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The Glass Menagerie (New Classics Series) Paperback – June 4, 1970
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“The revolutionary newness of . . . was in its poetic lift, but an underlying hard dramatic structure was what earned the play its right to sing poetically.” — Arthur Miller
“With the advent of . . . Tennessee Williams emerged as a poet-playwright and a unique new force in theatre throughout the world.” — Lyle Leverich in Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Wil
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.
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Tom Wingfield narrates the story of his family, focusing on his last days he is with them. Deserted by the father, whose picture hangs prominently on the wall, Tom must work in a shoe factory to support his mother Amanda and sister Laura. His role makes him resentful and angry. He dreams of and threatens to leave to pursue his own interests, writing.
Amanda lives in the past, regaling family and audience with stories of her upbringing and her beaus. Abandoned once, she fears Tom will walk out on Laura and her.
Laura suffers from crippling shyness, more debilitating than her physical limp.
At the urging of Amanda, Tom agrees to bring a "gentleman caller" home for Laura, who is reclusive, withdrawn into her own world populated by her glass figurines. Jim O'Connor accompanies Tom home one night, a night for which Amanda pulls out all the stops and spares no expense, though their resources are limited.
After a rocky start, Jim, with his big aspirational personality (though he, too, is a character wounded by life), puts Laura at ease to the point where possibilities seem to glimmer in her future. She admits to having had a crush on him in high school, where he was quite a big deal. There's even a spark between them. But, alas, it's not to be, as Jim has a girl, Betty, he will soon marry.
Jim excuses himself early, leaving Amanda to attack Tom for the joke he played on Laura and herself. Of course, he didn't know Jim was about to be married, because Jim had not announced it in the factory. It's the final row for Tom who leaves never to return. However, as his final words reveal, he really can never leave; the memory of Laura haunts him over distance and time.
While only the barest of bones, hopefully you can see just own psychologically complex Williams's play is. It's also filled with interesting features, some of which audiences never see, as directors omit them as clumsy, redundant, even condescending. The most prominent of theseis the screen that displays key ideas that the characters pretty much speak almost immediately. The others are the cinematic quality of the piece that include explicit key lighting direction and music cues.
For those who would like to see the play performed, you will find the 1973 television adaptation particularly good. It stars Katharine Hepburn as Amanda, Sam Waterston as Tom, Joanna Miles as Laura, and Michael Moriarty as Tom.