The Glass Menagerie revolves around the dynamics of a basically dysfunctional family, the Wingfields. Tom Wingfield, the narrator, lives with his mother Amanda and his sister Laura. Laura is very awkward, and shy to the point of neurosis. Her mother is constantly worried about her daughter, though she seems to be in denial regarding her desirability to young men. She always wants her daughter to stay pretty for "gentlemen callers." Tom feels frustrated and constrained and wants to leave his family, which, we discover, his father had done earlier. As he tells his friend Jim:
I’m starting to boil inside. I know I seem dreamy, but inside—well, I’m boiling! Whenever I pick up a shoe, I shudder a little thinking how short life is and what I am doing!—Whatever that means, I know it doesn’t mean shoes—except as something to wear on a traveler’s feet!
Amanda, understandably, is afraid that he will leave. The play, basically, is about the interactions within this unhappy family, and it ends with Tom's departure after an unsuccessful attempt to introduce Laura to an actual "gentleman caller," his friend Jim.