The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie


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No play in the modern theatre has so captured the imagination and heart of the American public as Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie.

Menagerie was Williams's first popular success and launched the brilliant, if somewhat controversial, career of our pre-eminent lyric playwright. Since its premiere in Chicago in 1944, with the legendary Laurette Taylor in the role of Amanda, the play has been the bravura piece for great actresses from Jessica Tandy to Joanne Woodward, and is studied and performed in classrooms and theatres around the world. The Glass Menagerie (in the reading text the author preferred) is now available only in its New Directions Paperbook edition. A new introduction by prominent Williams scholar Robert Bray, editor of The Tennessee Williams Annual Review, reappraises the play more than half a century after it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award: "More than fifty years after telling his story of a family whose lives form a triangle of quiet desperation, Williams's mellifluous voice still resonates deeply and universally." This edition of The Glass Menagerie also includes Williams's essay on the impact of sudden fame on a struggling writer, "The Catastrophe of Success," as well as a short section of Williams's own "Production Notes." The cover features the classic line drawing by Alvin Lustig, originally done for the 1949 New Directions edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780811214049
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 06/17/1999
Series: New Directions Books
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 104
Sales rank: 11,340
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.36(d)

About the Author

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) is the acclaimed author of many books of letters, short stories, poems, essays, and a large collection of plays, including The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Orpheus Descending, The Night of the Iguana, and The Rose Tattoo.

Robert Bray is an author, editor, and Tennessee Williams scholar.

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The Glass Menagerie 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 71 reviews.
Guacamole More than 1 year ago
Representing the emotional need to escape reality, especially in the turmoil of the Great Depression, Tennessee Williams describes a family of disconnected members each affected by a different. As Amanda continues to dwell in her earlier glories, her two kids struggle to flee from an unpleasant truth through other desperate means. While Tom interests himself with literature and movies, Laura remains preoccupied with maintaining her glass menagerie. In a sense, all three strive to escape the "coffin" that represents their mundane lives. Williams effectively captures the emotions of that era, addressing the absence of Mr. Wingfield and its impact on the mental state of the family. Two prevalent motivations for abandoning a family-the battle for self-preservation and the shame of failing loved ones-are subtly presented throughout the course of this play, as the financial instability of the Wingfields suggest a need for new beginnings. This accurately reflects the chaos of the 1930s, as love, a supposedly universal weapon, fails to save the day. Combining artistic mastery with heart-wrenching content, Williams employs a lyrical style that uses symbolism to convey loss and longing. Specifically, Tom's final monologue equates Laura to a "shattered rainbow," describing not only her frailty, but also his undying love for his helpless sister. With a distinctly melancholic tone, Williams conveys a sense of unresolved conflict and profound nostalgia. More prominent than the overall emotional impact is the ironic way in which Williams unites the family under the desire to escape. Bereft of both materialistic belongings and faith in the future, the Wingfields are held together by their common need for change. Ultimately, Tom succeeds in his endeavor, and it is suggested that, despite his remembrance of his sister, he is able to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Williams eloquently expresses the pains of failed romance, but fails to present any real hope for the future. In a sense, Laura's fiasco with her love interest bleeds through to negatively impact all those around her. No shift or memorable conclusion is presented, and I feel as though the overall moral could have better been developed differently. While Tom does manage to break free from his familial obligations, he does so to follow in the footsteps of his father, not purely out of a desire for self-fulfillment. Through the development of distinct personalities, Williams emphasizes that, in spite of our differences, human beings all seek the same seemingly elusive happiness.
TGU More than 1 year ago
Although the Glass Menagerie served as the first breakthrough hit of Tennessee Williams' eventually booming play writing career, I can honestly attest to the fact that I believe that this play was mediocre at best. Granted, this play was all but shoved down my throat and I rarely enjoy books that are delivered in that way. However, this play, in spite of the fact that I actually chose to read it, mildly disappointed me, especially since I was rather thoroughly surprised by the fact that I had enjoyed A Streetcar Named Desire. This just proves to show that an author can have pretty severe discrepancies within his own works. Or maybe I'm just weird. The Glass Menagerie was too repetitive for my taste, with no actual true plot. With Tom's constant chatter about dreaming and Amanda's prattling endlessly about gentleman callers, it was enough to convey to me the gist of the entire play within the first few pages. The characters were, I found, ill-developed. I could never reason out a comprehensible and logical reason to explain Laura's actions. But then, maybe the illogicalness of her actions is supposed to convey a point also. Either way, I'm not a fan of the way she was portrayed, the manner in which the play panned out. Granted, this is not a play to watch/ read if you're in a sad mood, as the ending leaves much to be desired, serotonin-level wise. Similarly stagnant was the plot development. It seemed as if the plot were a wheel, centered around a single spoke and unable to branch out into anything else that made sense. I felt the play too heavily focused on the concept of gentleman callers to the point where I was not quite aware of the fact that Amanda was supposed to portray a Southern belle incarnate. With so much emphasis on the gentleman caller, I expected a longer interaction with one when Jim finally waltzed onto the stage. However, like much else in the play, it remained disproportionate and rather awkwardly fitted in. The lack of other characters in the play, with only three main ones also hinder any potential character development the three leads could have potentially had. However, the symbolism present within the play was most artfully carried out. The whole shpeal with the unicorn and the horn tie in absolutely wonderfully with the idea of normalcy and fantasy, which actually correlates nicely with the overall play and the themes presented within it. I also thoroughly enjoy Williams' style and the dialogue between Amanda and Tom are, in my opinion very believable, in that they mirror the conversations that go on between my own brother and mother at times. At times, also, I found the play surprisingly just purely entertaining. These things kept the general air of pointlessness in the play to a basic minimum. Overall, this tale of escapism and failing to do so proves not to be a terrible read, though not nearly as entertaining as other works by the same author. Poignant symbolism and realistic dialogue save this play from fading away with ill development in plot and character.
Anonymous 3 months ago
if you love drama, this is for you. I'm more of a person into romance, so it wasn't as interesting for me.
kellyholmes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this in high school and loved it!
Biblio_Manic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this was rather good, except I found the whole screen displaying things kind of odd...
MissBoyer3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amanda Wingfield, the matriarch of "The Glass Menagerie," always tells her daughter, Laura, that she should look nice and pretty for gentleman callers, even though Laura has never had any callers at their St. Louis apartment. Laura, who limps because of a slight physical deformity, would rather spend her time playing with the animals in her glass menagerie and listening to old phonograph records instead of learning shorthand and typing so she can be employable. When she learns Laura has only been pretending to go to secretarial school, Amanda decides Laura must have a real gentleman caller and insists her son Tom, who works at a shoe factory, find one immediately. After a few days, Tom tells Amanda he has invited a young man named Jim O'Connor home for dinner and at long last Laura will have her first gentleman caller.
Hantsuki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to be honest. I missed the spice I got from A Streetcar Named Desire, but it's understandable because this particular play is more of a reflection of Williams's life. I did find the use of the screen in the background to be interesting, much like a Greek play with a chorus to comment on the play itself. But by using the "screen" that shows words and images at certain times, I believe Williams was aiming for a melodramatic effect and by doing so, sort of add a touch of humor to a dark situation. I really felt like this play was a long read even though it was relatively short. Maybe I'll appreciate it more if I read it one more time later, but for now, this play was kind of a bore.
beckykolacki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is technically a play, but since it is a piece of literature that I love I decided to put it on this list. If I had a list of my favorite plays of all time, this would be at the top. Though Tennessee Williams is probably more well known for A Streetcar Named Desire, and that would be considered his best work, I have to favor The Glass Menagerie. The plot follows the Wingfield family, living during the 1930¿s and the Great Depression, in a small apartment in St. Louis. The son, Tom, is 22 and itching to get out of there and get a life of his own. His sister, Laura, is a painfully shy cripple content to play with her glass animals all day. Their mother, Amanda, is a controlling, highly emotional woman trying to relive her past, who claims she only wants what is best for her children. Needless to say, this leads to a highly volatile family life. All of the characters feel so real, especially Tom, and some of his lines just cut right through you because they¿re full of so much meaning and truth. There is so much beautiful symbolism here (blue roses, the fire escape) and just so much literary excellence. The ending is not completely tragic, there is a glimmer of hope for Tom, but overall the play is certainly tinged with sadness ¿ though there are occasional humorous moments.
4sarad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't like it much. I'm just not a fan of quick stories like this. Sure, this was a very pivotal moment in the man's (or, family's) life/lives, but really I don't care unless I know more about them. I want more of the before and after.
TakeItOrLeaveIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a great american play. old fashioned but memorable.
KendraRenee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
SO good. this just might convince me to like and read more plays. the characters are so real--even just on paper, before they're translated onto a stage or into the screen. god i could've so easily been an english major, if this is what i do for fun in my free time...
dferb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I re-read this for a student/parent book night at school. It's been a long time since I first saw a performance of this play, and even longer since I read it. I think it was much more powerful this time around. Williams' stage directions are brilliant, and the theme of lost dreams and disappointment are still relevant. The freshmen students all identified with the children, and the parents identified with the mom. A great choice for this event.
emanguno on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Must read/see play. This is what modern American drama is all about. The video versions offer an opportunity to compare John Malcovich and Sam Waterston in the role of Tom.
deep220 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Glass Menagerie is a story of longing and frustration. The story is narrated by Tom, who hates his factory job and desires to run to sea but he is trapped being the main support for his mother and sister. Amanda, the mother, is desperately disappointed by the outcome of her life. She clings to her past as a southern belle who had the eye of society and all the interests of the most eligible young men. Instead of a senator or plantation wife, her husband left her. Laura, her daughter is more trapped by her paralyzing self-consciousness then her slight disability. We see Amanda pain her daughter with the wistful talk of gentlemen callers and pins her hopes on the singular visit of Jim. Resulting in further desperation and loneliness. I was drawn into the play by the emotions shown so clearly by each character. The hope that one has in life and the entrapment we all feel by decisions of our own making. This story definitely pulls at your heart strings and is a message everyone can relate to.
SoonerCatholic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Setting: This play about moving forward is set in an apartment in St. Louis during the 1930s.Plot: Amanda attempts to find a suitor for her shy daughter Laura.Characters: Tom (protagonist) goes to movies, ultimately leaves; Laura- shy, fragile, owns glass collection, Amanda (antagonist)- flighty, unintentionally cruel; Jim- nice ordinary young manSymbols- blue roses, picture of father, glass collectionCharacteristics: a play about the need to be aware of the presentMy Reaction: I thought the message of the play was true but hearing the satire detracted from its meaning.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With multiple readings, I've learned to appreciate this book for character, theme, and language, but it's still nowhere near a favorite. It is fairly melancholy, and somewhat depressing without a great deal to balance it out. At the same time, this is one of the few works where I've enjoyed the reading more than the stage-production. When I've seen it, it seems that the narration and themes beg for directors to play with different forms of presentation rather than sticking with a fairly simple set and idea, which in the end has hurt the meaning of the work for me personally. I'd recommend reading it at some point if you're interested in literature or unique characters, but plan for something a bit more uplifting afterward. I will say that it's one of those works I'd take out of the highschools if I could, since I'd rather we be encouraging students to read as opposed to fostering the belief that all good literature has to be depressing as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Trixiedoodle More than 1 year ago
I had to read this play (and two others) for a class and this one is by far my favorite. This play left such a good impression on me that I will definitely read some of his other plays.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't know why all the negagivity! I'm a high school senior reading this for summer reading; I think it's smart, quick, and fairly easy. The characters are not flat at all, on the contrary, you can tell tons about them in the first few pages and quickly form opinions about them. Like I mentioned, its short and in play format so its a refreshing read. I totally recommend. :)
emariscal More than 1 year ago
“The Glass Menagerie”, a play by Tennessee Williams follows the clash of a small family’s internal conflicts. Each character, Tom, Laura, and Amanda, have an emotional conflict which calls for each to long for something more than what they’re currently capable of. The play’s writing style is cleverly structured to insist the reader analyze each character, especially Tom; since the play is told from his memory. The play’s structure adds deeper meaning to the text and adds to the works literary merit. Characterization is based off of each character’s emotional flaw. The theme of the play is to not underestimate yourself and dwell on your flaws. 
TaniyaB More than 1 year ago
Tennessee Williams’ A Glass Menagerie is about a young man named Tom who is unhappy and unsatisfied with his life at home and at his work. He desires to become a writer and is fond of writing poetry. All the while, his mother Amanda is a nagging and controlling woman who only desires the best for Tom and her daughter Laura. However, she attempts to live her past through Laura to compensate for what she has left in life, since her husband abandoned the family. Laura, Tom’s sister and Amanda’s daughter, is also unhappy with her life because she struggles to behave normally with her leg disability. She is constantly reminded that she has a flaw, a defect, which distorts the image of her in a severe manner. This play is different from the rest because Tom, the main character, actually breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience. In the beginning, he tells his listeners that he cannot be trusted because what he will tell them is from his memory. Furthermore, because this is a memory play, it seems as though Tom is the director who sets the events in a hazy and cloudy atmosphere. One of the themes that applies to the play is that sometimes what a person desires is not available to him or her, so he or she must take action and change his or her life path. This makes sense when analyzing Tom’s character.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Glass Menagerie really is a fantastic play. That being said, most reviews on this website are from the perspective of those who have no intention of actually SEEING the play performed. I myself have recently seen the play on Broadway starring Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Brian J. Smith, so reading the play afterwords was obviously much more enjoyable. If you plan on seeing the play in the theatre,  I recommend  reading the play afterwords, as it completely changes your perspective (and, honestly, makes it much clearer). For those who haven't seen it, or don't plan on seeing it, I can understand how it might come across as dull in text format, but keep in mind it WAS written as a script, and therefore much of the emotion and vision is to be displayed by the actors. Williams writes with a lot of emotion, so while there might not be a definite 'point' to the play, it effectively tells the story of an unusual family and their struggle with seemingly ordinary ideas. The conflict, love, hatred, etc. shown by Tom, Laura, and Amanda is written very clearly, but I honestly think that the reader's mindset going into the text version makes all the difference.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago