The Glass Menagerie Study Guide

The Glass Menagerie By Tennessee Williams

The Wingfield family lives in St. Louis, MO in 1937. Mr. Wingfield ran off before the story begins, so it's just Amanda and her two children, Tom and Laura. Tom hates his job, drinks too much, and spends his off-job time immersed in movies and stories. Laura has a bunch of glass animals that are her favorite possessions.

Amanda is upset because Laura is painfully shy and wears a leg brace, so she will never have a boyfriend. She enrolls her daughter in a business college, but Laura secretly drops the class: she's too shy to deal with it. Amanda decides that her daughter's only salvation lies in marriage, and gets a part-time job to make a little extra money with which to attract suitors.

Heeding his mother's request to find her daughter a husband, Tom invites Jim O'Connor to dinner. Amanda grills Tom about Jim and likes what she hears, so she orders Laura to answer the door in a new dress when Jim arrives. No one realized that Laura had a crush on Jim in high school - so when she sees who has arrived, she panics and hides. Tom and Jim chat, and Tom admits to Jim that he nicked the money for the electricity to join the Merchant Marines and leave his life in search of adventure. With Laura faking sickness, Amanda dominates the dinner conversation.

The electricity gets cut off as dinner is ending. Candles are lit, and Laura is fetched. Jim is warm toward her, and slowly draws her out of her shell. They dance, and kiss, but then Jim withdraws and apologizes, citing his existing girlfriend. Amanda enters, and Jim explains that he must leave to see his fiancée. Once he is gone, Amanda turns on Tom and berates him for his inattention to that important detail.

Tom, now acting as narrator, explains that he left his job and traveled for years all over the world, but never escape the guilty memories of his sister.

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