In the play "The Glass Menagerie," how is sexuality  portrayed?Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams, Amanda, who alludes constantly to all her "gentleman callers," thrawts the sexuality of her son.  She conficates his copy of D. H. Lawrence's novel, saying that she will not permit it in her house:

That hideous book by that insane Mr. Lawrence.  BUT I WON'T ALLOW SUCH FILTH BROUGHT INTO MY HOUSE!

Lawrence, like Tennessee Williams himself felt that sexuality was a powerful and important force in one's life.  So, the confication of the Lawrence novel indicates the emasculation of Tom by his mother; she treats him as though he were yet a boy.  That Tom is sexually frustrated as he cannot get out much is indicated in Scene 3 when Tom becomes enraged after Amanda takes his book.

Laura, too, is treated as a girl in Scene 6 as Amanda tends to her dress before the gentleman caller arrives.  The stage directions state that

Amanda crouches before Laura, adjusting the hem of a new dress, devout and ritualistic.  Laura looks like a piece of translucent glass touched by light, given a momentary radiance not actual, not lasting

In contrast to Tom whom Amanda finds a bit perverse with D. H. Lawrence, Laura appears virginal. Her mother stuffs her bosom with handerchiefs, calling them "The Great Deceivers," indicating that sex is to be  used to entice and deceive men:

All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.

Amanda's use of the floor lamps gives Laura a "fragile, uneartly prettiness." And, later stage directions are that "The holy candles in the altar of Laura's face have been snuffed out." The religious allusions indicate the sensitivity and innocence of Laura 's personality, in contrast to the potent energy of Tom an energy that he must have inherited from his wayward father.

Read the study guide:
The Glass Menagerie

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