The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download The Glass Menagerie Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Significant Allusions

Allusions to History: Since The Glass Menagerie is a memory play, Williams situates the play in the actual history of 1937. In his opening monologue, Tom alludes to many real-life events in order to create the atmosphere of this time period. These allusions also call attention to the world outside of the Wingfield apartment, and demonstrate how separated Tom, Laura, and Amanda are from reality. 

  • Daughters of the American Revolution, or D.A.R. as it is referred to in the play, was established in 1890 as a nonprofit organization of women descended from those involved in the movement for American independence. Amanda’s involvement with the organization portrays her as someone who believes in the grandeur of the past and who takes pride in her lineage. 
  • When Amanda questions where Tom goes at night, he sarcastically says that he has joined the Hogan Gang. This violent gang, which was based in St. Louis, sold liquor during Prohibition and committed horrendous crimes including armed robbery and murder. 
  • Tom’s monologues to the audience include references to various historical events which root the play in its 1937 setting. He mentions the bombing of Guernica, which took place on April 26, 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s umbrella, which came to represent peace following the Munich agreement with Hitler in 1938. 

Allusions to Literature and Mythology: Williams also draws on literature to temporally situate the play and provide thematic insights. 

  • Amanda confiscates Tom’s “hideous book by that insane Mr. Lawrence.” She is alluding to the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, which divulges in explicit detail the sexual life of the protagonist, Constance Chatterley. Although published in 1928, the novel was banned in many countries and not widely read until the 1960s. 
  • Twice in the play, the legend projected on the screen reads “Où sont les neiges?” or “Where are the snows?” This French phrase is excerpted from the phrase “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?” (“Where are the snows of yesteryear?”) in François Villon’s “Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis” (“Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past”). The poem discusses famous mythological women. 
  • In Greek mythology, King Midas could turn everything he touched into gold. As Amanda reminisces about her past in Blue Mountain, she describes one of her gentleman callers as having the “Midas touch” because he was able to successfully make a fortune on Wall Street. 

Allusions to the Bible: 

  • The screen projection preceding Tom’s announcement to Amanda that...

(The entire section is 653 words.)