The Glass Menagerie

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The Glass Menagerie is a play by Tennessee Williams set in St. Louis, Missouri, in the 1930's. The play is an important part of the American theatrical repertoire and continues to be performed successfully by both professional and amateur theatres.

The play centers around the Wingfields: Amanda, Tom, and Laura. Their relationship has become strained since Mr. Wingfield left them. While Tom works in a warehouse to support the family, he dreams of leaving home and frequently watches movies in cheap theaters. Amanda obsesses over finding a suitor for Laura, while Laura herself is so shy that she locks herself up and only admires the glass figurine collection (menagerie) she has.

Tennessee Williams based the play on his own family; he himself is the basis for the character of Tom, his mother for Amanda, and his sister (who in real life suffered from Schizophrenia) for the character of Laura.

There are many adaptations of the play: two direct film adaptations (one in 1950, another in 1987 directed by Paul Newman) and two Made for TV Movies (one in 1966 part of CBS Playhouse, another in 1973 starring Katharine Hepburn). Two foreign adaptations were also made: Akale, a 2004 Malayalam film, and Here Without Me, a 2011 Iranian film.

Tropes used in The Glass Menagerie include:
  • Aloof Big Brother: Tom, although more to his mother than to his sister.
  • Author Avatar: The play is semi-autobiographical: Tom is Tennessee Williams himself, Laura is his mentally disabled sister Rose and Amanda is his mother.
  • Beautiful All Along: Laura. Cruelly subverted that just after she made an indication that she could do so, the crushing blow of The Reveal was too much that she went back to Shrinking Violet territory
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The play opens with Tom explaining to the audience that the play is based on his memories.
    • After Tom's first speech, the literal fourth wall of the apartment lifts.
  • Broken Angel
  • Brother-Sister Incest: The Subtext was definitely there in the movie remake, although very nonexistent in the original play.
  • Christmas Cake: The implication is that if Jim doesn't get together with Laura, and he doesn't, she will become this.
  • Deadpan Snarker: A few of Tom's lines.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life: Tom, in his monologue in the end.
  • Disappeared Dad: Mr. Wingfield.
  • Downer Ending: Not only Jim is already betrothed, Tom finally decides he has had it and leaves the family.
  • Flower Motifs: Blue roses and jonquils.
  • Generation Xerox: Tom and his father abandoning Amanda and Laura.
  • Hikikomori: Laura.
  • Informed Flaw: Laura being crippled. It doesn't show in the present, though she's been embarrassed having a brace in high school.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Amanda, she boasts on and on about the gentleman caller seventeen gentlemen callers she had back in her youth. The fact that now she settles with two children on a dingy apartment in a big city with her husband somewhere in The Deep South is an indication of something's amiss.
  • Jerkass: Tom, but for good reason. Amanda could be more of a Jerkass than Tom, however.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Jim keeps bringing up "If you were my sister" to Laura.
  • Make a Wish: Played with. Tom assumed Amanda's wish on the moon would be a gentleman caller for Laura and informs her he found one for her, while Amanda wished the best for her children. Finding a gentleman caller has been Amanda's wish for a long time, but both wishes are subverted when the gentleman in question is taken and none of the characters save Jim are happy in the end.
  • My Beloved Smother: Amanda.
  • Minimalist Cast: The play only features four characters.
  • Nice Guy: Jim. In fact, that's pretty much Tennessee William's whole character description of Jim.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Tom's whole reason for telling this story is that he feels guilty for abandoning his family.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mr. Wingfield
  • Poor Communication Kills: Tom doesn't tell Jim that the dinner is supposed to introduce Jim as a suitor to Laura. Jim is taken.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: The glass menagerie itself, and especially the little unicorn. Not Played for Laughs.
  • Prince Charming: Subverted slightly, but cruelly; the Prince is taken.
  • The Reveal: Jim is getting married.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: The entire plan to bring Jim to a "casual dinner" is ruined, and their sacrifices are made in complete vain.
  • Shrinking Violet: Laura, and how! Laura is so shy she locks herself up at home. The only attempt she had in typing class ended in failure when she threw up due to shyness. To top it off, she skipped classes every day and visited zoos instead.
  • Source Music: The theater near the tenement. Its music conveniently stops during The Reveal.
  • Southern Belle: Amanda, also see above.
  • Title Drop
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Tom and Amanda's arguments get increasingly bitter: a significant escalation is when Tom accidentally breaks one of Laura's figurines. He's sorry for it at once.
  • Unreliable Narrator
  • Wafer-Thin Mint: Amanda yelling at Tom for inviting a man who's already engaged, which causes Tom to leave.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Just when you think Laura will "win" Jim due to their little dance and kiss, The Reveal hits.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: When Laura's favorite glass piece - a unicorn - that she showed to Jim breaks. Even more so because it breaks off its horn: "Now it's just like all the other horses".
  • Whole-Episode Flashback: The play is a flashback.