THE GLASS MENAGERIE

By Tennessee Williams
New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1966
ISBN 0-8112-0220-8
115 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
May 2012

Itís been a long time since I first read this play. It was just around 1959 in a literature class when I was in college. I was moved by it then and I was moved by it again this second read.

Williams paints powerful and disturbing word images. I could well see the old apartment buildings, and being from St. Louis I could being picture real ones that come close to his fictional one. For that matter it was fun to be reading a serious piece of literature and having some of my own experiences used Ė the St. Louis zoo, the Art Museum, riverfront boats, Washington University in which, (according to Amanda) her son could take a business course at night at for what it cost him to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day!

What is so powerful in Williamsí play is the stark realism. Amanda, lost in her memories or perhaps even fictional memories of a better youth, Tom, bitter and dreaming of being a poet, but dishonest with himself about whom he is, seeming to me to perhaps have been Williams himself in earlier days. Laura is such a sad person, lost in retreat to her glass animals because she canít face her minor handicap, and then at least there is the kind and decent Jim who, while a bit carried away with himself, still manages to put some ideas into Lauraís mind that perhaps she isnít totally lost after all.

On the other hand, I praise Williams for leaving the future in the dark to us. We might wish Tom would break, run for it and follow his dream of becoming a writer, that Laura might come out of her shell and dump the glass menagerie. I think few would walk away from the play thinking that somehow Jim would return in weeks, his wedding plans broken off. No, Williams leave things mainly unchanged, perhaps the brother and sister a bit tweaked but no more and Mother as hopeless as ever.

Heavy, yes, but an extremely well done portrait.

Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu

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Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu