Symbolic illustration of Laura's hands holding a glass unicorn

The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

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In the 1975 production of The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams added the business involving Jim’s wrapping and disposing of his used chewing gum. Why do you think the author inserted this detail? How might it be symbolic of Jim’s personality?

Jim’s wrapping and disposing of his used chewing gum shows that he is a methodical, thoughtful person. His comment that he always removes it when the flavor is gone also indicates his pragmatic attitude toward life.

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In The Glass Menagerie, as Jim and Laura begin to converse, he offers her a stick of gum and begins to chew one himself. She initially declines but later changes her mind and accepts a piece. After they have been talking for a while and she has made him aware of how they knew each other in high school, he tires of the now-flavorless gum. Jim warps the gum in a small piece of paper and stows it in his pocket. As he does so, he tells Laura, “I always take it out when the flavor is gone.” He also states his concern about gum getting stick on people’s shoes.

This bit of business occurs within a monologue that Jim delivers about his own ambitions and his opinions about Laura’s psychological makeup. Jim speaks in a confident, straightforward manner but also tries to convey that he was not always so confident.

He is a forward-looking, ambitious young man who fits in well with society—the opposite of both Tom and Laura. His careful attitude toward even a small amount of trash corresponds well to his pragmatic attitude toward life. Jim prefers to proceed carefully and avoid being the agent who causes negative events in other people’s lives. However, he does not realize that in giving Laura a pep talk about confidence, he is dismissing the validity of her concerns and seeming boastful by offering himself as a role model.

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