The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
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What are the expressionistic techniques in The Glass Menagerie?

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In both writing and staging, Tennessee Williams uses expressionistic techniques throughout the play. He immediately has Tom Wingfield characterize The Glass Menagerie as a “memory play.”

Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart.

Tom also says the play “is sentimental, it is not realistic.” Williams provides ample stage directions that indicate exact aspects of the “dimly lighted” play, with terms such as “lemony,” “gloomy,”...

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eleanor915 | Student

Expressionism is a technique in which the artist attempts to express his own subjective emotional state or response. In The Glass Menagerie, Tom, one of the story's protagonists, also acts as the narrator. In this way, Tom is able to inform the audience or to tell the story in such a way as to make his own feelings clear.

This is Tom's story, told from his perspective. He may not say directly that he felt guilty or happy or sad, rather he is able to point elements out to the audience and to tell the story in such a way that makes his feelings about the events of the play clear.

In his opening monologue for example, Tom states that this play is a memory. He then goes on to point out the staging techniques that indicate the mood associated with this memory: the lighting and fiddle music. These staging techniques are used not only to indicate mood but to help evoke it. Tom is, in effect, standing outside of the play, indirectly telling the audience how he feels about the events that take place.