The Glass Menagerie Essential Quotes by Theme: Deception
by Tennessee Williams

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Essential Quotes by Theme: Deception

Essential Passage 1: Scene 1

TOM: Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion. To begin with, I turn back time. I reverse it to that quaint period, the thirties, when the huge middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind. Their eyes had failed them, or they had failed their eyes, and so they were having their fingers pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille alphabet of a dissolving economy.


Tom explains that his purpose as the play's narrator is not to present an illusion that has the appearance of the truth, but to give truth in the guise of an illusion. Tom says that the play takes place in the 1930s (“a quaint period”) in Saint Louis, Missouri, in the midst of the Great Depression. It is a time when the happy illusions of the “Roaring Twenties” have been striped away by a U.S. economic disaster that has spread worldwide. In Europe, the people are revolting, instigating a violent change that will result in the fascist governments of Hitler and Mussolini. In America, labor unions go on strike and have physical confrontations in what were once peaceable cities. In these unsettled times, the play opens on Tom Wingfield's unsettled family.

Essential Passage 2: Scene 2

AMANDA: Laura, where have you been going when you’ve gone out pretending that you were going to business college?

LAURA: I’ve just been going out walking.

AMANDA: That’s not true.

LAURA: It is. I just went walking.

AMANDA: Walking? Walking? In winter? Deliberately courting pneumonia in that light coat? Where did you walk to, Laura?

LAURA: All sorts of places—mostly in the park.

AMANDA: Even after you’d started catching that cold?

LAURA: It was the lesser of two evils, Mother. I couldn’t go back up. I—threw up—on the floor!

AMANDA: From half past seven till after five every day you mean to tell me you walked around in the park, because you wanted to make me think that you were still going to Rubicam’s Business College?

LAURA: It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I went inside places to get warmed up.

AMANDA: Inside where?

LAURA: I went in the art museum and the bird-houses at the Zoo. I visited the penguins every day! Sometimes I did without lunch and went to the movies. Lately I’ve been spending most of my afternoons in the Jewel-box, that big glass house where they raise the tropical flowers.

AMANDA: You did all this to deceive me, just for deception? [Laura looks down] Why?

LAURA: Mother, when you’re disappointed, you get that awful suffering look in your face, like the picture of Jesus’ mother in the museum!


Amanda returns home, clearly upset. She did not have the courage to go to her DAR meeting as she had originally planned, so Amanda dropped by Rubicam Business College, where Laura is ostensibly enrolled in business courses to pursue a career as a secretary. Amanda is shocked when she is told that Laura is no longer enrolled and had attended only a few days. Laura, in humiliation, explains that she had become nervous during a timed typing exercise and thrown up on the floor in front of the entire class. In shame, she did not go back. Instead, she had been going to the zoo, or in rare moments to the movies. Amanda is discouraged more than angry. She had been counting on Laura's getting a regular job to help provide for the family, since it seemed increasingly unlikely that Laura would find someone to marry.

Essential Passage 3: Scene 5

AMANDA: The only way to find out about those things is to make discreet inquiries at the proper moment. When I was a girl in Blue Mountain and it was suspected that a young man drank, the girl whose attentions he had been receiving, if any girl was, would sometimes speak to the minister of his church, or rather her father would if her father was living, and sort of feel him out on the young man’s character. That...

(The entire section is 1,368 words.)