Explain why you think Laura is or is not the protagonist of the play.

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Laura is an important character, as is Amanda, but I don't believe she is the protagonist. Tom Wingfield is the protagonist; the story belongs to him. The drama focuses on Tom's internal and external conflicts during the time he is trapped in the dingy St. Louis apartment during the Great Depression, torn between his dreams and his sense of responsibility for his mother, and especially, for his sister. Tom's restlessness, resentment, and his misery color every scene in which he appears, which is almost every scene in the play. Tom's conflict is developed through his relationships with Laura and Amanda. The fourth character, Jim O'Connor, acts as a functional character; it is his appearance in the Wingfields' home that acts as the catalyst to push Tom into a final break with his mother.

Tom is actually two characters in the play: Tom the narrator, who presents the story in the retrospective point of view years later after having left home, and Tom the young man who stars in his own narrator's memory. The contrast between the two formulates a major theme in the play: Tom left St. Louis and his sister behind, but he never escaped. There was no escaping his past and his own identity. Tom's final speech in the conclusion of the drama makes this clear in a very poignant way.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Okay, this is interesting. Here is an enotes link that distinguishes between a protagonist and a "focal character." It is quite enlightening.


According to these definitions, a protagonist and a focal character are almost always the same, but not always. When there is a difference, the protagonist is the character with whom we most empathize, while the focal character draws the most attention. This may be the case with The Glass Menagerie. As narrator/character in the memory, our attention is most focused on Tom, but Laura engages our emotions to a greater degree.

This now seems a subjective question. Perhaps some would find Tom's anguish to be greater than Laura's. Considering the end of the play and its staging, there seems to be a strong emotional involvement with both characters, as both are shown to be suffering in their own ways.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One definition of protagonist is that this is the main character, but also the character with whom the audience empathizes.  With this denotation, then, Laura can be considered the protagonist as she seems the character with whom the audience empathizes.  Still, an argument can be made for Tom as there are readers/audience members who empathize with his desire for individual expression in a trapped world.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't have much more to add, but I think it's clear this is Tom's story to tell.  Without his narration, we would still have a story, but the only substantial change in the characters happens to Tom.  Laura is changed, it's true, by her experience with Jim; however, her future is clearly the same when we leave her as it was when we met her. 

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the poster who said the protagonist is the character with whom we most empathisize. While both are caught up in personal suffering, it is Laura with whom the audience is most emotionally involved. This plus the title which directly ties to Laura would seem to be supportive of the idea.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the title of the play can be applied to not just Laura, however, it is clear that it is most relevant to her. Therefore, I would have to agree with others that Laura is the protagonist of the play - hers is the tragedy and it is she who we feel most sorry for at the end of the play.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree that Laura is probably considered the protagonist of the story. I would even go further and suggest that Tom might actually be considered an antagonist in the play.

noelia | Student

I agree that Tom seems to be the protagonist because he is also the narrator of the story. However, the name of the play " The Glass Menagerie" is deeply concerned to what Laura reprensents in the play, she is as delicate, breakable and fragile as the glasses she carefully polishes.

epollock | Student

I would say that she is if she can be greatly connected to the concept of a glass menagerie. Who or what that thing is is of great importance for the protagonist if it represents her in some way. If it represents another person, then I would say she is not the protagonist.

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The Glass Menagerie

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