Tom is unable to relieve the guilt of having abandoned his sister.

  • Memory and the Past

    The audience hears and sees the opening scene in the dining room through both the transparent fourth wall of the building and the transparent gauze portieres of the dining-room arch. It is during this revealing scene that the fourth wall slowly ascends, out of sight. This transparent exterior wall is not brought down again until the very end of the play, during Tom's final speech. (Stage directions, Scene One).

    Williams uses many visual devices to create a scene of memory, rather than live action or fact.

    Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things u p my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion. (1.1, Tom).

    It is interesting that Tom claims that his altered memory scene is truth in the disguise of illusion, since all of Amanda’s reminiscence of the past is illusion in a mask of truth. This begs the question as to how accurately this narrator Tom is revealing his story.

    A blown-up photograph of the father hangs on the wall of the living room, to the left of the archway. It is the face of a very handsome young man in a doughboy's First World War cap. He is gallantly smiling, ineluctably smiling, as if to say "I will be smiling forever." (stage directions, Scene One).

    Just as the portrait of Amanda’s husband hangs in the house, so does the past (when he was there in person) hover over the present of the play.

    To begin with, I turn back time. I reverse it to that quaint period, the thirties, where the huge middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind. Their eyes had failed them, or they had failed their eyes, and so they were having their fingers pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille alphabet of a dissolving economy. (1.1, Tom).

    Because of the narrative nature of the play, issues of the past and future necessarily dominate.

    Legend on screen: "Ou sont les neiges." (Scene One, stage directions).

    The legend reading, "Where are the snows of yesteryear," in French underscores Amanda’s longing for the past.

    To begin with, I turn back time. I reverse it to that quaint period, the thirties, where the huge middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind. Their eyes had failed them, or they had failed their eyes, and so they were having their fingers pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille alphabet of a dissolving economy. (1.1, Tom).

    The elaborate and flowery descriptions in the play can be attributed to the nature of its narrator, Tom, who recalls the scenes, poeticized, from his memory.

    The play is memory. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic. In memory everything seems to happen to music. That explains the fiddle in the wings. (1.1, Tom).

    Williams uses light to emphasize the subjective and memory nature of the play.

    The scene is memory and therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart. The interior is therefore rather dim and poetic. (stage directions, 1.3)

    The nature of memory is not only a central theme in the play itself, but also dictates the way in which the play is presented to the audience.

    "Sometimes they come when they are least expected! Why, I remember one Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain-" (1.16, Amanda).

    To Amanda, memory has a detrimental effect, dragging her away from reality to live in the past.

    "One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain - your mother received - seventeen! - gentlemen callers! Why, sometimes there weren't enough chairs to accommodate them all. We had to send the nigger over to bring in folding chairs from the parish house." (1.21, Amanda).

    The believability of Amanda’s stories is brought into question.

    "Girls in those days knew how to talk, I can tell you." (1.25, Amanda).

    Amanda finds the standards of her present to be inadequate when measured by those of her past.

    "There was young Champ Laughlin who later became vice president of the Delta Planters Bank. Hadley Stevenson who was drowned in Moon Lake and left his widow one hundred and fifty thousand in government bonds. There were the Cutrere brothers, Wesley and Bates. Bates was one of my bright particular beaux! He got in a quarrel with that wild Wainwright boy. They shot it out on the floor of Moon Lake Casino. Bates was shot through the stomach. Died in the ambulance on his way to Memphis. His widow was also well provided-for, came into eight or ten thousand acres, that's all. She married him on the rebound - never loved her - carried my picture on him the night he died! And there was that boy that every girl in the Delta had set her cap for! That beautiful, brilliant young Fitzhugh boy from Green County!" (1.29, Amanda).

    For Amanda, all memory is infused with a twinge of regret.

    "No, dear, you go in front and study your typewriter chart. Or practice your shorthand a little. Stay fresh and pretty! - It's almost time for our gentlemen callers to start arriving. [She flounces girlishly toward the kitchenette] How many do you suppose we're going to entertain this afternoon?" (1.35, Amanda).

    Amanda’s movements and body language strengthen the notion that she is living in her own past.

    She has on one of those cheap or imitation velvety-looking cloth coats with imitation fur collar. Her hat is five or six years old, one of those dreadful cloche hats that were worn in the late Twenties, and she is clutching an enormous black patent leather pocketbook with nickel clasps and initials. This is her full-dress outfit, the one she usually wears to the D.A.R. (Scene Two, stage directions).

    Amanda’s clothes strengthen the notion that she is living in her own past.

    He tears the portieres open. The dining-room area is lit with a turgid smoky red glow. (Scene Three, stage directions).

    Williams uses light to emphasize the subjective and memory nature of the play.

    "I was valuable to him as someone who could remember his former glory." (6.1, Tom).

    Jim, like Amanda, revels in the memory of his glory days.

    The light dims out on Tom and comes up in the Wingfield living room—a delicate lemony light. It is abut five on a Friday evening of late spring which comes "scattering poems in the sky. (Scene Six stage directions).

    Williams uses light to emphasize the subjective and memory nature of the play.

    A faraway, scratchy rendition of ‘Dardanella" softens the air and gives her strength to move through it. (Scene Six, stage directions).

    Williams uses music to emphasize the subjective and memory nature of the play.

    The music seems to answer his question, while Tom thinks it over. He searches his pockets. (Scene Six stage directions.)

    Williams uses music to emphasize the subjective and memory nature of the play.

    "There was a Jim O'Connor we both knew in high school-[then, with effort] If that is the one that Tom is bringing to dinner-you'll have to excuse me, I won't come to the table." (6.30, Laura).

    "You remember that wonderful write-up I had in The Torch?"

    "Yes!"

    "It said I was bound to succeed in anything I went into!" (6.126-6.128, Jim and Laura)

    Jim, just like Amanda, spends excessive time discussing both the glory days of his past and his dreams for the future.

    Just as Amanda, Laura is so haunted by her own past that it debilitates her living in the present.

    Laura is still huddled upon the sofa, her feet drawn under her, her head resting on a pale blue pillow, her eyes wide and mysteriously watchful. The new floor lamp with its shade of rose-colored silk gives a soft, becoming light to her face, bringing out the fragile, unearthly prettiness which usually escapes attention. (Scene Seven, stage directions.)

    Williams uses light to emphasize the subjective and memory nature of the play.

    "I—don’t suppose—you remember me—at all?"

    "You know I have an idea I’ve seen you before. I had that idea soon as you opened the door. It seemed almost like I was about to remember your name. But the name I started to call you—wasn’t a name? And so I stopped myself before I said it." (7.75, 7.76, Laura and Jim),

    Although to a lesser degree than her mother, Laura, too, lives in a piece of the past, recalling her feelings for Jim.

    "Blue Roses! My gosh, yes—Blue Roses! That’s what I had on my tongue when you opened the door! Isn’t it funny what tricks memory plays?" (7.78, Jim).

    Jim’s line about memory playing tricks has a greater context in the play as a whole – raising the question as to what tricks Tom’s memory might be playing on us.

    "You modern young people are so much more serious-minded than my generation. I was so gay as a girl!"

    "You haven’ changed, Mrs. Wingfield."

    "Tonight I’m rejuvenated! The gaiety of the occasion, Mr. O’Connor." (7.276-7.278, Amanda and Jim).

    The presence of only a single gentleman caller sent Amanda back to her role as a Southern Belle.

    "No, Ma’am, not work but—Betty!"

    [He crosses deliberately to pick up his hat. The band at the Paradise Dance Hall goes into a tender waltz.]

    "Betty? Betty? Who’s—Betty?"

    [There is an ominous cracking sound in the sky.] (7.289, 7.290, Jim and Amanda, Scene Seven stage directions).

    Williams uses obvious and dramatic effects in this play on the grounds that memory can dramatize and alter reality. Interestingly enough, just like the characters we are watching, we become ensconced in an alternate reality.

    "Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger—anything that can blow your candles out! For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura—and so, goodbye… (7.321, Tom).

    Although he escapes his family in body, Tom’s memory is forever stuck in his past, just as Amanda’s.

  • Weakness

    Laura is seated in the delicate ivory chair at the small clawfoot table. She wears a dress of soft violet material for a kimono – her hair is tied back from her forehead with a ribbon. She is washing and polishing her collection of glass. (Scene Two, stage directions).

    Emphasizing her fragility, Laura is constantly surrounded by delicate and breakable objects, furniture, and clothing.

    "‘I wonder,’ she said, ‘If you could be talking about that terribly shy little girl who dropped out of school after only a few days’ attendance?’

    "And she said, ‘No – I remember her perfectly now. Her hands shook so that she couldn’t hit the right keys! The first time we gave a speed test, she broke down completely – was sick at the stomach and almost had to be carried into the wash room! After that morning she never showed up anymore. We phoned the house but never got any answer.’" (2.16, Amanda)

    Laura’s shy qualities are so extreme as to inhibit normal activity.

    "I couldn’t go back there. I – threw up – on the floor!" (2.25, Laura).

    Laura uses her shyness to avoid reality and retreat into her own world.

    "When I had that attack of pleurosis – he asked me what was the matter when I came back." (2.45, Laura).

    Laura’s physical weaknesses and sickness highlight her shyness and mental fragility.

    Laura utters a startled, doubtful laugh. She reaches quickly for a piece of glass. (Scene Two, stage directions).

    Laura uses the glass animals as an escape from reality, just as Tom uses the movies.

    "But mother—"

    "Yes?"

    [in a tone of frightened apology]: "I’m crippled!"

    "Nonsense, Laura, I’ve told you never, never to use that word." (2.47-2.50, Laura and Amanda).

    Amanda’s later frustration with Laura’s shyness stems from her inability to see Laura as having any issues at all.

    With an outraged groan he tears the coat off again, splitting the shoulder of it, and hurls it across the room. It strikes against the shelf of Laura’s glass collection, and there is a tinkle of shattering glass. Laura cries out as if wounded.

    [Music.]

    [Screen legend: "The Glass Menagerie."]

    "My glass!—menagerie…[She covers her face and turns away.] (Scene Three stage directions, 3.18, Laura)

    The music "The Glass Menagerie" serves to connect Laura’s fragility with that of her glass ornaments.

    She crosses through the portieres and draws them together behind her. Tom is left with Laura. Laura clings weakly to the mantel with her face averted. Tom stares at her stupidly for a moment. Then he crosses to the shelf. He drops awkwardly on his knees to collect the fallen glass, glancing at Laura as if he would speak but couldn't. (Scene Three, stage directions).

    Unlike Amanda, Tom recognizes much of Laura’s fragility, and additionally recognizes it reflected in the glass menagerie.

    A second later she cries out. Tom springs up and crosses to the door. Tom opens the door.

    "Laura?"

    "I’m all right. I slipped, but I’m all right." (Scene Four stage directions, 4.29, 4.30, Tom and Laura).

    Laura’s physical weaknesses and sickness highlight her shyness and mental fragility.

    "Laura!"

    [Legend on screen: "Laura." Music: "The Glass Menagerie."]

    "—Oh.—Laura."

    "You know how Laura is. So quiet but—still water runs deep! She notices things and I think she—broods about them…A few days ago I came in and she was crying." (4.53, Scene Four stage directions, 4.54, 4.55).

    Although Laura has fragile and weak elements, she is a perceptive character, noticing things about her mother and brother that others miss.

    "I mean that as soon as Laura has got somebody to take care of her, married, a home of her own, independent-why, then you'll be free to go wherever you please, on land, on sea, whichever way the wind blows you! But until that time you've got to look out for your sister. I don't say me because I'm old and don't matter! I say for your sister because she's young and dependent." (4.93, Amanda).

    Amanda understands parts of Laura’s fragility – her dependence on someone to provide her a home – but misses others, such as her physical weakness and the truly debilitating effect of her shyness.

    "I put her in business college—a dismal failure! Frightened so it made her sick at the stomach. I took her over to the Young People’s League at the church. Another fiasco. She spoke to nobody, nobody spoke to her. Now all she does is fool with those pieces of glass and play those worn-out records. What kind of life is that for a girl to lead?" (4.93, Amanda).

    Amanda’s concern over Laura’s fragility is in part based on Laura’s failure to meet what Amanda considers social norms.

    "Mother, you mustn’t expect too much of Laura."

    "What do you mean?"

    "Laura seems all those things to you and me because she’s ours and we love her. We don’t even notice she’s crippled anymore." (5.120-5.122, Tom and Amanda).

    Tom is more aware of Laura’s nature than Amanda.

    "Laura is very different from other girls."

    […]

    "…in the eyes of others—strangers—she’s terribly shy and lives in a world of her own and those things make her seem a little peculiar to people outside the house."

    […]

    "She lives in a world of her own—a world of little glass ornaments, Mother…She plays old phonograph records and—that’s about all—" (5.126, 5.128, 5.132, Tom).

    Tom understands that Laura uses the glass and the Victrola to escape from the world, but never is able to explicitly connect that he and his sister are doing the same thing.

    "I knew that Jim and Laura had known each other at Soldan, and I had heard Laura speak admiringly of his voice. I didn’t know if Jim remembered her or not. In high school Laura had been as unobtrusive as Jim had been astonishing." (6.1, Tom).

    Jim presents a character with the opposite of Laura’s fragility, which may be why she is so drawn to him.

    A fragile, unearthly prettiness has come out in Laura: she is like a piece of translucent glass touched by light, given a momentary radiance, not actual, not lasting. (Stage directions, Scene Six).

    Laura’s beauty is inherently tied to her fragility.

    "Why are you trembling?"

    "Mother, you’ve made me so nervous!"

    "How have I made you nervous?"

    "By all this fuss! You make it seem so important!" (6.2-6.5, Amanda and Laura.)

    Laura’s shyness puts her constantly at odds with her mother.

    "There was a Jim O’Connor we both knew in high school—[then, with effort] If that is the one that Tom is bringing to dinner—you’ll have to excuse me, I won’t come to the table. (6.30, Laura).

    Despite her shyness and weakness, Laura takes seemingly firm stands against her mother.

    "Please, please, please, you go!"

    "You’ll have to go the door because I can’t."

    "I can’t go either!"

    "Why?"

    "I’m sick!" (6.51-6.57, Laura and Amanda).

    Laura uses her physical weaknesses to explain her mental ones.

    "Excuse me—I haven’t finished playing the Victrola…"[She turns awkwardly and hurries into the front room. She pauses a second by the Victrola. Then she catches her breath and darts through the portieres like a frightened deer.] (6.69, Scene Six stage directions).

    Laura uses the Victrola as means to explain retreating, just as Tom uses the movies.

    Laura suddenly stumbles; she catches at a chair with a faint moan. (Scene Six stage directions).

    Laura’s fragility manifests itself physically.

    Laura, stretched out on the sofa, clenches her hand to her lips, to hold back a shuddering sob. (Scene Six stage directions).

    Laura is acutely aware of and bothered by her deficiencies.

    Laura sits up nervously as Jim enters. She can hardly speak from the almost intolerable strain of being alone with a stranger. (Scene Seven, stage directions).

    Although she has feelings for Jim, Laura is at first unable to enjoy his company because of her shyness.

    "And everybody was seated before I came in. I had to walk in front of all those people. My seat was in the back row. I had to go clumping all the way up the aisle with everyone watching!" (7.103, Laura).

    When Laura finally reveals some stories from high school, we, the audience, begin to understand where her shyness comes from.

    She remains by the table, picks up a piece from the glass menagerie collection, and turns it in her hands to cover her tumult. (Scene Seven stage directions.)

    Laura uses the glass menagerie to try to escape from the reality of her current situation with Jim.

    "I don’t do anything—much. Oh, please don’t think I sit around doing nothing! My glass collection takes up a good deal of time. Glass is something you have to take good care of." (7.185, Laura).

    Laura is similar to the glass not only in her fragility, but in her need to be looked after, paid attention to.

    "You know what I judge to be the trouble with you? Inferiority complex! Know what that is? That’s what they call it when someone low-rates himself. I understand because I had it, too." (7.188, Jim).

    Just like Tom, Jim recognizes Laura’s situation. However, unlike Tom, Jim tries to do something about it.

    "Little articles of it, they’re ornaments, mostly! Most of them are little animals made out of glass, the tiniest little animals in the world. Mother calls them a glass menagerie! Here’s an example of one, if you’d like to see it! This one is one of the oldest. It’s nearly thirteen…Oh be careful—if you breathe, it breaks!" (7.197, Laura).

    Laura describes not only the fragility of the glass, but emphasizes its size, harking back to the epigraph of the text, "Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands."

    "Oh, but I’d step on you!"

    "I’m not made out of glass." (7.225,7.226, Laura and Jim).

    Jim again appears the opposite of Laura; she is shy and fragile, he is most certainly not.

    They suddenly bump into the table, and the glass piece on it falls to the floor. Jim stops the dance. (Scene Seven, stage directions).

    Here we see the danger of bringing glass off the shelf, or Laura out of her secret world: something might break.

    "Aw, aw, aw. Is it broken?"

    "Now it is just like all the other horses."

    "It’s lost it’s—"

    "Horn! It doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise." (7.254-7.257, Jim and Laura).

    When she calls the unicorn breaking a "blessing in disguise," Laura starts to think that being drawn out from her secret world isn’t so bad after all.

    "I don’t have favorites much. It’s no tragedy, Freckles. Glass breaks so easily. No matter how careful you are. The traffic jars the shelves and things fall off them." (7.259, Laura).

    Laura recognizes the inevitability of breaking when handling fragile objects – she also recognizes that this applies to her.

    "The horn was removed to feel less—freakish! Now he will feel more at home with the other horses, the ones that don’t have horns…" (7.261, Laura).

    Laura starts to feel a part of reality, like everyone else, after Jim dances with her.

    Tom smashes his glass on the floor. He plunges out on the fire escape, slamming the door. Laura screams in fright. The dance-hall music becomes louder. To stands on the fire escape, gripping the rail. The moon breaks through the storm clouds, illuminating his face. (Scene Seven, stage directions.)

    While Jim is careful and apologizes for the tiniest breaking of the unicorn’s horn, Tom smashes glass; Tom is unable to communicate with his sister the way Jim did.

    "I would have stopped, but I was always pursued by something. It always came upon me, unawares, taking me altogether by surprise. Perhaps it was a familiar bit of music. Perhaps it was only a piece of transparent glass. Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I have found companions. I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow. Then all at one my sister touches my shoulder." (7.321, Tom).

    Laura, despite her apparent weakness and fragility, has an incredibly strong hold on her brother, which lasts over both time and distance.

  • Deception and Lies

    To begin with, I turn back time. I reverse it to that quaint period, the thirties, where the huge middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind. Their eyes had failed them, or they had failed their eyes, and so they were having their fingers pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille alphabet of a dissolving economy. (1.1, Tom).

    Just as all the members of the Wingfield family have retreated from reality, so, according to Tom, has the rest of the country, choosing to ignore what is going on around them.

    I am the narrator of the play, and also a character in it. The other characters are my mother, Amanda, and my sister, Laura, and a gentlemen caller who appears in the final scenes. He is the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from. But since I have a poet's weakness for symbols, I am using this character as a symbol; he is the long-delayed but always expected something that we live for. (1.1, Tom).

    Tom openly recognizes that Jim is different from the members of the Wingfield family in that he is facing reality, rather than in denial of it.

    [lightly] "Temperament like a Metropolitan star!" (1.8, Amanda).

    Amanda fails to recognize that Tom is truly mad at her, treating his snapping comment as a joke.

    "Resume your seat, little sister - I want you to stay fresh and pretty - for gentlemen callers!" (1.14, Amanda).

    While Laura’s and Tom’s retreat from reality is more subtle, Amanda projects self-delusion to a great degree.

    "No, dear, you go in front and study your typewriter chart. Or practice your shorthand a little. Stay fresh and pretty! – It’s almost time for our gentlemen callers to start arriving. [She flounces girlishly toward the kitchenette] How many do you suppose we’re going to entertain this afternoon?" (1.35, Amanda).

    It is because of her obsession with the past that Amanda is so unable to see the present for what it is.

    "Not one gentlemen caller? It can’t be true! There must be a flood, there must have been a tornado!" (1.37, Amanda).

    Despite repeated attempts that her children make to explain Laura’s current situation, Amanda remains blind to the facts.

    Laura draws a long breath and gets awkwardly to her feet. She crosses to the Victrola and winds it up. (Scene Two, stage directions).

    Just as Tom uses the movies, Laura uses objects such as the Victrola and her glass menagerie to escape reality.

    "I went into the art museum and the bird house at the Zoo. I visited the penguins every day! Sometimes I did without lunch and went to the movies. Lately I’ve been spending most of my afternoons in the Jewel Box, that big glass house where they raise the tropical flowers." (2.29, Laura).

    Laura retreats into pseudo-worlds to avoid the real one.

    "When I had that attack of pleurosis – he asked me what was the matter when I came back. I said pleurosis – he thought that I said Blue Roses! So that’s what he always called me after that. Whenever he saw me, he’d holler, ‘Hello, Blue Roses!’" (2.45, Laura).

    Laura is drawn to Jim because of his ability to create names and thoughts of an altered reality, such as the ones she chooses to live in.

    [in a tone of frightened apology]: "I'm crippled!"

    "Nonsense, Laura, I've told you never, never to use that word. Why, you’re not crippled, you just have a little defect – hardly noticeable, even! When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to male up for it – develop charm – and vivacity – and – charm! That’s all you have to do!" (2.47-2.50, Laura and Amanda).

    Amanda is blinded by a mother’s love to the actualities of Laura’s situation.

    "Let me tell you—" "I don’t want to hear anymore!" (3.20, 3.21, Amanda and Tom).

    Tom chooses to forcibly shut out reality, choosing instead to escape to the movies.

    [with great enthusiasm]: "Try and you will succeed! [The notion makes her breathless.] Why, you - you're just full of natural endowments! Both of my children-they're unusual children! Don't you think I know it? I'm so-proud! Happy and-feel I've-so much to be thankful for…" (4.39, Amanda).

    Amanda deludes herself into thinking that matters are far better than they actually are.

    "Oh, I can see the handwriting on the wall as plain as I can see the nose in front of my face! It’s terrifying! More and more you remind me of your father! He was out all hours without explanation!—Then left! Goodbye! And me with the bag to hold. I saw that letter you got from the Merchant Marine. I know what you’re dreaming of. I’m not standing here blindfolded. Very well, then. Then do it! But not till there’s somebody to take your place." (4.91, Amanda).

    Ironically, Amanda claims she is not blindfolded, when in fact she is blind to Laura’s real predicament and Tom’s real needs.

    Across the alley from us was the Paradise Dance Hall. On evenings in the spring the windows and doors were open and the music came outdoors. Sometimes the lights were turned out except for a large glass sphere that hung from the ceiling. It would turn rather slowly about and filter the dusk with delicate rainbow colors. Then the orchestra would play a waltz or a tango, something that had a slow and sensuous rhythm. Couples would come outside, to the relative privacy of the alley. You would see them kissing behind ash pits and telephone poles. This was the compensation for lives that passed like mine, without any change or adventure. Adventure and change were imminent this year. They were waiting around the corner for all these kids. Suspended in the mist over Berchtesgaden, caught in the folds of Chamberlain's umbrella. In Spain there was Guernica. But here there was only hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars, and movies, and sex that hung in the gloom like a chandelier and flooded the world with brief, deceptive rainbows…All the world was waiting for bombardments! (5.10, Tom).

    Just as Tom escapes to the movies to avoid reality, so, he claims, are all the other members of society.

    "A fire escape landing's a poor excuse for a porch." [She spreads a newspaper and sits down, gracefully and demurely as if she were settling into a swing on a Mississippi veranda]. (5.11, Amanda).

    Amanda’s body language and motions serve to identify the great magnitude of her self-delusion.

    "Laura seems all those things to you and me because she's ours and we love her. We don't even notice she's crippled anymore."

    "Don’t say crippled! You know I never allow that word to be used!" (5.120-5.122, Tom and Amanda).

    Amanda establishes roles and obligations within her family to help her avoid having to deal with reality.

    "Laura is very different from other girls."

    […]

    "…in the eyes of others-strangers-she's terribly shy and lives in a world of her own and those things make her seem a little peculiar to people outside the house."

    […]

    "She lives in a world of her own-a world of little glass ornaments, Mother…She plays old phonograph records and-that's about all-". (5.126, 5.128, 5.132, Tom)

    Tom fully understands Laura’s retreat from reality.

    Yes, movies! Look at them-[a wave toward the marvels of Grand Avenue]. All of those glamorous people-having adventures-hogging it all, gobbling the whole thing up! You know what happens? People go to the movies instead of moving! Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them! Yes, until there's a war. That's when adventure becomes available to the masses! Everyone's dish, not only Gable's! Then the people in the dark room come out of the dark room to have some adventures themselves-goody, goody! It's our turn now, to go to the South Sea Island-to make a safari-to be exotic, far off! But I'm not patient. I don't want to wait till then. I'm tired of the movies and I am about to move! (6.114, Tom).

    Just as Tom escapes reality by going to the movies, so, he says, does the general population.

    At first, before Jim’s warmth overcomes her paralyzing shyness, Laura’s voice is thin and breathless, as though she had just run up a flight of stairs. Jim’s attitude is gently humorous. While the incident is apparently unimportant, it is to Laura the climax of her secret life. (Scene Seven stage directions).

    Jim is so appealing to Laura for his ability to enter her own secret world and interact with her there.

    "You don’t know things anywhere! You live in a dream; you manufacture illusions!" (7.317, Amanda).

    Ironically, Amanda accuses Tom of manufacturing illusions, not recognizing that she herself is guilty of the same thing.

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    I am the narrator of the play, and also a character in it. The other characters are my mother, Amanda, and my sister, Laura, and a gentlemen caller who appears in the final scenes. He is the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from. But since I have a poet's weakness for symbols, I am using this character as a symbol; he is the long-delayed but always expected something that we live for. (1.1, Tom).

    Tom understands that Jim is more than just a gentleman caller; he is the epitome of everything Amanda desires for her daughter.

    "What are we going to do, what is going to become of us, what is the future?" (2.10, Amanda).

    Amanda oscillates between reminiscing over the past and planning for the future.

    "Oh! I felt so weak I could barely keep on my feet! I had to sit down while they got me a glass of water! Fifty dollars’ tuition, all of our plans – my hopes and ambitions for you – just gone up the spout, just gone up the spout like that." (2.16, Amanda).

    Amanda’s plans for her children’s futures fail because they are irreconcilable with what her children actually want.

    "So what are we going to do the rest of our lives? Stay home and watch the parades go by? Amuse ourselves with the glass menagerie, darling? Eternally play those worn-out phonograph records your father left as a painful reminder of him? We won’t have a business career – we’ve given that up because it gave us nervous indigestion! [She laughs wearily.] What is there left but dependency all our lives? I know so well what becomes of unmarried woman who aren’t prepared to occupy a position. I’ve seen such pitiful cases in the South – barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister’s husband or brother’s wife! – stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room – encouraged by one in-law to visit another – little birdlike women without any nest – eating the crust of humility all their life!

    Is that the future that we’ve mapped out for ourselves? I swear it’s the only alternative I can think of! [She pauses.] It isn’t a very pleasant alternative, is it? [She pauses again.] Of course – some girls do marry." (2.34, Amanda).

    Amanda’s attempts to have Laura marry are based on a fear of the future, not on any intrinsic value of love.

    "An evening at home rarely passed without some illusion to this image, this specter, this hope…Even when he wasn’t mentioned, his presence hung in Mother’s preoccupied look and in my sister’s frightened, apologetic manner – hung like a sentence passed upon the Wingfields!" (3.1, Tom).

    The language Tom uses to describe the gentleman caller is reminiscent of the effect on the audience of the hanging portrait – thus, the gentleman is for the future what Tom’s father is for the past.

    [screen legend: "Plans and Provisions."]

    "We have to be making some plans and provisions for her. She's older than you, two years, and nothing has happened. She just drifts along doing nothing. It frightens me terribly how she just drifts along." (Scene Four stage directions, 4.87, Amanda).

    Amanda’s concern over the future always revolves around her children, not herself.

    "Down at the warehouse, aren't there-nice young men?" (4.97, Amanda).

    Amanda places on Tom not only the burden of supporting the family in the present, but also of taking care of its future.

    "I’ll tell you what I wished for on the moon. Success and happiness for my precious children! I wish for that whenever there’s a moon, and when there isn’t a moon, I wish for it, too." (5.23, Amanda).

    Amanda chastises Tom for being a ‘selfish dreamer,’ yet her own dreams for the future are even less attainable.

    "Yes, but Mr. O’Connor is not a family man."

    "He might be, mightn’t he? Some time in the future?"

    "I see. Plans and provisions." (5.92-5.54. Tom and Amanda).

    Amanda draws elaborate plans for the future, even including a man she has never met.

    "You are the only young man I know of who ignores the fact that the future becomes present, the present past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it!" (5.95, Amanda).

    Although Amanda discloses nuggets of perspective on the progression of time, she herself spends all of her time oscillating between the past and the future.

    "Then he has visions of being advanced in the world! Any young man who studies public speaking is aiming to have an executive job some day! And radio engineering? A thing for the future! Both of these facts are very illuminating. Those are the sort of things that a mother should know concerning any young man who comes to call on her daughter. Seriously or—not." (5.117, Amanda).

    Amanda makes grand claims about the future using very little fact or evidence from the present.

    "What shall I wish for, Mother?"

    [her voice trembling and her eyes suddenly filling with tears]: "Happiness! Good fortune!" (5.140, 5.141, Laura, Amanda).

    Amanda chastises Tom for being a ‘selfish dreamer,’ yet her own dreams take on a dream-like and superstitious quality almost foolish in nature.

    "But sister is all by her lonesome. You go keep her company in the parlor! I’ll give you this lovely old candelabrum that used to be on the altar at the Church of the Heavenly Rest." (7.34, Amanda).

    Amanda shamelessly takes action towards her plan for she and Laura’s future.

    "Well, it was quite a wonderful exposition. What impressed me most was the Hall of Science. Gives you an idea of what the future will be in America, even more wonderful than the present time is!" (7.67, Jim).

    Jim’s idealism toward the future reflects the American Dream of progress and growth.

    "You think of yourself as having the only problems, as being the only one who is disappointed. But just look around you and you will see lots of people as disappointed as you are. For instance, I hoped when I was going to high school that I would be further along this time, six years later, than I am now." (7.76, Jim).

    Jim, like Amanda, discusses the past, but in a more instructive and beneficial way.

    "My signature isn’t worth very much right now. But some day—maybe—it will increase in value! Being disappointed is one thing and being discouraged is something else. I am disappointed but I am not discouraged." (7.158, Jim).

    Jim’s idealism toward the future reflects the American Dream of progress and growth.

    "Because I believe in the future of television! I wish to be ready to go up right along with it. Therefore I’m planning to get in on the ground floor. In fact I’ve already made the right connections and all that remains is for the industry itself to get under way! Full steam…Knowledge—Zzzzzp! Money—Zzzzzzp!—Power! That’s the cycle democracy is built on!" (7.192, Jim).

    Jim’s idealism toward the future reflects the American Dream of progress and growth.

    "Well, now that you’ve found your way, I want you to be a very frequent caller! Not just occasional but all the time. Oh, we’re going to have a lot of gay times together! I see them coming!" (7.282, Amanda).

    Amanda’s character is made more tragic by her unfounded optimism.

    "GO, then! Go to the moon-you selfish dreamer!" (7.320, Amanda).

    While she chastises Tom for being a dreamer, Amanda doesn’t recognize that her own plans for the future have become mere dreams.

  • Abandonment

    "A blown-up photograph of the father hangs on the wall of the living room, to the left of the archway. It is the face of a very handsome young man in a doughboy's First World War cap. He is gallantly smiling, ineluctably smiling, as if to say "I will be smiling forever." (stage directions, Scene One).

    Tom’s father seems to show no regret at having abandoned his family.

    There is a fifth character in the play who doesn't appear except in this larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel. This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances; he gave up his job with the telephone company and skipped the light fantastic out of town…

    The last we heard of him was a picture postcard from Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, containing a message of two words: "Hello - Goodbye!" and no address. (1.1, Tom).

    Tom’s desire to leave the Wingfield apartment originally emulates that of his father. Yet, later, unlike is father, Tom is not able to make a clean break.

    "Listen! You think I'm crazy about the warehouse? [He bends fiercely toward her slight figure.] You think I'm in love with Continental Shoemakers? You think that I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that - celotex interior! with-fluorescent-tubes! Look! I'd rather somebody packed up a crowbar and battered out my brains-than go back mornings! I go! Every time you come in yelling that Goddamn 'Rise and Shine! Rise and Shine!' I say to myself, 'How lucky dead people are!' But I get up. I go! For sixty-five dollars a month I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever! And you say self-self's all I ever think of! Why, listen, if self is what I thought of, Mother, I'd be where he is-GONE! [He points to his father's picture.] As far as the system of transportation reaches!" (3.34, Tom).

    Tom makes it clear that the only reason he has not left home is that he does not value the self over the family enough to abandon his mom and sister.

    "And, oh, I forgot! There was a big stage show! The headliner on this stage show was Malvolio the Magician…But the wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and hr got out of the coffin without removing one nail. There is trick that would come in handy for me-get me out of this two-by-four situation!

    …"You know it don't take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who the hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?"

    As if in answer, the father’s grinning photograph lights up. (4.9, 4.13, Tom, Scene Four stage directions).

    It seems that when Tom’s father abandoned the Wingfield family, there was little or no effect on the remaining remembers.

    "We have to do all that we can to build ourselves up. In these trying times we live in, all that we have to cling to is-each other…" (4.31, Amanda).

    Tom’s eventual abandonment of his family is made more tragic by Amanda’s comments that they need each other.

    "However, you do act strangely. I-I'm not criticizing, understand that! I know your ambitions do not lie in the warehouse, that like everybody in the whole wide world-you've had to-make sacrifices, but-Tom-Tom-life's not easy, it calls for-Spartan endurance! There's so many things in my heart that I cannot describe to you! I've never told you but I-loved your father…"

    [gentle]: "I know that, Mother." (4.61, 4.62, Amanda and Tom).

    Amanda’s character is made more sympathetic by her discussions of the husband that abandoned her.

    "And you-when I see you taking after his ways! Staying out late-and-well, you had been drinking the night you were in that-terrifying condition! Laura says that you hate the apartment and that you go out nights to get away from it! Is that true, Tom?" (4.63, Amanda).

    Amanda accurately points out that Tom takes after his father, both in his nights out and in his later abandonment of the family.

    "Oh, I can see the handwriting on the wall as plain as I can see the nose in front of my face! It's terrifying! More and more you remind me of your father! He was out all hours without explanation!-Then left! Goodbye! And me with the bag to hold. I saw that letter you got from the Merchant Marine. I know what you're dreaming of. I'm not standing here blindfolded. Very well, then. Then do it! But not till there's somebody to take your place." (4.91, Amanda).

    Amanda is OK with the idea of Tom abandoning the family – as long as there is someone around to take care of Laura.

    "How about your mother?"

    "I'm like my father. The bastard son of a bastard! Did you notice how he's grinning in his picture in there? And he's been absent going in sixteen years!" (6.127, 6.128, Jim and Tom).

    Tom preferentially sides with his missing father rather than his mother.

    "I married a man who worked for a telephone company! That gallantly smiling man over there! A telephone man who-fell in love with long distance! Now he travels and I don't even know where!" (6.139, Amanda).

    Amanda’s character is made more sympathetic by her discussions of the husband that abandoned her.

    "That's right, now that you've had us all make such fools of ourselves. The effort, the preparations, all the expense! The new floor lamp, the rug, the clothes for Laura! All for what? To entertain some other girl's fiancé! Go to the movies, go! Don't think about us, an unmarried sister who's crippled and has no job! Don't let anything interfere with your selfish pleasure! Just go, go, go-to the movies!" (7.319, Amanda).

    Amanda believes that Tom abandoned the family – in spirit – by bringing an unsuitable caller home for Laura.

    "GO, then! Go to the moon-you selfish dreamer!" (7.320, Amanda).

    Amanda finally gives up on Tom, in a way abandoning him before he abandons her and Laura.

    "I didn't go to the moon - I went much further-for time is the longest distance between two poles. Not long after that I was fired for writing a poem on the lid of a shoe-box. I left St. Louis. I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father's footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space." (7.321, Tom).

    Before confessing that his abandonment was not successful, Tom suggests that his leaving was similar to his father’s.

    "Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest anything-anything that can blow your candles out! For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura-and so, goodbye… (7.321, Tom).

    Although he tried to abandon his family, Tom could not abandon his sister, Laura, in spirit.

  • Marriage

    "A blown-up photograph of the father hangs on the wall of the living room, to the left of the archway. It is the face of a very handsome young man in a doughboy's First World War cap. He is gallantly smiling, ineluctably smiling, as if to say "I will be smiling forever." (stage directions, Scene One).

    Amanda’s figure is made more sympathetic because her husband abandoned her.

    There is a fifth character in the play who doesn't appear except in this larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel. This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances; he gave up his job with the telephone company and skipped the light fantastic out of town…

    The last we heard of him was a picture postcard from Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, containing a message of two words: "Hello - Goodbye!" and no address. (1.1, Tom).

    Tom’s father displayed no regret as to his failed marriage with Amanda.

    "There was young Champ Laughlin who later became vice president of the Delta Planters Bank. Hadley Stevenson who was drowned in Moon Lake and left his widow one hundred and fifty thousand in government bonds. There were the Cutrere brothers, Wesley and Bates. Bates was one of my bright particular beaux! He got in a quarrel with that wild Wainwright boy. They shot it out on the floor of Moon Lake Casino. Bates was shot through the stomach. Died in the ambulance on his way to Memphis. His widow was also well provided-for, came into eight or ten thousand acres, that’s all. She married him on the rebound – never loved her – carried my picture on him the night he died! And there was that boy that every girl in the Delta had set her cap for! That beautiful, brilliant young Fitzhugh boy from Green County!" (1.29, Amanda).

    Amanda’s lengthy description of other marriages hints at a sadness as to her own failed marriage.

    "That Fitzhugh boy went North and made a fortune – came to be known as the Wolf of Wall Street! He has the Midas touch, whatever he touched turned to gold! And I could have been Mrs. Duncan J. Fitzhugh, mind you! But – I picked your father!" (1.33, Amanda).

    Amanda sees her other potential marriages as lost opportunities.

    "Mother's afraid I'm going to be an old maid." (1.38, Laura).

    Laura recognizes clearly which life goals her mother has assigned to her.

    "I know so well what becomes of unmarried woman who aren't prepared to occupy a position. I've seen such pitiful cases in the South - barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister's husband or brother's wife! - stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room - encouraged by one in-law to visit another - little birdlike women without any nest - eating the crust of humility all their life!

    Is that the future that we've mapped out for ourselves? I swear it's the only alternative I can think of! [She pauses.] It isn't a very pleasant alternative, is it? [She pauses again.] Of course - some girls do marry." (2.34, Amanda).

    Just as she believes it is the duty of the man to bring home money, Amanda thinks it is Laura’s duty to marry.

    "I didn’t care for the girl that he went out with. Emily Meisenbach. Emily was the best-dressed girl at Soldan. She never struck me, though, as being sincere…It says in the Personal Section – they’re engaged. That’s – six years ago! They must be married by now." (2.45, Laura).

    Laura subtly envies what she thinks is another woman’s marriage to Jim.

    "Girls that aren’t cut out for business careers usually wind up married to some nice man. [She gets up with a spark of revival.] Sister, that’s what you’ll do!" (2.46, Amanda.)

    Amanda sees marriage as a tool for Laura’s safety and security.

    "When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to male up for it - develop charm - and vivacity - and - charm! That's all you have to do!" [She turns again to the photograph]. "One thing your father always had plenty of – was charm!" (2.50, Amanda).

    Despite his having left her, Amanda’s comments with regard to her husband are all attempts at being positive.

    "After the fiasco at Rubicam’s Business college, the idea of getting a gentlemen caller for Laura began to play a more important part in mother’s calculations. It became an obsession. Like some archetype of the universal unconscious, the image of the gentleman caller haunted our small apartment…" (3.1, Tom).

    Just as Tom pursues escape, an ultimately unobtainable goal, so Amanda pursues what is eventually unobtainable as well: a husband for Laura.

    Now we see Amanda; her hair is in metal curlers and she is wearing a very old bathrobe, much too large for her slight figure, a relic of the faithless Mr. Wingfield. (Scene Three, stage directions).

    Amanda’s failed marriage is ever-present throughout the play, adding to her desperation to find a husband for Laura.

    "There’s so many things in my heart that I cannot describe to you! I’ve never told you but I—loved your father…"

    [gentle]: "I know that, Mother." (4.61, 4.62, Amanda and Tom).

    For Amanda, marriage is not necessarily associated with love.

    "I guess she's the type that people call home girls."

    "There's no such type, and if there is, it's a pity! That is unless the home is hers, with a husband." (4.88, 4.99, Tom and Amanda).

    Amanda thinks about marriage and gender roles in very traditional ways.

    "I mean that as soon as Laura has got somebody to take care of her, married, a home of her own, independent—why, then you’ll be free to go wherever you please, on land, on sea, whichever way the wind blows you! But until that time you’ve got to look out for your sister. I don’t say me because I’m old and don’t matter! I say for your sister because she’s young and dependent." (4.93, Amanda).

    Amanda sees a husband for Laura as a replacement for the role Tom currently plays.

    "Down at the warehouse, aren’t there—nice young men?" (4.97, Amanda).

    Amanda places on Tom the responsibility to find Laura a husband.

    "Lots of fellows meet girls whom they don’t marry!"

    "Oh, talk sensibly, Tom—and don’t be sarcastic!" (5.82, 5.83).

    Amanda uses older and more traditional ideas on dating and marriage, in contrast to Tom.

    "That is the way such things are handled to keep a young woman from making a tragic mistake!"

    "Then how did you happen to make a tragic mistake?"

    "That innocent look of your father’s has everyone fooled! He smiled—the world was enchanted! No girl can do worse than put herself at the mercy of a handsome appearance! I hope that Mr. O’Connor is not too good-looking." (5.101-5.103).

    Amanda has very specific requirements for Laura’s potential husband, many of them deriving from the quirks of her own marriage.

    "All of my gentlemen callers were sons of planters and so of course I assumed that I would be married to one and raise my family on a large piece of lad with plenty of servants. But man proposes—and woman accepts the proposal! To vary that old, old saying a little bit—I married no planter! I married a man who worked for a telephone company! That gallantly smiling man over there! A telephone man who—fell in love with long distance! Now he travels and I don’t even know where!" (6.139, Amanda).

    Even in the presence of guests, Amanda can not stop from discussing her absent husband.

    "It said in the ‘Personal’ section that you were—engaged!"

    "I know, but I wasn’t impressed by that—propaganda!"

    "It wasn’t—the truth?"

    "Only in Emily’s optimistic opinion!" (7.171-7.174).

    The Glass Menagerie presents marriage as an institution pursued primarily by women.

  • Gender

    "Resume your seat, little sister – I want you to stay fresh and pretty – for gentlemen callers!" (1.14, Amanda).

    Amanda believes in the importance of a woman’s appearance.

    "One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain – your mother received – seventeen! – gentlemen callers! Why, sometimes there weren’t enough chairs to accommodate them all. We had to send the nigger over to bring in folding chairs from the parish house." (1.21, Amanda).

    Amanda judges a woman’s worth by how much attention she receives from men.

    Image on screen, Amanda as a girl on a porch, greeting callers. (Stage directions, Scene One).

    Amanda’s character is largely defined by her former attractiveness to men.

    "They knew how to entertain their gentlemen callers. It wasn’t enough for a girl to be possessed of a pretty face and a graceful figure – although I wasn’t slighted in either respect. She also needed to have a nimble wit and a tongue to meet all occasions." (1.27, Amanda).

    Amanda assigns certain responsibilities to her daughter and her son, according to their genders.

    "No, dear, you go in front and study your typewriter chart. Or practice your shorthand a little. Stay fresh and pretty! - It's almost time for our gentlemen callers to start arriving. [She flounces girlishly toward the kitchenette] How many do you suppose we're going to entertain this afternoon?" (1.35, Amanda).

    Amanda’s repeated instructions to ‘stay fresh and pretty’ underscore the value she places on attractiveness for women.

    "Mother’s afraid I’m going to be an old maid." (1.38, Laura).

    Laura recognizes clearly the gender roles she is expected to fill, and her mother’s fears that she may fail to do so.

    "I know so well what becomes of unmarried woman who aren't prepared to occupy a position. I've seen such pitiful cases in the South - barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister's husband or brother's wife! - stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room - encouraged by one in-law to visit another - little birdlike women without any nest - eating the crust of humility all their life!

    Is that the future that we've mapped out for ourselves? I swear it's the only alternative I can think of! [She pauses.] It isn't a very pleasant alternative, is it? [She pauses again.] Of course - some girls do marry." (2.34, Amanda).

    Amanda uses the gender roles of her own time to prescribe certain goals and desires for her daughter.

    "Girls that aren't cut out for business careers usually wind up married to some nice man. [She gets up with a spark of revival.] Sister, that's what you'll do!" (2.46, Amanda.)

    Amanda gets her thoughts on gender roles from observing the outside world.

    "...she conducted a vigorous campaign on the telephone, roping in the subscribers to one of those magazines for matrons called The Homemaker’s Companion, the type of journal that features the serialized sublimations of ladies of letters who think in terms of delicate cuplike breasts, slim, tapering waists, rich, creamy thighs, eyes like wood smoke in autumn, fingers that soothe and caress like strains of music, bodies as powerful as Etruscan sculpture." (3.1, Tom).

    Amanda’s work is rooted in the same gender roles that fuel her goals for her daughter.

    "I guess she’s the type that people call home girls."

    "There’s no such type, and if there is, it’s a pity! That is unless the home is hers, with a husband." (4.88, 4.99, Tom and Amanda).

    Amanda rates a woman’s worth by her marital status. Interestingly enough, she never addresses where this leaves her herself.

    "I mean that as soon as Laura has got somebody to take care of her, married, a home of her own, independent-why, then you'll be free to go wherever you please, on land, on sea, whichever way the wind blows you! But until that time you've got to look out for your sister. I don't say me because I'm old and don't matter! I say for your sister because she's young and dependent." (4.93, Amanda).

    Because of gender stereotyping, Amanda makes it Tom’s responsibility to look out for his older sister Laura.

    "I put her in business college-a dismal failure! Frightened so it made her sick at the stomach. I took her over to the Young People's League at the church. Another fiasco. She spoke to nobody, nobody spoke to her. Now all she does is fool with those pieces of glass and play those worn-out records. What kind of life is that for a girl to lead?" (4.93, Amanda).

    Amanda’s plans for Laura are based not on a desire for her daughter’s own satisfaction, but a fulfillment of the gender roles she sees in the world around her.

    "Do you realize he’s the first young man we’ve introduced to your sister? It’s terrible, disgraceful that poor little sister has never received a single gentleman caller!" (5. 61, Amanda).

    Amanda places the responsibility on Tom to help Laura fulfill the duties of her gender.

    "Character’s what to look for in a man." (5.107, Amanda).

    While Amanda values looks for women, she does not for men.

    "However, he’ll know about Laura when he gets here. When he sees how lovely and sweet and pretty she is, he’ll thank his lucky stars he was asked to dinner." (5.119, Amanda).

    While Amanda inquires as to Jim’s character and job, she still sees Laura’s appeal as being in her looks.

    Amanda produces two powder puffs which she wraps in handkerchiefs and stuffs in Laura’s bosom. (Scene Six, stage directions).

    While Jim will later recognize Laura for her individuality, Amanda tries to make her into a cookie-cutter woman.

    "You make it seem like we were setting a trap."

    "All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be."

    Legend on screen: "A Pretty Trap." (6.14, 6.15, Laura and Amanda, Scene Six stage directions).

    Amanda believes in using looks, not personality, to attract men.

    "Now look at yourself, young lady. This is the prettiest you will ever be!" (6.15, Amanda).

    Amanda takes pride in physical appearance over all else.

    "It’s rare for a girl as sweet an’ pretty as Laura to be domestic! But Laura is, thank heavens, not only pretty but also very domestic." (6.139, Amanda).

    Amanda exaggerates and fabricates qualities to make her daughter seem more attractive.

    "Look how big my shadow is when I stretch!" (7.214, Jim).

    While Laura doesn’t fit the gender roles prescribed to her, Jim fits a typical masculine role.

  • Love

    "I know so well what becomes of unmarried woman who aren't prepared to occupy a position. I've seen such pitiful cases in the South - barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister's husband or brother's wife! - stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room - encouraged by one in-law to visit another - little birdlike women without any nest - eating the crust of humility all their life!

    Is that the future that we've mapped out for ourselves? I swear it's the only alternative I can think of! [She pauses.] It isn't a very pleasant alternative, is it? [She pauses again.] Of course - some girls do marry." (2.34, Amanda).

    Amanda makes no mention of love in her discussion of marriage for Laura.

    "Haven’t you ever liked some boy?"

    "Yes. I liked one once. I came across his picture a while ago." (2.34, 2.35, Amanda and Laura).

    The strength of Laura’s feelings for Jim is at first unclear.

    "He used to call me – Blue Roses."

    Screen image: Blue Roses. (2.43, Scene Two stage directions).

    Laura’s feelings for Jim stem from his ability to recognize her as someone unique from others.

    There's so many things in my heart that I cannot describe to you! I've never told you but I-loved your father…"

    [gentle]: "I know that, Mother." (4.61, 4.62, Amanda and Tom).

    Amanda does not automatically associate love with marriage.

    "Laura, Laura, were you in love with that boy?"

    "I don’t know, Mother. All I know is I couldn’t sit at the table if it was him!" (6.35, 6.36, Amanda and Laura).

    The intensity of Laura’s feelings for Jim becomes evident as the play progresses.

    "Ha-ha, that’s very funny! [Suddenly he is serious.] I’m glad to see that you have a sense of humor. You know –you’re—well—very different! Surprisingly different from anyone else I know! [His voice becomes soft and hesitant with a genuine feeling.] Do you mind me telling you that? I mean it in a nice way—You make me feel sort of—I don’t know how to put it! I’m usually pretty good at expressing things, but—this is something that I don’t know how to say! Has anyone ever told you that you were pretty? Well, you are! In a very different way from anyone else. And all the nicer because of the difference, too." (7.262, Jim).

    Jim’s feelings for Laura are based on her as an individual, not her prescribed gender role.

    "I wish that you were my sister. I’d teach you to have some confidence in yourself. The different people are not like other people, but being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Because other people are not such wonderful people. They’re one hundred times one thousand. You’re one times one! They walk all over the earth. You just stay here. They’re common as—weeds, but—you—well, you’re—Blue Roses!" (7.262, Jim).

    While Amanda discusses jonquils endlessly, the flower associated with Laura is original and an appropriate fit for her unique character.

    "In all respects—believe me! Your eyes—your hair—are pretty! Your hands are pretty! [He catches hold of her hand.] You think I’m making this up because I’m invited to dinner and have to be nice. Oh, I could do that! I could put on an act for you, Laura, and say lots of things without being very sincere. But this time I am. I’m talking to you sincerely. I happen to notice you had this inferiority complex that keeps you from feeling comfortable with people. Somebody needs to build your confidence up ad make you proud instead of shy and turning away and—blushing. Somebody—ought to—kiss you, Laura!" (7.266, Jim).

    Jim’s feelings for Laura have much to do with his desire to help her, to save her from her world of retreat and solitude.

    His hand slips slowly up her arm to her shoulder as the music swells tumultuously. He suddenly turns her about and kisses her on the lips. When he releases her, Laura sinks on the sofa with a bright, dazed look. Jim backs away and fishes in his pocket for a cigarette…

    …Laura slowly raises and opens her hand. It still contains the little broken glass animal. She looks at it with a tender, bewildered expression. (Scene Seven, stage directions.)

    Laura’s fragility is heightened by the intensity of her feelings for Jim.

    "No, Laura, I can’t. As I was just explaining, I’ve—got strings on me. Laura, I’ve—been going steady! I go out all the time with a girl named Betty. She’s a home-girl like you, and Catholic, and Irish, and in a great many ways we—get along fine. I met her last summer on a moonlight boat trip up the river to Alton, on the Majestic. Well—right away from the start it was—love!"

    [Legend: Love!] (7.268, Jim, Scene Seven stage directions).

    Although Jim claims to be in love with Betty, his description that they ‘get along fine’ hardly holds a candle to the emotions for Laura that he described.

    "Being in love has made a new man of me! The power of love is really pretty tremendous! Love is something that—changes the whole world, Laura!" (7.268, Jim).

    Jim is unaware of the detrimental effect of his words on Laura.

  • Drugs and Alcohol

    "I think you’ve been doing things that you’re ashamed of. That’s why you act like this. I don’t believe that you go every night to the movies. Nobody goes to the movies night after night. Nobody in their right minds goes to the movies as often as you pretend to. People don’t go to the movies at nearly midnight, and movies don’t let out at two A.M. Come in stumbling. Muttering to yourself like a maniac! You get three hours’ sleep and then go to work. Oh, I can picture the way you’re doing down there. Moping, doping, because you’re in no condition." (3.31, Amanda).

    Amanda combines all her fears of bad behavior into her singular fear that Tom will be a man who drinks.

    Tom appears at the top of the alley. After each solemn boom of the bell tower, he shakes a little noisemaker or rattle as if to express the tiny spasm of man in contrast to the sustained power and dignity of the Almighty. This and the unsteadiness of his advance make it evident that he has been drinking. As he climbs the few steps to the fire escape landing light steals up inside. Laura appears in the front room in a nightdress. She notices that Tom’s bed is empty. Tom fishes in his pockets for his door key, removing a motley assortment of articles in the search, including a shower of movie ticket stubs and an empty bottle. (Scene Four, stage directions).

    Williams uses props to display both that Tom is in fact drinking and that he also was telling the truth about going to the movies.

    [with great enthusiasm]: "Try and you will succeed! [The notion makes her breathless.] Why, you - you're just full of natural endowments! Both of my children-they're unusual children! Don't you think I know it? I'm so-proud! Happy and-feel I've-so much to be thankful for but—promise me one thing, son!"

    "What, Mother?"

    "Promise, son, you’ll—never be a drunkard!"

    [turns to her grinning]: "I will never be a drunkard, Mother."

    "That’s what frightened me so, that you’d be drinking!" (4.39-4.43, Amanda and Tom).

    Just as Amanda ignored the problems of the present by focusing on the past, she similarly blinds herself to Tom’s biggest problems by focusing instead on an absurd fear of alcoholism.

    "Find out one that’s clean-living—doesn’t drink and ask him out for sister!" (4.101, Amanda).

    Amanda’s concern for alcoholism is excessive, extending both to her son and to her daughter’s potential suitor.

    "Tom, he—doesn’t drink?"

    "Why do you ask me that?"

    "Your father did!"

    "Don’t get started on that!"

    "He does drink, then?"

    "Not that I know of!"

    "Make sure, be certain! The last thing I want for my daughter’s a boy who drinks!" (5.71-5.77, Amanda and Tom).

    Only towards the end of the play does Williams reveal the source of Amanda’s concern over alcohol: that her husband drank.

    "Old maids are better off than wives of drunkards!" (5.77, Amanda).

    Amanda’s fear of alcoholism is so great that she even compromises her desire for Laura to get married at any cost.

    "Irish on both sides! Gracious! And doesn’t drink?"

    "Shall I call him up and ask him right this minute?"

    "The only way to find out about those things is to make discreet inquiries at the proper moment. When I was a girl in Blue Mountain and it was suspected that a young man drank, the girl whose attentions he had been receiving, if ay girl was, would sometimes speak to the minister of his church, or rather her father would if her father was living, and sort of feel him out on the young man’s character. That is the way such things are discreetly handled to keep a young woman from making a tragic mistake. (5. 99-5.101, Amanda and Tom).

    Amanda’s views on alcohol, much like the rest of her views, derive from a different time period and are slightly outdated.