Play analysis

The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams Synopsis of the Play “ The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams is a play that contains four characters and is actually a form of a ‘ memory play’. Premiered in the year 1944, the play had been a huge success and critically acclaimed and is considered one of the first series of modern American plays that speaks about shattering of American Dream. The play appears before the audience as a journey to the memory of Tom where he recollects Amanda and his sister Laura. The Glass Menagerie can be considered as the trajectory of Amanda Wakefield, a forgotten Southern belle who is putting up at a small urban apartment and where she literally captivates and suffocates her two children. Her son Tom, who is restless by nature and Amanda, who is a mixed character of incessant charm and eternal guilt, live in a closed world of their own. After many persuasions from Amanda’s side, Tom brings a friend from the place where he works with a hope that he would fall in love with his sick and reclusive sister Laura. After a culmination of one of the sweetest and heartbreaking scenes evolved in the history of American plays, the gentleman caller eventually breaks Laura’s heart, disrupts the dream of the family and finally pulls out Amanda of her dreamy and over ambitious world to break the heart of her shy daughter and aspiring writer son.
Geographical Environment of the Play
The play Glass Menagerie is set entirely against the background of a closed apartment where even the fire escape is crucial. The apartment is fictitious and meagre and is located beside an alley in St Louis.
At the outset of the play, the time period of the play is hinted at. Tom reverts back in his memory and the time period in which the plot of the play develops is 1930s.
Economic Background
The economic status of the Winfield’s is that of middle class. They are not economically strong enough and for this reason Tom had to take up job in a shoe factory leaving his aspiration for becoming a writer. Laura cannot support her family and Amanda who once had an aspiring life lives in the world of dreams. The gentleman caller, Jim O’ Connor is brought to marry off Laura which is another indication of economic burden that the family is into.
Political Background
Political overtones are not very prominent in the play. It cannot be regarded as a political play. On the contrary, the play is more psychological. Yet disillusion and shattering of the American Dream as a major motif in the play somewhere makes it political. The dreamy world and the over ambitious pursuit of the Americans are criticized and the reality appears as crude, and mundane and this fact is operated as an eye-opener for the Americans.
Social Background
The four characters of the play are internally related with each other and the play actually initiates, develops and ends up on in the closed apartment of the Wingfield family. The play, The Glass Menagerie is the story of Amanda and her son Tom and daughter Laura who are actually shown quite detached from the external world of reality and lives in their own world of dreams. The only alien character in the play is the gentleman caller for Laura who happens to be the friend of Tom as well. He intrudes the dreamy world of Wingfield and shatters their dream, opening up the closed windows of the apartment to the harsh world of reality.
Religious Background
There are no pertinent involvements of the religious element in the play. The Wingfield family is Christian and they are religious. The society outside the closed world of Wingfield’s apartment is disillusionary and immoral to a great extent. However, the Wingfield’s are part of the larger system outside their close vicinity as well and they are also not shown very morally perfect or upright.
The play “ The Glass Menagerie” consists of four characters, namely:
Amanda Wingfield: She is the mother of two. A very proud and over ambitious woman, she is charming but lives in her world of gleaming past and clings to it.
Tom Wingfield: An aspiring poet, whose dream has been shattered by the rude reality and he works in the show warehouse to support his family. A true escapist by nature, he takes the refuge of movies, alcohol and literature to get rid of his crude reality.
Laura Wingfield: Tom’s elder sister and Amanda’s daughter, Laura has a weak leg and takes the support of limp. She is sick and shy. She loves to live in her own world which comprised of her glass figurines and old records. She is a complete introvert by nature.
Jim O’ Connor: An acquaintance of Laura and Tom, Jim works as a shipping clerk in the same shoe warehouse where Tom is employed. He is extremely professional and believes in corporate ideals.
Tom Wingfield can be treated as the protagonist of the play. The entire narrative takes place through his memories and vision in the play.
Jim O’Connor is the antagonist of the play to some extent who shatters the dream of Laura and her family, putting them into difficult and disgraceful situation.
Human Issues in the Play
The play is psychological and issues like introvert nature, tendency to frame a dream world and the battle of illusion versus reality finds prominent expression in the play.
Significance of the Title
The word “ Menagerie” means private collection of animals kept for the display. Laura has her own private collection of glass figurines which comforts her and helps to build her own world of dreams. As the major theme of the play is the eternal battle of the world of illusion and reality, therefore the display of the glass menagerie to Jim by Laura holds a prominent significance in the scene 7 of the play. All the characters in the play has their own world of dreams in which the seek solace and escapes into it whenever there is a trouble in the real world. Therefore the symbolic presence of the glass menagerie in the play actually eclipses the entire theme making the title of the play apt and significant.
Purpose of the Play
The inherent message latent in the play “ The Glass Menagerie” is all about the antagonism of the world of dreams with that of reality. And the purpose was to depict the hollowness of over ambitious American Dream and it’s shattering. The main message of the play says that the world of dreams is gleaming but short-lived and every mortal have to face and live in the crude real world only.
William, Tennessee The Glass Menagerie Heinemann, 1996.