What was the annunciation in Williams' The Glass Menagerie?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Scene 3, is labeled Annunciation. The word means announcement. This idea comes from the Biblical account of the angel Gabriel’s proclamation that Mary the Virgin will give birth to the son of God.

This will be an important time for everyone.  Amanda will resurrect her best dress [notice the religious wording]. Another aspect of the story that it refers to is the Annunciation celebration which on March 25, which in the Catholic church indicates the beginning of spring.  Hopefully, for Laura, the new season will bring the happiness and beauty that is its outgrowth.

Amanda Wingfield has hoped and prayed for the day when Laura, her handicapped daughter.  Tom, the narrator and Amanda’s son, asked one the men that he works with to come to supper. It is Amanda’s desire to find someone for Laura to give her the life that she deserves.

Amanda: I wish for happiness for my precious children!

Tom: I thought maybe you wished for a gentleman caller…We are going to have one.

Amanda: You mean you have asked some nice young man to come over?

Tom: Yep.  I asked and he accepted…He’s coming tomorrow.

Amanda: Do you realize he’s the first young man we’ve introduced to your sister? It’s terrible...

The announcement of the gentleman caller coming does not change Amanda and her treatment of Tom. She still badgers Tom and wishes that he had more ambition, hoping that Tom will settle down, and find contentment as a CPA. Sick of listening to his mother nag him, Tom escapes to the fire escape where he talks again to the audience.

He observes life outside the Wingfield apartment. Every evening, young couples used to come to the Paradise Dance Hall to while away hours dancing or kissing in the adjacent alley. That, Tom says, was their form of escape from dull, dreary lives.

Eventually, Williams’s references to the birth of a savior will become tragic omens of the failure of the “gentleman caller fiasco.” Christianity seems lost in the world of the Wingfields and even the time period. The guidance that should have come from God seems to elude them.   

Williams was unclear about his relationship to Christianity. In this story, the annunciation seems to have no impact on the participants in their daily struggle to survive.

Religion in the world of the Wingfields does not guide them in the right path.  The imagery seems to suggest that Christianity has been reduced to ornament or ritual with no effectiveness to help those struggling in the modern world.  The characters are associated with Christian imagery and seem completely lost in the contemporary world; religion fails to guide them. 

jseligmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reference is sort of a dark joke, actually. The Annunciation refers to the New Testament when the angel Gabriel tells (announces to) Mary that she is going to have a child (Jesus, the son of God, the Savior: Luke, Chapter 1, verses 26-38). In the Glass Menagerie, it is the scene in which Tom tells (announces to) his mother Amanda, that the he will be bringing Jim O'Conner (the long-awaited Genlemant Caller/Family Savior) for dinner:

AMANDA: You mean you have asked some nice young man to come over?

TOM: Yep. I've asked him to dinner.

AMANDA: You really did?

TOM: I did !

AMANDA: You did, and did he - accept?

TOM: He did !

AMANDA: Well, Well ? Well, well ! That's -lovely !

TOM: I thought that you would be pleased.

AMANDA: It's definite, then?

TOM: Very definite.


TOM: Very soon.

AMANDA: For heaven's sake, stop putting on and tell me some things, will you?

TOM: What things do you want me to tell you?

AMANDA: Naturally I would like to know when he's coming!

TOM: He's coming tomorrow.

Unfortunately, of course, Jim does not turn out to be the savior Amanda had hoped he would be as he was already spoken for; he had a girlfriend named Betty.

Read the study guide:
The Glass Menagerie

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