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, Jim tells her that he is engaged to be married.