World Café Discussion: The Glass Menagerie


The following questions were considered during the World Café discussion in class today. Selected responses are recorded below.

The Glass Menagerie is a play about _____ because _____.

  • Confinement – Amanda trapped in the past, Tom in the city/apartment, Laura in her defect
  • Guilt/Regret – Tom goes back after everything that had happened; he regretted leaving his sister, Tom tries to leave but his memories catch up with him
  • Illusion – Amanda lives in the past and thinks too much of everything, Tom’s distorted perspective about everything that happened, Tom dreaming of adventure, Laura living in the glass menagerie, everyone has big dreams but doesn’t work at them
  • Deception – The facts we know from the play come from memory so they’re affected by Tom’s emotions, everything is altered/exaggerated so it’s deceptive, Amanda creates a reality for her children to adhere to
  • Escape – The father’s picture represents “family” to Amanda (she hasn’t moved on), Tom knows his father got out so it gives him hope/inspiration to escape as well, Amanda wants Laura to escape through marriage, Laura escapes into her menagerie, Jim escapes by taking night classes
  • Escaping reality – Tom wants adventure, Amanda is stuck in the past, Laura lives in her own world, Tom goes to the movies, Tom tries to escape his memories of Laura, Amanda in denial about her actual life
  • Abandonment – Tom leaves Amanda and Laura like their father did
  • Family hardship – Laura feels as though she’s crippled, Tom doesn’t want to work at the factory, Tom’s leaving makes it harder for Amanda, Tom always fighting with Amanda, Laura does not fulfill what Amanda wants
  • Obstacles – Laura is crippled, Amanda wants to find Laura a husband, Tom can’t get along with his mother
  • Isolation – Laura keeps herself isolated because of her disability, but Jim sees that and tries to bring her into the normal world when he kisses her

Who is the most important character in the play? Explain.

  • Amanda – she plays a bit part in every situation, she is the reason for the split, she pushes her children (Tom into escaping, Laura into anxiety), she keeps the family together, she wants Laura to succeed in life and for Tom to live up to his responsibilities, she’s manipulative and tries to get the family to do what she wants, tries to live a different life through Laura
  • Tom – the story itself is his memories, he had to do all the work for the family including finding the gentleman caller, his memories bring emphasis to certain characters and their feelings, he brings in the conflict and ends it
  • Laura – the play is Tom’s reflection and regret about how he treated her, she is the center of the play, she’s protected by her family because of her fragility, Tom does everything for her, she is always on Tom’s mind
  • Jim – he’s the catalyst for the destruction of the family, his actions create the final break between Amanda and Tom, he builds up and then “breaks” Laura, wake up call to reality, crushes dreams of family
  • the father – he’s the reason for their current situation, characters’ choices are viewed in comparison to his, he’s always watching (figuratively) the fallout his leaving created, his absence is the catalyst for both Amanda’s and Tom’s characters, he’s the first domino, the only realistic character

Name and discuss the significance of an important symbol in the play.

  • glass menagerie – Laura’s fragility and her hopes/dreams
  • father’s picture – constant reminder of his abandonment, foreshadowing of what Tom will become, represents memory of him and family’s situation because of his absence, what could have been
  • Victrola – Laura’s unwillingness to move and how her life is painfully repetitive, Laura clinging to her father’s memory
  • fire escape – Tom can leave anytime he wants and escape from his life, wish to escape current lifestyle, Laura tries to use the fire escape but stumbles every time (shows how she can’t escape Amanda’s expectations), freedom
  • unicorn – symbolizes Laura’s difference, Laura’s innocence breaks when Jim kisses her just like the horn of the unicorn breaks off, Tom and Laura’s relationship breaks after it does, it isn’t real–when Laura opens up to Jim, she becomes like everyone else
  • movies – Tom’s need for adventure and freedom
  • blue roses – roses mean love, but blue roses don’t exist; shows how Laura believes in a relationship that doesn’t exist, uniqueness
  • music and dancing – what they can’t be
  • candle – Laura blows out hope
  • Amanda’s dress – Amanda’s old life
  • typewriter – both Tom’s ambitions and Laura’s failed attempts at success

How does the setting function to reveal character and provide insight on theme?

  • Cramped apartment – reinforces ideas of entrapment (Tom escapes through movies, Amanda through memories, Laura through her glass menagerie), small set forces us to focus on the events at hand, this house is their whole world, maintain decency of setting to feign order/normality of family, interior as nice as Amanda can make it to show what they used to be, reinforces that they are living in the past
  • Dark surrounding apartment – nothing really out there for the Wingfields, apartment is their only common place to go, isolates the family
  • Great Depression – everyone is poor and wants a form of escape, women dependent on men for financial support, women expected to be pretty and good homemakers to attract a good husband
  • Living room – Laura sleeps here/keeps focus of play on her, everything Laura cares about (Victrola, glass menagerie) is here
  • Fire escape – Tom escaping the family, Tom can leave whenever he wants but Laura can’t, reality outside the apartment
  • Music – Laura winds Victrola to calm herself down, enhances the drama
  • Light – provides intensity/focus (Amanda nagging Tom, Laura’s state of mind when the gentleman caller arrives, lights going out shows Tom’s irresponsibility and selfishness
  • Screen images – emphasizes dreamlike state of play, keeps things foggy/unclear, reminders that this is a memory
  • Southern setting – gives Amanda strong family values which makes her pressure her children to succeed

For a previous discussion, see the post here.

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