Study Guide

The Glass Menagerie Love

By Tennessee Williams

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.