The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
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Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Tennessee Williams’ first major play, Battle of Angels, was produced by the Theatre Guild in Boston in 1940 and brought him recognition. The Glass Menagerie, his second play, helped to solidify his position in the American theater, establishing him as a leading playwright. The play was completed in 1945, around the time that World War II was coming to an end. Many literary works produced at the time were related either directly or indirectly to the war. The Glass Menagerie was one of the first works in that era to depict young people’s restlessness and struggles in trying to identify their relationship with the past, with tradition, and with society. The play has been used in both high school and college classrooms to display the detrimental effect of the struggle between illusion and truth and between the past and the present. It encourages young people to establish self-esteem, develop confidence, and think for themselves about the dreams for which they are willing to live and die. While Williams’ later plays deal mostly with the adult world, The Glass Menagerie perfectly captures the fantasy world of young adults.