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Theatre / The Glass Menagerie

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The Glass Menagerie is a 1944 play by Tennessee Williams, set in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1930s. Williams's first major work, it is an important part of the American theatrical repertoire and continues to be performed successfully by both professional and amateur theatres.

The play centers around the Wingfields: Amanda, Tom, and Laura. Their relationship has become strained since Mr. Wingfield left them. While Tom works in a shoe warehouse to support the family, he dreams of leaving home and frequently watches movies in cheap theaters. Amanda obsesses over finding a suitor for Laura, who's so shy that she locks herself up in her room and admires the eponymous collection of glass animal figurines she keeps.

Williams based the Wingfields on his own family; he himself is the basis for the character of Tom, his mother for Amanda, and his sister (who suffered from schizophrenia in real life) for Laura.


This play provides examples of:

  • Aloof Big Brother: Tom, although more to his mother than to his sister.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Laura's disorder is never named, but she may be suffering from anxiety disorder and/or mild schizophrenia. Her poor social skills and fixation on glass figurines could indicate some form of autism.
  • Author Avatar: The play is semi-autobiographical: Tom is Tennessee Williams himself, Laura is his mentally disabled sister Rose, and Amanda is his mother.
  • Beautiful All Along: Laura. Cruelly subverted that just after she made an indication that she could do so, the crushing blow of The Reveal was so much that she went back to Shrinking Violet territory.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • The play opens with Tom explaining to the audience that the play is based on his memories.
    • After Tom's first speech, the literal fourth wall of the apartment lifts.


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