Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Amanda Wingfield, a middle-aged woman and an incurable romantic. Deserted by her husband and forced to live in dreary lower-middle-class surroundings, she retreats from reality into the illusory world of her youth. She lives for her children, whom she loves fiercely, but by her constant nagging, her endless retelling of romantic stories of her girlhood, and her inability to face life as it is she stifles her daughter, Laura, and drives away her son, Tom.
Tom Wingfield, Amanda’s son, through whose memory the story is seen. With literary ambitions, he is trapped by his dreary surroundings, the care of a nagging mother and a disabled sister, and the stifling monotony of a job in a warehouse. He finally rebels and makes his escape.
Laura Wingfield, the disabled daughter of Amanda Wingfield. So shy that she finds ordinary human relationships almost unbearable, she is totally unequipped for the romantic role in which her mother has cast her. She takes refuge among her glass figurines, the “glass menagerie” that is the symbol of her fragility and her retreat from reality.
Jim O’Connor, a former high school hero whom Laura Wingfield has admired from afar. He works with Tom Wingfield, who invites him to dinner. Jim brings Laura her one moment of confident happiness but then, in his honest manner,...
(The entire section is 238 words.)
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See Laura Wingfield
Jim is the gentleman caller Tom invites home for dinner. Although he also works at the warehouse, he makes more money than Tom and has greater aspirations—even if they are somewhat conventional ones. Yet, his situation reveals that dreams are often not achieved, for in high school Jim had been predicted to become very successful. He treats Laura kindly, but during their conversation he reveals that he too is not entirely realistic, for he discounts the severity of Laura's problem and assures her that all she needs is more confidence.
Amanda is the mother of Tom and Laura. She has difficulty facing reality, though by the end of the play she does acknowledge Tom's desire to leave and Laura's uncertain future. She frequently fantasizes about the past, probably exaggerating her own popularity then. Her relationship with Tom is conflicted, most prominently when she criticizes his minor habits.
Laura is the daughter of Amanda and sister of Tom. She is extremely shy, even emotionally disturbed, and she wears a brace on her leg which makes her feel conspicuous. Her collection of glass animals gives the play its title. She does not work, and she has been unable to complete a typing class because of her nervousness. Although she says she had once liked a boy in high school, she has never had and is unlikely...
(The entire section is 392 words.)