The Glass Menagerie

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Jim O’Connor Character Analysis

The Gentleman Caller whose arrival in scene six spurs the play’s climax. Tennessee Williams’s stage directions describe Jim as “a nice, ordinary, young man.” Jim works with Tom at the warehouse. He and Tom were acquaintances in high school, where Jim was the hero: sports star, lead in the theater productions, class president, etc. Jim is Tom’s foil, the steady, working man who is neither haunted by the past nor yearns for a seemingly impossible future. Unlike the play’s other characters, Jim does not visibly long for escape from his present situation. Instead, he is content in his working-class, ordinary lifestyle. Jim is pleasant and affable, amused by Tom’s poetic inclinations and sympathetic to his ambitions rather than threatened or confused. When Tom invites Jim over for dinner, he knows that Laura knew Jim in high school, but he does not know that she had such a profound crush on him. After he comes to dinner, Jim exits the Wingfields’ world to return to his fiancée and his real life.

Jim O’Connor Quotes in The Glass Menagerie

The The Glass Menagerie quotes below are all either spoken by Jim O’Connor or refer to Jim O’Connor. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New Directions edition of The Glass Menagerie published in 1999.
Scene 6 Quotes

[Jim] seemed to move in a continual spotlight. ... He was shooting with such velocity through his adolescence that you would logically expect him to arrive at nothing short of the White House by the time he was thirty.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Jim O’Connor
Related Symbols: Fire Escape
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

When Tom begins to describe Jim, the other man seems like Tom’s opposite in many ways. In high school, Jim had been a star. Tom describes young Jim in a way that makes him sound like a hero in one of the adventure movies Tom now watches night after night. Tom’s memory of Jim was of a perfect "golden boy" with an extremely bright future.

At present, however, the paths of the two men have converged. Despite seeming to be on such different paths at the end of high school, Jim and Tom are now both in the same position at the warehouse. Tom’s description of Jim is just as influenced by memory as his description of the rest of the characters, and Jim also relies on memory and the glory of the past to help soothe the harsh realities of the present. Since Tom knew Jim in Jim’s glory days, he can see him in this more flattering light, which allows Jim to see himself as the shining star he was, rather than the stalled worker he is now.

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Scene 7 Quotes

Jim lights a cigarette and leans indolently back on his elbows smiling at Laura with a warmth and charm which lights her inwardly with altar candles.

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield, Jim O’Connor
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

The stage direction about Jim’s cigarette emphasizes light, and throughout the scene, Williams depicts many different kinds of light, which symbolize different aspects of both hope and melancholy. The fuse box goes out and they all have to light candles, which makes the scene seem more magical and removed from harsh realities. Throughout the scene when Jim comes to visit the Wingfields, the many different kinds of light that appear are highly symbolic. Jim’s cigarette demonstrates control and confidence, since it keeps a tiny, private spotlight around him at all times. Laura idolizes Jim, so to her, the cigarette comes to look like altar candles, since he represents hope. Tom describes the high school version of Jim as seeming to be under a spotlight at all times, and Jim is certainly symbolically in the spotlight throughout this whole scene. Amanda, Tom, and Laura all wish on the moon, calling attention to the moonlight, which is a softer light that symbolizes both romantic hope and foolish dreams. Jim is also like a shooting star, both in his personal life and in the role he plays in the Wingfield family. Although Jim had been a rising star in high school, his rising has stalled and his star has dimmed. When Jim comes into the Wingfield house, he seems to be a shooting star again, a ray of light that cuts through their life. However, like a shooting star, he only passes through without staying.

Jim: What kind of glass is it?
Laura: Little articles of it, they’re ornaments mostly! Most of them are little animals made out of glass, the tiniest little animals in the world. Mother calls them a glass menagerie!...Oh, be careful—if you breathe, it breaks!...There now—you’re holding him gently! Hold him over the light, he loves the light! You see how the light shines through him?

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield (speaker), Jim O’Connor (speaker)
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie, Glass Unicorn
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

When Laura describes her glass menagerie to Jim, she is also describing herself. Laura is like a tiny, delicate animal, kept in careful seclusion from the world, living in a protected fantasy life rather than entering harsh reality. However, the fact that she lives separate from the real world doesn’t mean that she doesn’t experience emotions and desires. Laura projects some of these emotions into the glass animals. The glass animals seem to be static and ornamental, yet they react to how they are treated and the environments they are in. The glass unicorn that Jim holds is especially symbolic of Laura herself. When he holds the unicorn to the light, the unicorn itself seems to glow (to "love the light"). The light that appears again in this quote reminds the audience of the importance of light throughout this entire scene. Even the high school yearbook is called “The Torch.” Jim and Laura aren’t exactly old flames, but in this moment, Jim brings light into Laura’s life, which makes her glow.

Unicorns—aren’t they extinct in the modern world?

Related Characters: Jim O’Connor (speaker)
Related Symbols: Glass Unicorn
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

Although Jim is supposedly talking about Laura’s glass unicorn, he is also describing Laura herself. Laura feels a particular affection towards the glass unicorn because she sees herself in it. She is very delicate and fragile, and she does not quite exist within the normal scope of reality. Laura wanders in her own fantasy life, spending her days in gardens and greenhouses, and spending her nights cooped in the apartment. She is shy and skittish, like the mythical unicorn, and she makes others want to protect her. Jim’s comment that unicorns are extinct suggests that Laura herself would also become extinct in the real world, a dim imaginary figure rather than someone living a robust, vital life in a community.

Jim’s light joke about the unicorn also shows that he is humoring Laura by playing along with her as she shows him the menagerie. Though Jim is respectful and kind to Laura, he treats her glass menagerie as a pretty, innocent, somewhat childlike collection, and nothing more serious than that. To Laura, however, the glass animals are much more than mere dolls, and caring for them is an enormous part of her daily ritual. The glass animals, she feels, are dependent on her, and she takes responsibility for them. 

Jim: Aw, aw, aw. Is it broken?
Laura: Now it is just like all the other horses.
Jim: It’s lost its—

Laura: Horn! It doesn’t matter...I don’t have favorites much...I’ll just imagine he had an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less—freakish!

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield (speaker), Jim O’Connor (speaker)
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie, Glass Unicorn
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

When Jim dances with Laura, they knock into the table where Jim had set the glass unicorn. The unicorn falls and its horn falls off. Laura attempts to put on a brave face, but she identifies strongly with the glass unicorn, so she feels its pain acutely. However, she suggests that the break comes as a possible blessing in disguise, as she puts it, because now, the unicorn could be treated normally ("just like all the other horses").

The unicorn’s broken horn also serves as a parallel to Laura’s own disease. In high school, Laura’s pleurosis caused her leg to hurt quite badly, and she had to wear a brace for some time. Just as Laura’s leg had been struck, now the unicorn’s horn is gone. When the unicorn’s horn breaks, Laura is shaken, but she masks her disappointment by suggesting that now the unicorn is like all the other horses, and doesn’t have to feel ostracized for being "freakish." If Laura had never had the disease, Jim would never have noticed her in high school and called here “Blue Roses,” a mishearing of “pleurosis.” Yet if she had not healed, Jim would not be dancing with her in the living room. Breaking the unicorn’s horn also has subtle sexual undertones, suggesting a possible erotic charge to the scene.

They’re common as—weeds, but—you—well, you’re—Blue Roses!

Related Characters: Jim O’Connor (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Related Symbols: Blue Roses, Music
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

After he dances with Laura and breaks the unicorn, Jim suddenly takes much closer notice of Laura. He has been kind to her throughout the scene, but now, he sees her as not only a sweet but lonely woman, but as a pretty ingénue, someone who could possibly be the object of his affections. “Blue Roses,” once a lighthearted childhood nickname, is now presented to Laura as though it were a rare bouquet. Jim moves from polite interaction to what appears to be genuinely emotional courting.

The stage direction notes that the music changes as soon as Jim calls Laura “Blue Roses.” Although she is quiet, Laura is extremely overcome with emotions as Jim shifts from describing her as though she were a sister to starting to view her as a potential lover. The scene seems like one of Tom’s magic tricks, however, since he is, after all, the magician of the play. Jim’s speech is beautiful, but, like the glass menagerie, feels doomed to shatter.

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Jim O’Connor Character Timeline in The Glass Menagerie

The timeline below shows where the character Jim O’Connor appears in The Glass Menagerie. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1
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...four characters in the play—himself, his mother Amanda, his sister Laura, and a man named Jim they knew from high school—and adds that the father is the fifth character, although he... (full context)
Scene 2
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...has ever liked a boy, and Laura admits that she once had a crush on Jim, the high school hero, who sat near her in chorus. Laura once told Jim that... (full context)
Scene 5
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...O’Connor, and he works as a shipping clerk in the warehouse. She grills Tom about Jim’s salary, his background, and his ambitions. Amanda is pleased to hear that Jim attends night... (full context)
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Tom tells Amanda that he hasn’t told Jim about Laura: he just invited Jim over for a family dinner without any qualifications. Amanda... (full context)
Scene 6
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Leaning on the fire escape, Tom tells the audience about Jim. He describes Jim as the high-school hero, captain of sports teams, star of glee club,... (full context)
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When Laura learns that the caller is none other than Jim O’Connor, the boy she loved in high school, she panics, claiming that she can never... (full context)
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Tom and Jim arrive and ring the doorbell. Laura is terrified and begs Amanda to open the door,... (full context)
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After awkwardly greeting Jim, Laura dashes to the Victrola and then through the portieres. Tom explains that Laura is... (full context)
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Tom tells Jim that he’s sick of the movies and wants, instead, to move. He reveals that instead... (full context)
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Jim and Tom re-enter the house to find Amanda transformed into a grotesque version of herself... (full context)
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...lie on the sofa. Amanda asks Tom to say grace as she glances anxiously at Jim. (full context)
Scene 7
Abandonment Theme Icon
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...As dinner is finished, the lights flicker and go out. Amanda lights candles and asks Jim to check the fuse box, which he does, although he knows why the lights have... (full context)
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Amanda gives Jim an antique candelabrum from a church and a bottle of dandelion wine, instructing him to... (full context)
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Jim sets the candles on the floor, sits on the floor as well, and urges Laura... (full context)
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Laura asks Jim if he has kept up with his singing, and she reminds him that they knew... (full context)
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Laura and Jim leaf through the high school yearbook, The Torch. Laura admits that she had wanted Jim... (full context)
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Jim asks Laura what she has done since high school, and she starts to explain that... (full context)
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Laura tells Jim about her glass animals. She hands him the unicorn, her favorite, to hold. He says,... (full context)
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Jim and Laura hear waltz music from the Paradise Dance Hall. Despite Laura’s protests, Jim leads... (full context)
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Jim tells Laura that she is as uncommon as blue roses and says that someone ought... (full context)
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Jim confesses to Laura that he is engaged to Betty, an Irish Catholic like himself. Laura... (full context)
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Amanda waltzes in with lemonade, and Jim becomes awkward and tense. Amanda tells Jim that he will have to be a frequent... (full context)
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...Tom of playing a joke on them, but Tom insists that he didn’t know about Jim’s engagement. He leaves to go to the movies, and Amanda yells that for all he... (full context)