The Glass Menagerie Questions and Answers
by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
Start Your Free Trial

The Glass Menagerie was written and first produced more than 60 years ago, but it retains its popularity and relevance for audiences. Why? Unlike Miller's Death of a Salesman, Williams's play does not comment upon a major aspect of America culture. What relevance do you think The Glass Menagerie has for today's readers and theatergoers? Why do you think the play has retained its popularity?

Expert Answers info

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,150 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, whose title suggests the fragility of human relationships, has themes that are universal and timeless:  failures of the family structure, failures of capitalism, failures of father, failures of individuality. Then, too, there is the ambiance of unreality to these relationships that involve characters that a reader knows only too well, an ambiance that is intriguing in its poetic structure that is suffused with imagery, creating an almost dreamlike state.

What viewer or reader has not desired escape from the humdrum existence of the quotidian just as Tom does?  What viewer or reader has not prayed that his/her mother would stop dictating the actions of his/her life? Who has not wished that he/she could break away as the father pictured on the wall has.  Or, who has not wished for an escape from one's fears and despairs. The themes of such as Duty and Responsibility, Appearance and Reality and Maturity in Relationships are very relevant for contemporary readers and viewers.

Containing many autobiographical relationships, The Glass Menagerie byTennessee Williams holds its appeal to modern audiences because it is authentic, and it is authentic in so many ways. Critic Alan Chesler credits Williams with applying visual and auditory effects to his poetic lines that emphasize color and music and scenic devises.  These Expressionistic and sometimes illusionary devices create the effect of memory and enrich the experience of Williams's audiences. 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Susan Hurn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write2,150 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Some of the staging techniques Williams employed in the play, such as the music, lighting, and the screen, make it visually compelling to experience, and there are passages of dialog that are just hauntingly beautiful, such as Tom's final speech. The enduring appeal of the drama, however, surely lies in its universal, timeless themes and the truths they explore. Love, loss, pain, fear, dreams, personal longing--all of these are felt by the characters and all of them speak to an audience, at any time.

Beneath Amanda's irritating, controlling manner, the audience can feel her fear and despair. Laura's pain and emotional isolation are poignant, especially in her scene with Jim O'Connor. Tom's dreams and desires speak to anyone who has ever dreamed and longed for a different life; his torment is also a familiar human feeling, as he is trapped by circumstances and responsibility that destroy a little of his spirit every day. His final speech as narrator is emotionally powerful and affecting. Who is not, in one way or another, haunted by the past?

The play remains relevant because the humanity of the characters is relevant. There is universal truth in their suffering that does not change with the passage of time.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial