Study Guide

The Glass Menagerie Memory and the Past

By Tennessee Williams

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Memory and the Past

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.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. What's the difference between remembering or reminiscing, and then totally living in the past? Where do you draw a line? Or rather, where does Williams choose to draw it?
  2. In his production notes, Williams keeps calling this "a memory play," and then talking about lighting and music and all this other funky stuff. Basically the audience never gets to forget they're watching a play, because all these artificial things happen. What do these artificial elements add to the play?

Chew on This

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.

The Glass Menagerie Memory and the Past Study Group

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