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Glass Menagerie, The

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellen Gilchrist Biography to Grain

a play by Tennessee Williams, produced in 1944 and published in 1945. Partly expressionist in form, it is the play in which Williams came to terms with the emotional side of his own early life in St Louis, and in doing so, greatly extended the range of contemporary American theatre. Tom Wingfield, who stands for Williams himself and who also acts as narrator/chorus, lives with his mother, Amanda, and his crippled, with-drawn sister, Laura. Amanda, who has been deserted by her husband, dreams about her (largely fictitious) past as a Southern belle and projects her longing for fulfilment on to her children, demanding that Tom should get ahead in his job instead of brooding about becoming a writer, and that Laura should marry. She persuades Tom to bring home a friend, Jim O'Connor, in order to introduce him to Laura, and deludes herself into imagining a romantic connection between them. Jim wins Laura over by his warmth of manner and she, recognizing him as the boy she was attracted to in High School and incorporated into her innocent fantasies, shows him her collection of glass animals—the ‘menagerie’ of the title. Her favourite piece is a glass unicorn, and it is this which is damaged—its horn broken—when the two attempt to dance. Jim tells Laura that his private name for her during their schooldays was ‘Blue Roses’, after which he kisses her. However, the tenderness of the mood is broken when he reveals that he is already engaged to another girl. Amanda blames Tom for this disastrous outcome, and, furious at this injustice, he leaves home for good.

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