The Glass Menagerie Characters
by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
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The Glass Menagerie Characters

The main characters in The Glass Menagerie are Tom Wingfield, Amanda Wingfield, Laura Wingfield, and Jim O'Connor.

  • Tom Wingfield is his family’s sole financial provider. He dreams of being a poet but is trapped in a job he despises.
  • Amanda Wingfield is a former Southern belle whose husband abandoned the family. She feels trapped and helpless and takes her frustrations out on her children.
  • Laura Wingfield is a shy young woman who escapes life by collecting glass figurines and listening to old records.
  • Jim O’Connor is Tom's coworker. He engages Laura’s fragile emotions and kisses her before revealing he is engaged to another woman.

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Amanda Wingfield

Amanda Wingfield, mother of Tom and Laura, lives in a state of humiliation at having been left by her husband, and her constant admonishing of Laura to be more assertive may reflect her own deep sense of regret at not being more assertive herself. When Mr. Wingfield left, Amanda lost her ability to see herself as a bewitching and attractive young woman deserving of widespread attention, and her vivacious nature is now overbearing. Amanda’s pushy temperament and talkative nature eventually drives Tom away; it is impossible to say if her manner contributed to her husband’s departure or if his departure has exacerbated her difficult personality.

Amanda prefers to live in the past, during a time when she remembers herself as young, beautiful, and charming. The past is also a time before she was married and then abandoned by her husband. Her vanity is sometimes pitiful, and her attempts at gaiety are sometimes overblown; when Amanda’s natural vitality bubbles over, she cannot help but seek attention from men. For example, Amanda’s performance for Jim might be a reflection of her seemingly involuntary reaction to a young man in the house; at the same time, Amanda might simply be overcompensating for Laura’s introversion.

Tom Wingfield

Tom Wingfield is the narrator of the play and Amanda’s son. Tom’s father left when Tom was five or six years old, leaving him without a male role model. Tom was raised solely by Amanda, whose overbearing nature drives him away by the end of the play, and his reaction to Amanda is the opposite of his sister’s. Amanda’s pushiness drains Laura of energy, but it goads Tom into energetic and vitriolic displays of anger.

Tom is a poet. He writes poetry at work at the shoe warehouse, and this literary impulse costs him his job. When Tom is fired, he takes the opportunity to leave his life in Saint Louis. Even before Tom leaves his mother and his sister, he displays behaviors and makes choices that remind his mother of his wayward father; this comparison might work for Amanda, but it is unfair to Tom, who should not have to step in for his absent father. Amanda wants Tom to take on the role of her husband, but he is her son, and his youth and artistic ambition lead him away from her by the end of the play.

Laura Wingfield

Laura is Amanda’s daughter and Tom’s sister. Laura lives with two disabilities: she has a problem with her leg that causes her to walk heavily and with a limp, and she is debilitatingly shy. Laura’s limp makes her painfully self-conscious, and she is fearful of being in public to the point of dysfunction; her instability is evidenced by the fact that her vomiting episode at secretarial school discourages from ever attending class again and her belief that her “clumping” while in high school was noisy and offensive to her classmates.

Laura lives primarily in her inner world, and she copes with her mother’s intensity by withdrawing further into herself, her glass figurines, and her music. Laura’s shyness and fragile psychological condition are exacerbated by her mother’s vivaciousness; Amanda’s energetic manner seems to make Laura retreat even further into herself, sapping Laura’s strength. Laura can become more comfortable around people outside her family, like Jim O’Connor, but his warmth and...

(The entire section is 958 words.)