How is The Glass Menagerie a "coming of age" story?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Williams' work is not a traditional coming of age narrative.  While it does involve the idea of maturation and better understanding one's self, it does so without the traditional symmetry and unity that is a part of the coming of age narrative.   If one is to accept Williams' drama as a coming of age story, it is one in which accepting the dissonance of reality is intrinsic to maturation.

One distinct feature of Williams' drama as a coming of age narrative is that it is not one person who experiences the greater understanding of self.  Tom, Amanda, and Laura would all be characterizations that experience this greater understanding of one's own self. Tom recognizes that he can no longer masquerade as something he is not. He recognizes this in leaving.  While he tells the story in reflection, one gets the impression that even after leaving, happiness has eluded him.  Amanda is confronted with the shrieking nothingness that she has been trying to block out.  To a great extent, she comes to the reality that her past is gone and she has little in the future except ruptured bonds and extinguished dreams.  Laura might be the one character where something related to a positive notion in the coming of age narrative can be seen.  For so long she had been seen as weak and feeble.  Yet, she demonstrates a certain strength by the end of the drama.  Laura comes of age in that she is able to accept the conditions in which she lives and the life she has.  Her own consciousness is the best present on her birthday as she blows out the candles on her own cake, alone and away from everyone else. In these settings, perhaps there is a way to see Williams' drama as one in which the characters experience a "coming of age" narrative.