In The Glass Menagerie, Tom feels confinement from being stuck in an uninspiring job, cramped into a small apartment with his family, and unable to see the world or have adventures. Amanda is similarly confined to her thoughts of the past, and Laura traps herself in a world of glass animals. Escape can mean two things here: escape from reality into an alternate world, or escape from a trap or confinement. This play hints at the moral ramifications of some kinds of escape, asking the question of who is left behind and what happens to them when you leave.
Tom is a selfish character because of his desire to escape his responsibilities to his family.
Although Tom seeks to escape his life and job at the warehouse, he neither desires nor is able to escape his family.
In The Glass Menagerie, duty and responsibility largely arise from family. The play examines the conflict between one’s obligations and one’s real desires, suggesting that being true to one may necessitate abandonment of the other. We also see that duties are gender specific, and arise largely from the expectations of societal norms.
Amanda's expectations of Tom are unfair, because she puts all the familial responsibility on his shoulders.
Although Amanda demands a lot of Tom; her expectations of Laura are more unreasonable.
In The Glass Menagerie, family means obligations. This play raises questions of duty and responsibility to your other family members, and for the most part in gender specific roles. We see that it is the job of the male to bring home money, and the daughter to look pretty and get married. This also features the notion of abandonment, as a father leaves the family behind. There is also the notion of children taking after their parents; Tom leaves the family just as his father did, and Amanda wishes her daughter were as popular as she used to be. We see fighting between mother and son over both trivial matters, such as dinner etiquette, and larger issues, such as work and life goals. Lastly, this play examines the relationship between sister and brother, as Tom feels both protective and later guilty with regards to his sister Laura.
Despite the exaggerated nature of their situation and the hyperbole of their dialogue, actions, and interactions, the Wingfield family in many ways represents the stereotypical American family.
Although Amanda projects her own dreams onto her daughter and son, she is overall a positive force in the lives of her children.
Although Amanda has good intentions, she ends up being a destructive force in the lives of her children.
In The Glass Menagerie, memory plays an important part, both thematically and in terms of the play’s presentation. Thematically, we see the detrimental effects of memory in the form of Amanda’s living in the past. As far as the play’s presentation is concerned, the entire story is told from the memory of Tom, the narrator. He makes it clear that, because the play is memory, certain implications are raised as to the nature of each scene. He explains that memory is selective, that events are remembered with music, with peculiar lighting, that reality is altered and edited and made presentable in certain ways. This is how we see the play, directly as a memory.
Because the audience is constantly reminded that the play is merely Tom's memory, scenes in The Glass Menagerie must necessarily be examined in the light of subjectivity, a lens that changes the way each scene is interpreted.
In The Glass Menagerie, weakness is linked to fragility, which comes to mean both beauty and breakability. While Laura’s shyness and fragility keep her in her own little world of equally fragile glass animals, they also infuse her with a mysterious individuality, something Jim picks up on with the nickname "Blue Roses" and finds incredibly attractive. Fragility also means dependence, as Laura needs Tom precisely because of her shy and delicate demeanor. We also see the relationship between physical and mental fragility, as it seems that Laura’s shyness arises from a physical defect: her crippled leg.
Despite her attempts at helping, Amanda is the character primarily responsible for Laura's fragility and shyness.
The Glass Menagerie makes it clear that there is no hope for Laura; while Tom escapes, Laura is left stuck in an inescapable rut, a prisoner in her own glass house.
In The Glass Menagerie, Amanda retreats from reality by denial and deliberately deluding herself as to the true nature of things. She refuses to see that her daughter is crippled or her son a writer who likes to drink, raising the notion that parents often see only the good qualities in their children. She is also somewhat blind as to her own status; although she readily admits that she is old, Amanda still thinks of herself as the pretty Southern Belle, getting all dolled up and playing the charming hostess.
Although Tom, Laura, and Amanda all escape reality and delude themselves, [insert name here] suffers from denial in the most detrimental way.
Although denial may seem detrimental, [insert name here] uses it in a positive and beneficial way.
In The Glass Menagerie, dreams of the future are the source of conflict, primarily when one character’s dream doesn’t match up with another’s. While Amanda wants her children to fulfill the classic American Dream of hard work and success, Tom has dreams of being a writer, and Laura is too shy to even leave the house. This also raises the issue of parents imposing their dreams on their children, rather than allowing them to figure out themselves just what it is that they want.
Although their fights take many different forms, Amanda and Tom major conflict is their inability to reconcile their different dreams for the future.
The Glass Menagerie serves as a direct attack on the American Dream, as Amanda's expectations for the marriage and success of her children are impossible.
In The Glass Menagerie, abandonment refers to a member of the family abandoning the family unit, and leaving others behind to fend for themselves. The play deals a little with the moral implications of such an act, as well as the aftermath. It suggests that such an act may be learned from parents, as the son chooses to abandon the family the same way the father did.
Because of the nature of son to follow father, Tom cannot be held responsible for following in his father's footsteps and abandoning his family.
The Glass Menagerie fails to provide adequate reasoning to explain Tom's sudden departure from the family.
In The Glass Menagerie, marriage is used as a tool rather than a celebration of love. Amanda believes that marriage is a necessary step for her daughter to live comfortably, to be supported by a man. This play also calls into question the lasting nature of marriage, as the marriage of the mother figure (Amanda) and her missing husband has been destroyed by his abandonment of her.
Because Amanda is unable to necessarily tie love to the institution of marriage, she sees it as a tool of manipulation rather than a mutual decision.
In The Glass Menagerie, gender roles play a large part in dictating the future plans of each character. Laura must get married because she is a girl; Tom should take business classes because he is a man. Gender roles seem to arise from tradition, as Amanda discusses what women should do and what men should do according to her Southern upbringing. Gender roles also dictate values, or how women and men are judged differently. Amanda places great importance on Laura’s staying ‘fresh and pretty,’ while she believes that ‘character’ is the most important thing for a man.
Although they resist the roles prescribed to them, Laura and Tom both eventually assimilate to the gender stereotypes cast by their mother.
In The Glass Menagerie, love is tricky. We’re never really sure if love is genuine, or convenient, if it’s really love, or whether it’s just infatuation. The closest thing there is to genuine love occurs between Laura and Jim, and is based on a mutual understanding of each other’s individuality and uniqueness. Jim’s supposed love for Betty and their impending marriage is based on them ‘getting along fine,’ and while Amanda confesses that she loved her missing husband, he abandoned her, calling into question just how mutual that love was from the start. There is also the issue of familial love, and how to reconcile the anger and frustration we may feel with family members with our innate love for them. Particularly explored here is the nature of love between brother and sister, who support each other when on rocky ground with their mother.
While Amanda discusses her marriage to her missing husband, Laura her infatuation for Jim, and Jim his feelings for his fiancée, none of these characters actually experiences genuine love.
In The Glass Menagerie, alcoholism is not major or explicit, yet becomes a symbol for all undesirable activities. Amanda uses alcohol as an umbrella to cover any un-ambitious activities that her son takes part in, including writing, reading, and going to the movies. When she asks if Laura’s gentleman caller is a "boy who drinks," what she really wants to know is whether he is the kind of boy who drinks, is rowdy, goes out at night, and doesn’t care too much about his future. Because her husband drank, Amanda associates alcoholism with him, and therefore with irresponsibility and abandonment.
Because it is the one fault she claims of her missing husband, Amanda sees alcoholism as the root of all evil, using it as an overarching umbrella to characterize everything that she believes is wrong about Tom's way of living.