Study Guide

The Glass Menagerie Family

By Tennessee Williams

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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.

Questions About Family

  1. This play seems to be saying that you can’t choose your family. No kidding. Tom and Amanda are stuck with each other. Do they hate each other? Aren’t they supposed to love each other if they’re family? Isn’t Amanda really just looking out for Tom, in that nagging mother sort of way? Or not?
  2. Tom and his father both peace out from the Wingfield family. But in what ways are these situations different? Is Tom really just like his father?
  3. What exactly is Tom and Laura’s relationship? Because we keep noticing this pattern where Tom breaks her stuff and then stands around and looks at her awkwardly without really saying anything. And what’s up with the ending, when he says he was more "faithful" than he intended to be.
  4. You might have noticed that Amanda keeps treating her children like they’re five-year-olds. Why is that?

Chew on This

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.

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