I. Teaching/Learning Objectives for College-Level StudentsIn this first section, I will list some teaching/learning objectivesfor college-level students studying Tennessee Williams. They are: * To read and comprehend the plays written by Williams. * To be able to explain quotes and/or passages from the plays. * To be able to tell about the life of Tennessee Williams. * To have an understanding of the 20th century culture (ex.
-language, family life, etc.). * To be able to read and respond to the plays by writing essays ofcriticism. * To be able to do through research on Williams. * To learn how to enjoy the writings of Tennessee Williams.II. Brief Overview of Tennessee William’s CareerTennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in 1911. Heattended the “Universityof Missouri in Columbia” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 21).
There he became the”first freshman to win an honorable mention in the Dramatic Arts Club One-Act Play Contest” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 22). One of the poems he wrotewas published in his college yearbook in 1932.In 1938, Williams “graduated from the University of Iowa” (Bloom’sBioCritiques, 115) and in 1939, he received the “Rockefeller grant”(Bloom’s BioCritiques, 115). In 1944, one of his most famous plays, TheGlass Menagerie, opens up in Chicago. Three years later, A Streetcar NamedDesire is debuted. Within the next ten years, Williams had written atleast ten other plays. In 1961, he won the “New York Critics’ CircleAward” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 116). He received that “National Arts Clubgod medal for literature” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 117) in 1975.
Williamsreceived an “honorary degree from Harvard University” (Bloom’sBioCritiques, 117) in 1982, a year before he died.III. Analysis/Close Reading of The Glass MenagerieThe Glass Menagerie has four main characters. They are AmandaWingfield, TomWingfield, Laura Wingfield, and Jim O’Connor. Amanda Wingfield is thesingle mother in the play.
Her husband had deserted the family yearsbefore. Tom Wingfield is the son of Amanda. He works in a shoe warehouseand is the main breadwinner of the family. Laura Wingfield is the daughterof Amanda. She is slightly disabled and enjoys playing with her collectionof glass animals. Last, but not least, Jim O’Connor is the man who Laurahad liked in high school. He later shows up at their home as a gentlemancaller for Laura.
There are many themes that the readers must take underconsideration. They are: escape, disappointment, dreams, hope, anddespair. This analysis comes from The Anthology of American Literature.In Scene I, Tom is seen addressing the audience from the fire escape.He tells the audience that this is a “memory play” (Williams, 1450). Healso tells them about the other characters in the play.
Tom speaks abouthis father who had left the family some time ago. He said that his fatherwas “a telephone man who fell in love with long distances” (Williams,1450).Tom goes into the dining room where Amanda and Laura are. Amanda,being a nagging mother, is fussing at Tom about how he eats his food. Thisstarts a small argument between the two and Tom goes into the living room.Laura gets up the “blanc mange” (Williams, 1451). Amanda tells her to sitdown because she wants her to be fresh for her gentlemen callers. Lauratells her that she is not expecting any.
Amanda then begins to tell herstory of how she had seventeen gentlemen callers in one day. Laura and Tompatiently listen to the story once more. Amanda sends Laura into theliving room to practice her typing.
She also tells Laura to “Stay freshand pretty – It’s almost time for our gentleman callers to start arriving”(Williams, 1452). Laura is sure that she would not have any and she feelsthat her mother was afraid that she was “going to be an old maid”(Williams, 1452).As Scene 2 opens up, Laura is seen playing with her glass animals. Assoon as she hears Amanda coming, she puts them away quickly and pretends tostudy her typewriting homework. When Amanda comes in, Laura asks her howeverything was.
Amanda accuses Laura of deceiving her, but Laura does notknow what she is referring to. She tells Laura that she had gone to”Rublican’s Business College” (Williams, 1454) to check on Laura’sprogress. When she talked to the typing teacher, the teacher did not evenknow who Laura was. Amanda complains about losing fifty dollars on tuitionand the thought of her dreams for Laura going downhill. She demands thatLaura tell her where she goes when she is not a school. Laura explains toher that she takes walks in the park. She then tells Amanda that she hadgotten sick one day and could not go back.
Amanda begins to wonder aboutwhat happens to young girls who do not have a future career in mind. Shesays, “I’ve seen such pitiful cases in the South – barely toleratedspinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister’s husband orbrother’s wife” (Williams, 1455).Amanda then asks Laura if she had ever liked a boy. Laura tells heryes, a boy named Jim. She tells Amanda a little about Jim and how he usedto call her “Blue Roses” (Williams, 1455). Amanda all of a sudden says,”Girls that aren’t cut out for business careers usually wind up married tosome nice man.
Sister, that’s what you’ll do” (Williams, 1456). Lauradoes not think so because she is crippled. Amanda does not like for Laurato use the word “cripple” and says that all she needs to do is to “developcharm” (Williams, 1456).Scene 3 shows Tom on the fire escape talking about his mother’s plansfor Laura. He tells the audience that in order to raise some extra money,she started trying to recruit subscribers for a magazine by telephone.
Thescreen image changes to a “glamor magazine” (Williams, 1456) as Amandaenters the room. Amanda is having a phone conversation with a woman fromher D.A.
R. group. She is trying to get her to renew her subscription tothe magazine. While she’s talking, the woman says that she smellssomething burning in the kitchen and hangs up. The scene then dims out.As the lights on stage appear again, the audience can hear a heatedargument between Amanda and Tom. Tom is angry because Amanda had returneda library book without his permission. Amanda says, “I took that horriblenovel back to the library – yes! That hideous book by that insane Mr.
Lawrence” (Williams, 1457). Tom lashes back by saying that he is the onewho pays the rent on the house. Tom walks out into the dining room andAmanda follows. Amanda tells him, “I am at the end of my patience”(Williams, 1458). Tom tells he that he has too.
Amanda tells him that shethinks that he is ashamed of some of the things that he has been doing andthat is the reason for his behavior. She also thinks that he has beenlying about going to the movies every night. She says that he has no rightto jeopardize his job and their security.
Tom tells her that he does notlike his job at the warehouse. The only reason that he stays is so he cansupport the family. Amanda thinks that he is being selfish. Tom pointsout to her that if he is being selfish, “I’d be where he is -GONE”(Williams, 1458)! He says this while pointing at his father’s picture.Tom attempts to leave saying that he is going to the movies when Amandagrabs him by the arm. As he looks for his coat, he calls her an “ugly -babbling old – witch” (Williams, 1459). Tom tries to put the coat on andthe shoulder rips. He throws it across the room and it hits Laura’s glasscollection.
Laura begins to shriek and yells, “My glass! -menagerie”(Williams, 1459). Amanda turns to Tom and says that she won’t speak to himuntil he apologizes to Laura. He goes over to clean up the broken glass onthe floor. As looks at Laura as if he wanted to say something but he couldnot speak.
When Laura’s glass shattered, a piece of her was shattered too.Scene 4 opens up with Tom returning home from the movies. He tellsher that he went to see a “big stage show” (Williams, 1460) starring”Malvolio the Magician” (Williams, 1460).
He explains to her how he hadchanged water into wine and beer into whiskey. Tom says the “wonderfullesttrick of all” (Williams, 1460) was when he managed to escape from a nailedcoffin. He asks, “But who the hell ever got himself out of one (a coffin)without ever removing a nail” (Williams, 1460)? Then, a “grinningphotograph” (Williams, 1460) of his father lights up. The scene fades.Amanda sends Laura to wake Tom up since she is still not speaking tohim. Laura begs him to apologize, but he refuses. He says, “Her notspeaking – is that such a tragedy” (Williams, 1460)? Amanda keeps callingLaura because she wants her to go to the store to get some butter. AsLaura leaves, she slips on the stairs and Tom and Amanda rush to see whathad happened.
Laura says that she is okay. Amanda keeps talking about howthe landlord should shape up. Then she realizes that is was not speakingto Tom.Tom goes to the kitchen and has a cup of coffee.
The hot coffee burnshis tongue and he gasps. Amanda turned to see if he was okay. Tom thenapologizes to his mother. She starts to cry saying, “My devotion has mademe a witch and so I make myself hateful to my children” (Williams, 1461).She tells Tom how important he has been to her since her husband left. Theconversation then turns to Laura. Amanda tells him that she had seen Lauracrying in her room and she thinks that it is because Tom is unhappy. Sheasks him why does he go to the movies so much.
Tom tells her that he goesbecause he likes adventure. Amanda says that most men find adventure attheir jobs. Tom says that he does not. He tells her that a “man is byinstinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter” (Williams, 1463). Amanda does notwant to hear that nonsense, so Tom gets up to leave. Amanda won’t let himleave because she is not finished talking about Laura yet.
Amanda says that she had found a letter from the Merchant Marines andshe knows that Tomwants to go. She says that he can go only if he finds a husband for Laura.She wants him to find someone at his job to bring home. Tom reluctantlyagrees to do so. Amanda is happy now.In Scene 5, Amanda is asking Tom to comb his hair and for him not tosmoke so much. Shesays that the money he sends on cigarettes could have been used to take a”night-school course” (Williams, 1465). Amanda comes out onto the fireescape with Tom.
They both make wishes on the new moon. Amanda says thatshe wished for, “success and happiness for my precious children” (Williams,1466). Tom thought that she might have wished for a “gentleman caller”(Williams, 1466). He tells her that he had found someone at his job forLaura and that he was going to bring him home tomorrow. Amanda says thatshe does not have enough time to prepare.They go back inside so that Tom could tell her about the gentleman.He tells her that his name is Jim O’Connor who is a “shipping clerk”(Williams, 1468). Amanda asks whether or not he drinks because, “Old maidsare better off than wives of drunkards” (Williams, 1468).
Tom tells herthat O’Connor does not even know about Laura yet, but Amanda is sure thathe will like her. Tom does not think so because Laura is crippled. Amandadoes not like for him to use that word.Tom gets up to go to the movies and Amanda yells down the fire escapeafter him that she still doesn’t believe he goes to the movies. She callsto Laura to come make a wish on the moon. She asks what she should wish forand Amanda, with tears, says, “Happiness and good fortune” (Williams,1470).
Scene 6 opens up with Tom narrating to the audience. He says that hehad brought Jim homethe next night. He then goes on to tell about Jim’s achievements in highschool.
As the curtainsrise, we see Amanda hemming Laura’s dress. Laura is nervous. Amandacannot understand why Laura is so antisocial.
Amanda puts the finaltouches to Laura’s appearance by stuffing her bra with two powder puffs.Amanda then goes off to get dressed also.Amanda comes back in the room wearing a “yellowed voile with a bluesilk sash” (Williams, 1472). She is also carrying a bouquet of flowers.Amanda then starts to tell the story about the summer she met her husband.Laura asks what Mr.
O’Connor full name is and Amanda says, “Jim O’Connor”(Williams, 1473). After hearing this, Laura almost faints. She says thatshe will not come to the table if it is the Jim O’Connor she knew fromschool. Amanda will not hear of it. She says that Laura has to let themin because Jim had left his key.Laura is sitting in the living room when she hears the guys coming upthe fire escape. Amanda tells her to open the door, but she just sitsthere. Laura claims to be sick.
After she lets them in, Laura immediatelyleaves the room. Tom explains to Jim that Laura is “terribly shy”(Williams, 1474).Tom and Jim go on the fire escape to smoke and to talk about work.Amanda calls them inside. Amanda’s dress and attitude surprise them. Shesends Tom to get Laura and Tom comes back saying that Laura is not feelingwell. Amanda insists that she comes and eats. Laura comes in and stumblesover a chair.
Amanda realizes that Laura may actually be sick. She tellsTom to help Laura over to the sofa. The other three go back to eatingdinner. As Tom is praying, Amanda steals a “nervous glance at Jim”(Williams, 1478). Laura is seen on the sofa with her hands over her mouthtrying to hold back a sob.
As the curtains rise for Scene 7, Laura is still seen lying on thesofa. As soon as the othersfinish eating dinner, the lights go out because the bill has not been paid.Amanda lights a candle and goes to check the fuse box with Jim’s help.She makes Tom help with the dishes. Jim goes to keep Laura company.Laura is nervous talking to Jim, but Jim is comfortable. He asks herto sit on the floor with him and she does.
Jim tells her that he judgesher to be “an old-fashioned type of girl” (Williams, 1481). Laura asks himwhether or not he had kept up with his singing. Jim then realizes that hehad known her from highschool. She tells him that he used to call her”Blue Roses” (Williams, 1481). He remembers that she was a loner andalways self-conscious because of her leg braces.
Laura then goes to get a highschool yearbook. The two begin to lookat pictures. Laura tells Jim that she went to three performances of ThePirates of Penzance hoping that he would sign her program. She says thatshe did not come up to him because he was always surrounded by a group ofpeople. Jim takes one of her programs and signs it saying, “My signatureisn’t worth very much right now. But some day – maybe it will increase invalue” (Williams, 1484)! They then talk about school and their futuredreams. Laura asks Jim about his highschool girlfriend and if they wereengaged or not.
Jim says that they never were and that he never sees her.Laura shows Jim her glass collection. She points out that herfavorite one is the unicorn. Jimputs the unicorn back on the table and goes to the fire escape door. Heopens the door and hears waltz music coming from the “Paradise Dance Hall”(Williams, 1486). He asks Laura if she would like to dance. She says thatshe can’t dance.
He convinces her to try and they start dancing a “clumsywaltz” (Williams, 1487). As they are dancing, they bump into the table andthe unicorn falls on the floor and breaks. The horn is lost. Jim feelsbad because it was her favorite. Surprisingly, Laura is not too upsetabout it. She says, “Glass breaks so easily. No matter how careful youare” (Williams, 1487).
Jim is impressed by her sense of humor. His voicechanges as he begins to tell her how different she is from other girls andhow pretty she is. He insists on kissing her and he does. After doingthis, he realizes that he has made a mistake.
Jim explains to Laura thathe is dating someone else. He goes on to talk about how wonderful it is tobe in love and that this girl has turned his life around. Laura then givesJim the broken unicorn as a “souvenir” (Williams, 1490). This is a symbolthat Laura is heartbroken. Amanda comes into the room and Jim then tellsthem that he and his girlfriend are getting married “the second Sunday inJune” (Williams, 1491). Amanda is surprised and wonders why Tom did nottell them. Jim tells her that no one at his job knows yet. He then thanksher for her hospitality and Laura for the souvenir and leaves.
Laura sits by the Victrola and winds it up. Amanda calls Jim in andtells him, “What awonderful joke you played on us” (Williams, 1492)! Jim does not know whatshe is talkingabout. Amanda tells him that Jim is engaged. Tom says that he did notknow. He says, “the warehouse is where I work, not where I know thingsabout people” (Williams, 1492)! Amanda insists that he lives in a dreamworld. Tom attempts to walk out saying that he is going to the movies.
Amanda accuses him of being selfish once more. He tells her, “The more youshout about my selfishness to me the quicker I’ll go, and I won’t go to themovies” (Williams, 1492)! She tells him to just go to the moon. Tom”smashes his glass on the floor” (Williams, 1492) and storms out of thehouse.At the end of the play, Tom is seen narrating from the fire escape.He says, “I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further – for time is thelongest distance between two places” (Williams, 1492). He explains that hewas fired from his job for “writing a poem on the lid of a shoe-box”(Williams, 1492). He says that he followed in his father’s footsteps. Hesays that he continues to think about Laura wherever he goes.
IV.William’s Style and Literary MentorsThe World Book Encyclopedia says that Williams is “an Americanplaywright whose dramasPortray the loneliness and isolation of man. He has been criticized forhis use of violence andsexual abnormality, but his dominant tone is one of tenderness andcompassion. The language of his plays is occasionally coarse n thenaturalistic tradition, but it is generally poetic” (261).Tennessee Williams had many literary mentors. He enjoyed the works of”Oscar Wilde” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 82), “Percy Shelley” (Bloom’sBioCritiques, 82), “John Keats” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 82), Shakespeare andothers.