The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams Book Review


“I suppose I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who are desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really.” In Tennesse Williams' written play “The Glass Menagerie” we are introduced to three main characters who seem to all find it difficult to accept reality within themselves. Tom copes with going to the movies, liquor, and writing, his mother Amanda refusing to accept the crumbling life she has lost in her debutante perfect life, and Laura the eldest sibling refuses to interact with the outside world consuming herself in music and her precious glass menageries. What happens when Laura is forced out of this reality by her family that leaves her shattered and alone?

Symbol of The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie plays a big role in this play not only because of the title but because it's no other than a tie to the main character Laura Wingfield. “How beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken.”  Many times throughout the story Laura is perceived as small and shy especially since she is considered crippled. Laura and the Glass figures are connected through not only the beauty that the glass brought but the fragility of it, both the glass and Laura being so unique but so sensitive to the touch of others just waiting to break in the hands of the ones around them. 

“I hope that it wasn't the little glass horse with the horn ! Yes Jim: Aw aw aw- Is it broken? Laura: Now it is just like all the other horses. Jim: It's lost its - Laura: Horn! It doesn't matter. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise Jim: You'll never forgive me. I bet that that was your Favourite piece of glass. Laura: I don't have favourites much. It's no tragedy, Freckles. Glass breaks so easily. No matter how careful you are. The traffic jars the shelves and things fall off them. Jim: Still I'm awfully sorry that I was the cause. Laura: I'll just imagine he had an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less - freakish ! Now he will feel more at home with the other horses, the ones that don't have horns.” The Unicorn in this scene begins off so unique and one of a kind as Jim explains it, but not without leaving out that it might be so lonesome relates to Laura so much through her own life. Laura having a disability her whole life feeling so out of place being not like the others took taking to the unicorn as her favorite beings as sort of the same. When the unicorn breaks I think Laura realizes that Jim makes her feel like she’s been lied to. He didn't think she was special, he just wanted her to break to become normal like everyone else.  She then offers the broken unicorn to him symbolizing that it's no longer appropriate for her but represents everything he has taken and destroyed within her.

Amanda, Laura’s mother, has never wanted anything more than to upkeep her social status in life, especially being a southern belle and while not being able to do it for herself she pushes it onto her children. “Nonsense! Laura, I’ve told you never, never to use that word. Why, you’re not crippled, you just have a little defect - hardly noticeable, even! When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to make up for it - develop charm - and vivacity and - charm! That’s all you have to do!” Amanda refuses to accept Laura’s disability just wanting the girl to do something with her life that wouldn't make her such a social outcast. After finding out Laura has dropped out of school she is astonished and disappointed ,but not giving up just yet. Instead offering no other than her last option to find a gentleman caller like she had done in her old days. 

In the writing we seem to find Amanda constantly talking about her past with all of her gentlemen callers in order to escape the world's brutal realities, but while doing this doesn’t seem to realize that she is suffocating Laura to be just like her. Amanda mainly focuses on Laura and her future during the play leading to the point that Laura once again is the main character.

Although Tom is narrating the story it doesn’t always seem to be about him, but more about how he sees Laura and how she lives her life. Tom sees Laura as this transparent glass that you can’t which is quite boring until you shine the light on it making it colorful. Throughout the story Tom expresses many times that he thinks Laura is very fragile and unique but seems to want to break her every chance. 

“I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow. Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger—anything that can blow your candles out!” Tom never really enjoyed his life always having to be the man of the family, and constantly wanted to leave so he did what he knew best, selfishly left home leaving behind the broken family. Throughout the time Tom narrates the tale of months before and the present he always is brought back to the guilt he has of leaving his sister. No matter where Tom goes there will always be a glass figure or a quality of light that leaves him wishing his sister was by his side. 


In the written play you are thought to believe that Tom is the main character of this story since he is telling it, but every character in the story all seems to set their lives around Laura. Tom can’t seem to get enough of his selfish behaviors and neither can Amanda. Tom indulges in things and decisions that are selfish that disclude Laura but in the end only leaves him wanting to be with Laura. On the other hand, Amanda’s only wish of Laura finding a husband while also living through her past through her daughter just trying to help, but ends up doing the complete opposite, left alone to break while her mother watches. The glass menageries in the story symbolizes Laura and how everyone around her tries to uphold her dainty and fragile state, but in the end they all end up breaking her just like the glass figure broken in scene 7.

The Glass Menagerie Quotes

1. “Time is the longest distance between two places.”

2. “How beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken.”

3. “In memory, everything seems to happen to music.”


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