The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
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At a Glance

  • In The Glass Menagerie, Amanda Wingfield lacks the education and skills to support herself and her family during the Depression. She is a former Southern belle who fell in love and married an irresponsible man who later abandoned her and their children.
  • Amanda’s fears drive her attempts to control Tom’s and Laura’s thinking and behavior. She nags them continually, creating conflict and tension in the household. Amanda escapes reality in romantic memories of her youth.
  • Tom Wingfield, his family’s sole support, dreams of being a writer and living a life of adventure. Trapped in a job he despises and resentful of Amanda, he runs away and travels the world, but he is haunted by the memory of Laura. 
  • Disabled by fear and insecurity and unable to fulfill her mother’s expectations, Laura Wingfield escapes life by collecting glass figurines and listening to old records. A brief romantic encounter with Jim O’Connor breaks her heart.
  • Jim O’Connor confidently pursues unrealistic dreams of a future in radio. Carried away with the sound of his own voice, he engages Laura’s fragile emotions and kisses her before revealing he is engaged to another girl.

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Amanda Wingfield

Amanda Wingfield, a middle-aged woman and an incurable romantic. Deserted by her husband and forced to live in dreary lower-middle-class surroundings, she retreats from reality into the illusory world of her youth. She lives for her children, whom she loves fiercely, but by her constant nagging, her endless retelling of romantic stories of her girlhood, and her inability to face life as it is she stifles her daughter, Laura, and drives away her son, Tom.

Tom Wingfield

Tom Wingfield, Amanda’s son, through whose memory the story is seen. With literary ambitions, he is trapped by his dreary surroundings, the care of a nagging mother and a disabled sister, and the stifling monotony of a job in a warehouse. He finally rebels and makes his escape.

Laura Wingfield

Laura Wingfield, the disabled daughter of Amanda Wingfield. So shy that she finds ordinary human relationships almost unbearable, she is totally unequipped for the romantic role in which her mother has cast her. She takes refuge among her glass figurines, the “glass menagerie” that is the symbol of her fragility and her retreat from reality.

Jim O’Connor

Jim O’Connor, a former high school hero whom Laura Wingfield has admired from afar. He works with Tom Wingfield, who invites him to dinner. Jim brings Laura her one moment of confident happiness but then, in his honest manner, Jim tells her that he is engaged to be married.


(Drama for Students)

Blue Roses
See Laura Wingfield

Jim O'Connor
Jim is the gentleman caller Tom invites home for dinner. Although he also works at the warehouse, he makes more money than Tom and has greater aspirations—even if they are somewhat conventional ones. Yet, his situation reveals that dreams are often not achieved, for in high school Jim had been predicted to become very successful. He treats Laura kindly, but during their conversation he reveals that he too is not entirely realistic, for he discounts the severity of Laura's problem and assures her that all she needs is more confidence.

Amanda Wingfield
Amanda is the...

(The entire section is 630 words.)