The glass menagerie is about a family, Tom, Amanda, and Laura Wingfield. Tom, who is not necessarily the main character, but is also one of the most important characters, narrates the book. The book is partly about Tom’s life, and his need to escape his family’s apartment. His mother, Amanda, constantly nags him about the things he does, and where he goes nightly, after work. Tom wants nothing more to leave his family behind and travel the world, as his father had done before him, but his responsibilities to his mother and sister hold him back from doing so. Tom is the only provider for the family, meaning that if he were to leave, they would have no income, and would not be able to afford shelter or food. Amanda, sensing the Tom desperately wishes to leave, tells Tom that if they can find Laura a husband, who can provide for the family, Tom can leave. Tom invites one of his co-workers, and friends, Jim, to dinner with Laura. The two hit it off, and the dinner is going well between the two, although Laura is a little shy. Near the end of the dinner the electricity goes out, because Tom could not pay the electricity bill after he had spent his money on the dinner. Laura and Jim move to the living room where they eventually dance, resulting in one of Laura’s glass animals, a unicorn gets knocked off the shelf. Laura explains that these are her prized possessions, but that it is ok because it is just a normal horse now, and in the heat of the moment Jim kisses her. This comes as a shock to all, which is redoubled when Jim announces that he has a wife-to-be and rushes out the door.
Tom Wingfield - Tom is the son of Amanda Wingfield, and the brother of Laura Wingfield. Tom is the only source of income in his family, and stands in for his father, who left the family when he was younger. Tom wishes he could pack his things and leave his family, and shirk the responsibilities he holds to them. However it is those exact responsibilities that cause him to stay, and care for his mother and sister. Tom is a very hard worker, and strives to provide for his family. Tom has a puzzling attitude towards his family. He obviously cares for them very much, and works hard to support them, but at times is mean, if not even cruel, to them. He also has a very complicated relationship with his mother, who he often gets into arguments with.
Amanda Wingfield – Amanda Wingfield is the mother of Tom Wingfield, and Laura Wingfield. She is Tom’s main opposition, and the two often get into arguments. Amanda is the generic, southwestern, traditionally raised, type of woman. She uses her own set of morals in ever decision. Amanda often fights Tom, but still understands his wants and needs, and works to allow him to get in touch with those things. Amanda, while not used to working, picks up a boring and repetitive job in order to help Tom pay for Laura’s wedding. This self-sacrifice shows that while she can be tough, she can also support her family, and work to provide for them. This is also seen in her deal with Tom, and her allowing him to leave.
Laura Wingfield – Laura Wingfield is the brother of Tom Wingfield, and the daughter of Amanda Wingfield. She is an inherently shy person, and by the time the story takes place, has not done much with her life. Her and Tom have a relationship that describes the typical family, the fight, but they also get along. In contrary to Tom and her mother’s relationship, she and Amanda get along pleasantly well, and the two can relate. Laura is a compassionate, and caring character, and the only one of the three family members who does not instigate fights or arguments. Laura is often used by Amanda to glorify Amanda’s own youth, describing how much better of a childhood Amanda had. One of the interesting things about Laura is that in adversity to the other characters, she often displays her own will and motives, which shocks the other characters.
The Setting of A Glass Menagerie is described from an indefinite, and undefined future, through the eyes of Tom, the son of Amanda Wingfield, and bother of Laura Wingfield. The year the retelling takes place is never described, however the year Tom is talking about is sometime between the winters, and spring, of 1937. Tom, who is recreating the novel, sculpts the entire setting, from the way he remembers it, and the things he remembers happening. The main location of the story is the Wingfield’s apartment. The apartment is not large, but it is also not small. The family is not particularly wealthy, but not dirt poor either. The house, as well as the family, could be described as what was middle class for the time period the story takes place. Throughout the story, the other settings include several of Tom’s workplaces, Laura’s room, or with Tom’s friend. Throughout the novel, the setting changes majorly, something that is seen during the date between Laura and Jim. This change is viewed through the electricity’s going out, which also symbolizes their faltering wealth. Another important piece of the setting is the room in which Laura keeps her glass sculptures, and more importantly, the glass sculptures themselves. The glass animals represent the family’s fragility, and Laura’s own delicacy. The electricity failing represents the families reliance on Tom, and the need for him to maintain a steady income, because if he were to stop providing for the family, the two women, Laura and Amanda, would not be able to support themselves financially, and would not be able to afford shelter or necessities.
In A Glass Menagerie the types of conflict include man vs. man, and man vs. society. Man vs. Man is seen in the conflict between Tom and Amanda, as well as between Jim and Laura. Man vs. Society is seen in Tom’s hardships, such as not being able to pay the bills, or leave his straining family.
Three main themes in the writing A Glass Menagerie include struggle, relationships, and fragility. The theme struggle is shown through Tom’s life, and how he has to work hard to get anything. It is also shown through Laura’s shyness, and inability to find a suitor. The theme of relationships is shown through two main relationships in the show, Tom’s relationship with Amanda, and Laura’s relationship with Jim. Tom’s relationship with Amanda shows how two family members can be so incompatible, and Laura’s relationship with Jim shows how easily budding relationships can cripple. Another important theme in the novel is fragility. This is shown through both Laura and Jims relationship destructing at the turn of a dime, and how easily Jim was able to break the unicorn.
Three symbols shown in A Glass Menagerie include the glass unicorn, the apartment, and Laura’s new dress. The glass unicorn is an important symbol because it represents the fragility of all things, specifically Laura and Jim’s relationship. The apartment represents the necessity of shelter, and the lack of appliances represents the hard work that is required to possess that shelter. Laura’s new dress represents sacrifice, as well as struggle. It represents how Tom had to give up money that he used to pay bills, in order to afford Laura’s dress, and well as the struggle he has to go through to avoid nice things.