The Glass Menagerie

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Tom Wingfield Character Analysis

Amanda’s son and Laura’s brother, Tom plays a dual role in the play as both the narrator and protagonist. The play is from the perspective of Tom’s memories. He addresses the audience directly to frame and present analysis of the events, but he also participates in the play’s actions as a character within his own recollections. Tom feels fettered by the constraints of his job and his family and yearns for escape in all aspects of his life. Dissatisfied with his monotonous warehouse job, he writes poetry on the side and plots a future in the merchant marines. Tom frequently goes to the fire escape and smokes cigarettes, symbolically escaping the house yet remaining trapped onstage and in the tenement. He goes to the movies night after night, attempting to escape into action-adventure narrative; he also attempts to escape through alcohol, as indicated by the bottles poking out of his pockets. The oscillation between Tom’s desire for freedom and inability to escape forms the emotional tension underlying the entire play. Although Tom leaves his family in the end, abandoning Amanda and Laura to pursue an independent future, the fact that he has created this play shows that he can never truly leave his memories, and therefore his family, behind.

Tom Wingfield Quotes in The Glass Menagerie

The The Glass Menagerie quotes below are all either spoken by Tom Wingfield or refer to Tom Wingfield. 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
).
Scene 1 Quotes

Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

[The gentleman caller] is the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from. But since I have a poet’s weakness for symbols, I am using this character also as a symbol; he is the long-delayed but always expected something we live for.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Jim O’Connor

There is a fifth character in the play who doesn’t appear except in this larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel. This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances...The last we heard of him was a picture postcard...containing a message of two words: “Hello—Goodbye!”

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Mr. Wingfield
Scene 3 Quotes

Look!—I’ve got no thing, no single thing...in my life here that I can call my OWN!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

Listen! You think I’m crazy about the warehouse? [He bends fiercely toward her slight figure.] You think I’m in love with the Continental Shoemakers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that—celotex interior! with—fluorescent—tubes! Look! I’d rather somebody picked up a crowbar and battered out my brains—than go back mornings! I go!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Amanda Wingfield

I’m going to opium dens...I’m a hired assassin...I’m leading a double-life...I go to gambling casinos...Oh, I could tell you many things to make you sleepless!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

You’ll go up, up on a broomstick, over Blue Mountain with seventeen gentleman callers! You ugly—babbling old—witch...

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Amanda Wingfield
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie, The Movies
Scene 4 Quotes

But the wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without removing one nail. [He has come inside.] There is a trick that would come in handy for me—get me out of this two-by-four situation!...You know it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield

Try and you will succeed! [The notion makes her breathless.] Why, you—you’re just full of natural endowments! Both of my children—they’re unusual children! Don’t you think I know it? I’m so—proud!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Tom Wingfield, Laura Wingfield

I go to the movies because—I like adventure. Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Movies

Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

Oh, I can see the handwriting on the wall as plain as I see the nose in front of my face! It’s terrifying! More and more you remind me of your father! He was out all hours without explanation—Then left! Goodbye! And me with the bag to hold.

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Tom Wingfield, Mr. Wingfield
Scene 5 Quotes

In Spain there was Guernica! But here there was only hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars, and movies, and sex that hung in the gloom like a chandelier and flooded the world with brief, deceptive rainbows...All the world was waiting for bombardments!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

[Laura] lives in a world of her own—a world of little glass ornaments, Mother...

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
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

I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)
Scene 7 Quotes

Go, then! Go to the moon—you selfish dreamer!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Tom Wingfield

I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two places.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

Not long after that I was fired for writing a poem on the lid of a shoe-box. I left St. Louis.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire Escape

I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space. I traveled around a great deal. The cities swept about me like dead leaves, leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Mr. Wingfield

The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow. Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie

For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura—and so goodbye...

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
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Tom Wingfield Character Timeline in The Glass Menagerie

The timeline below shows where the character Tom Wingfield appears in The Glass Menagerie. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1
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The Wingfield apartment is in a lower-middle-class St. Louis tenement building that faces an alleyway. Through the... (full context)
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Escape Theme Icon
Tom enters, dressed as a merchant sailor and smoking a cigarette, and speaks directly to the... (full context)
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Abandonment Theme Icon
Tom tells the audience about the four characters in the play—himself, his mother Amanda, his sister... (full context)
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Tom enters the apartment and joins Amanda and Laura at the dining-room table. The words “Ou... (full context)
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Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
...many times before. The lights dim and music begins to play. At Laura’s gentle urging, Tom mechanically plays along, asks his mother questions about the story, as though reading from a... (full context)
Scene 3
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Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
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The words “After the fiasco” appear on the screen. Tom stands on the fire escape and tells the audience that after the “fiasco” at the... (full context)
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Tom and Amanda are heard arguing behind curtains hanging over a door. Laura is standing in... (full context)
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Tom rips the curtains over the dining room door open, and he and Amanda continue to... (full context)
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Tom explodes at Amanda, claiming that he’d rather be bludgeoned to death with a crowbar than... (full context)
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When Amanda declares again that she doesn’t believe Tom is going to the movies, Tom sarcastically tells her she’s right and claims that he... (full context)
Scene 4
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As a church bell tolls five times, Tom stumbles up the fire escape and into the apartment, visibly drunk. Movie ticket stubs and... (full context)
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...calls out her customary “Rise and Shine!” She asks Laura to relay the message to Tom, as they are still not speaking. Laura begs Tom to apologize, but he remains unwilling.... (full context)
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“Ave Maria” plays softly in the background as Tom finally apologizes to Amanda for his behavior. Amanda nearly breaks down as she speaks of... (full context)
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...theme begins to play. Amanda says that she has caught Laura crying because Laura believes Tom is unhappy and that he goes out every night to escape the apartment. Amanda tells... (full context)
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When Amanda presses Tom to explain where he goes, Tom says that he goes to the movies for the... (full context)
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Amanda tells Tom that they have to make “plans and provisions” for Laura. She knows that he has... (full context)
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Amanda asks Tom to bring home a gentleman from the warehouse to introduce to Laura, and as he... (full context)
Scene 5
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Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
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It is spring, 1937. Amanda nags Tom about his appearance and his smoking. Tom steps onto the fire escape with his cigarette... (full context)
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Amanda joins Tom on the fire escape, and they look at the moon together. They each make a... (full context)
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Tom reveals that a gentleman caller will be coming to dinner: he has invited a colleague... (full context)
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Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
Amanda begins to whisk around the apartment, simultaneously re-organizing the apartment and brushing Tom’s hair while interrogating him about the gentlemen caller. Her first concern is that the gentleman... (full context)
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Amanda continues to pump Tom for information. She learns that the caller’s name is O’Connor, and he works as a... (full context)
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Tom tells Amanda that he hasn’t told Jim about Laura: he just invited Jim over for... (full context)
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Tom leaves for the movies, and Amanda calls Laura to the front room. She points out... (full context)
Scene 6
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Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
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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... (full context)
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...carries a bouquet of jonquil flowers and reminisces about when she first met Laura and Tom’s father. (full context)
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Tom and Jim arrive and ring the doorbell. Laura is terrified and begs Amanda to open... (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 terribly shy. Jim and Tom go onto the fire escape as... (full context)
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Tom tells Jim that he’s sick of the movies and wants, instead, to move. He reveals... (full context)
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Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
Jim and Tom re-enter the house to find Amanda transformed into a grotesque version of herself as a... (full context)
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Amanda sends Tom to fetch Laura for supper, but Tom returns and announces that Laura is not well... (full context)
Scene 7
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Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
...box, which he does, although he knows why the lights have gone out. Amanda asks Tom if he has paid the light bill, and Tom admits he has not. Amanda assumes... (full context)
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“Things have a way of turning out so badly,” says Amanda. She accuses Tom of playing a joke on them, but Tom insists that he didn’t know about Jim’s... (full context)
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Tom smashes his drink glass on the floor and bursts onto the fire escape. Inside the... (full context)