In the Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie, the main character, Tom Wingfield, is also the narrator, and the play is recalled from his memory. The story begins by telling of Toms father who has abandoned his wife, Amanda, and children sixteen years prior, leaving Tom the sole benefactor. Their father only sent word once in the form of a small postcard from Mexico. After this has been narrated, Tom, with his mother and handicapped sister, Laura, sit down to dinner and immediately Amandas pushy and dominant personality becomes overwhelmingly clear.
Amanda criticizes Laura and argues with Tom. Amanda becomes angry with Laura because she has been walking in the park, skipping out of her classes because they give her nervous indigestion. Amanda feels that it is time for Laura to be married so she invites young men over to visit with her. Laura is really interested in a man named Jim OConnor that went to her high school. He was the school hero, but Laura has no idea where he is now. Amanda also criticizes Tom for smoking and watching too many movies, yet she takes away his books.
Amanda and Tom have a huge argument but Amanda takes the time to ask Tom to bring his male friends over to visit Laura. A few days later, Tom tells Amanda that he will bring over a friend named Jim OConnor. Amanda is thrilled and makes elaborate preparations, even down to Lauras clothing. Laura thinks that if it is the same Jim OConnor she had a crush on in high school, she will not be able to face him now, and she ends up making herself sick with worry. Amanda insists that Laura answer the door, but she became so sick, she couldnt eat dinner with the group.
During dinner, Jim turns out to be an excellent, sweet guy. Amanda gets frustrated and concocts a plan to get Laura and Jim together by bringing Tom into the kitchen to wash dishes and sending Jim to the living room with Laura. Laura miraculously looses some of her shyness and her sickness and becomes very pleasant and charming in Jims company. Jim likes Laura enough to kiss her and she is thrilled. However Jim then tells Laura that he is engaged to be married. Amanda blames Tom for trying to play a cruel joke on the family by bringing over an engaged man.
Tom defends himself saying he had no idea Jim was to be married. At the end of the play, Tom is the narrator again. He has left home to become a sailor and pursue his dreams of adventure. He feels guilty for leaving his mother & sister behind just like his father had done. The climax of the story is perhaps the part where Laura finds out that Jim is engaged and Amanda attempts to throw the blame to Tom and none of the characters take responsibility for their actions except Jim. The structure of the play is very unique.
It is a memory play of several episodes told by the narrator who is also the lead character. The technique of using flashbacks in the play to cover up the loose or confusing ends was cleverly used my Williams. Despite this being a memory play, it follows well with the curve of dramatic action. Amanda is a frustrated woman. The man she loves who left her to raise two children on her own deserted her. She often fantasized about her days as a Southern Belle with several suitors at once. Amanda has no skills and therefore cannot hold down a permanent job and relies on Tom to provide for her and her daughter.
Laura is a girl who is frustrated as well as heartbroken. He mother does nothing but nag her all the time, she is handicapped, and going to school makes her violently ill. She has never had a chance to grow in any way because of her mothers poor treatment of her. Tom lives most of his life thinking about his dreams of adventure and wanting to become a sailor. He feels held down and taken advantage of because of Laura and Amanda. He doesnt want to stay home and take care of his sister & mother, he wants to go out and have a good time, seeking his dreams.
Personally I didnt like this play at all when I read it the first time in high school (11th grade). I thought it was so terrible. I think the reason I thought it was so awful and unbearable is because of the mother. I couldnt handle her criticism and her whole character bugged me. I didnt like Laura a whole lot either, mostly because she played the role of the pathetic, helpless little girl. The second time I read this play, I kind of enjoyed it a little more. It wasnt near as eye rolling and yawning the second time as the first time I suffered through it.