The Glass Menagerie

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The Glass Menagerie Quotes

Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New Directions edition of The Glass Menagerie published in 1999.
Scene 1 Quotes

The apartment...is entered by a fire escape, a structure whose name is a touch of accidental poetic truth, for all of these huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation.

Related Symbols: Fire Escape
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

The play opens with a long, poetic stage direction that sets the scene and tone. Williams uses elaborate, lengthy stage directions throughout the play, and these stage directions provide a very firm interpretive grip over the actions in the play, since Williams deliberately does not leave much room for ambiguous interpretations of the type of mood or tone that he wants to convey. These lush, evocative descriptions also make the play more able to be visualized immediately by a person reading the script rather than sitting in the theater. This is a play that lends itself to being experienced as a written text as well as a drama realized in performance. The stage directions go well beyond the realm of nuts-and-bolts descriptions intended to tell the director what is supposed to be on the stage, painting the intended mood and atmosphere through the description as well. Williams is also showing off his chops as a writer, reminding the reader that even though Tom might assert himself to be the author of the events of the play, Williams is ultimately the master of events. Here, notably, he introduces idea of "escape" through the very name of his symbolic stage prop, the fire escape.

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The scene is memory and therefore nonrealistic.

Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Tennessee Williams presents this vision of the play as a stage direction, not as a voiced statement in the play itself. Williams is not trying to create the illusion of reality, that is, that the audience is watching something happening in real-time and in real life. Rather, Tennessee Williams wants the audience members to be fully aware that they are watching an artistic, subjective representation of certain events. Tom is both a character in the play’s action and the "author" of the play--and the person in whose memory all the action takes place. This stage direction suggests that the set be symbolic and suggestive (perhaps of a kind of nostalgia or blurred memory), since the audience is meant to be fully aware of the interaction between art and life. Indeed, much of the tension in the play comes through the friction between idealized conceptions of the past and the truths of the present day. Since the play is filtered through Tom’s perspective and memory, the audience does not get to see an unfiltered version of the action, but rather the perception of past events as Tom himself saw them both at the time and how he recalls them now.

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)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the first line that Tom, the narrator of the play, says, thus presenting himself as the author of the events that are to come. Tom is both a character in the play’s drama and the manipulator of the scene that the audience sees. Tom doesn’t spell out exactly what he will give the audience. Instead, he declares that he will give truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion--thus asserting that the events of the play are objectively "true," but filtered and softened through his memory and the artifice of the theatre.

At the same time, there is another "magician" at work beyond the one that Tom explicitly presents. When Tom enters the stage, he himself is presented as the author of the play, and the events of the play are portrayed as springing from his own memory. However, Tennessee Williams, not Tom, is the play’s real author, of course. This means that when Tom steps outside the action to set the stage, as he does in this first scene, he is still a character in a framed, fictional play. The audience is thus watching a stylized portrayal of a character who then presents an elaborately stylized portrayal of the main events of which the drama is composed--further emphasizing the illusory, dreamlike aspect of the action we are about to observe.

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
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom, in the role of the play’s narrator, introduces his father as yet another stage prop, not as a real human being. The father only enters the play as a figure in each of the characters’ memories. Although he no longer has any active interaction with any of the characters, the father looms large psychologically over the Wingfield household--and this is represented symbolically as he looms physically over the play’s deliberately unrealistic set. The father’s absence makes Amanda, the mother, even more domineering and insecure, both because she is the only voice of authority and because she is still in pain over her husband’s disappearance. The father’s absence also makes Amanda even more hectically eager to see Laura married, since she wants to redeem the failure of her own marriage by seeing her daughter happily married.

For Tom, his father’s absence is a huge symbolic burden because of Tom’s conflicting guilt over whether or not he should stay or leave his family. Tom feels trapped in the apartment. He wants to leave and pursue his own life, but he also does not want to be yet another male figure who betrays his mother and sister.

Resume your seat, little sister—I want you to stay fresh and pretty—for gentleman callers!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Amanda projects her own past and her own relationships onto Laura. Rather than seeing and appreciating Laura for who she is, Amanda insists on attempting to mold Laura after the ingénue that she envisioned herself as being. Amanda calls Laura “little sister,” which accentuates the psychologically strange nature of their relationship. On the one hand, “little sister” is a term of endearment, a nickname that demonstrates the affection and familiarity between these two characters. Yet “little sister” is a strange term of endearment from a mother to a daughter. Amanda wants to retain the image of herself as an young, flirtatious woman who still receives gentleman callers, even though that version of herself is far in the past. By referring to Laura as her “sister,” rather than her daughter, Amanda can still maintain her fiction about herself. Amanda also projects her memory of her former self onto Laura’s present self, even though Laura, in reality, is hardly the same person as Amanda. Amanda prepares Laura for “gentlemen callers” not because Laura wants them, but because Amanda wants to demonstrate her own power and re-live her youth. 

Scene 2 Quotes

What are we going to do, what is going to become of us, what is the future?

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: Typewriter
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

When Amanda learns that Laura is no longer in secretarial school, the “us” in Amanda’s exclamation to Laura is extremely revealing. Amanda projects herself and her life onto Laura’s decisions. The “us” in Amanda’s sentence represents the way that Amanda often addresses Laura. Instead of saying “you,” which would separate herself and her daughter, she implies through her syntax that Laura does not have any opinions or thoughts of her own that are not somehow mediated through Amanda. Amanda is speaking to Laura about Laura’s revelation that she has quit her typewriting school, and as she interrogates Laura about this choice, the audience learns that she is much more concerned over the impact on herself, not whether or not the decision benefits or hurts Laura.

The “us” is also, therefore, a kind of royal “we.” Amanda turns Laura’s decision into a behavior that has been designed to impact her own life, rather than a choice that Laura made for Laura’s sake. Amanda is very much the center of her universe, and she sees everyone else’s lives as revolving around her own. In Amanda’s point of view, people’s choices are judged on a scale of how much and in what way they impact Amanda’s life. Thus Laura leaving the secretarial school becomes, in Amanda’s perception and Amanda’s narrative, a decision that has the most consequences for Amanda.

I went in the art museum and the bird houses at the Zoo...Lately I’ve been spending most of my afternoons in the Jewel Box, that big glass house where they raise the tropical flowers.

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Laura spends her days attempting to escape from reality. The art museum and the Jewel Box are, symbolically, other iterations of the glass menagerie that Laura keeps in the living room. Laura herself is like a rare tropical flower in a glass box. She is a delicate creature, unable to withstand the harsh realities of daily life. Secretary school proves too difficult for her not because of the subject matter, but because being exposed to the world day in and day out is too intense. She retreats from the school, and then she retreats from admitting to her mother that she has left the program, because this conversation is likewise too harsh a reality to face. Instead, Laura attempts to keep herself in her beautiful, delicate, and false idea of the world.

The audience also must remember that Laura’s character might seem even more frail because she is being portrayed at all times through Tom’s biased narration and Tom’s memory. Tom remembers all the events of the play through the lens of his own guilt. He knows that he has left his family, and he feels as though this action has betrayed Laura, so he can’t help but remember her as even more exquisite yet fragile than she actually might have been in real life. Tom wants Laura to seem as beautiful, delicate, and helpless as possible, because this is the vision of her that he keeps in his memory.

What is there left but dependency all our lives? I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren’t prepared to occupy a position. I’ve seen such pitiful cases in the South—barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister’s husband or brother’s wife!—stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room—encouraged by one in-law to visit another—little birdlike women without any nest—eating the crust of humility all their life!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

When Laura drops out of secretarial school, Amanda paints a gruesomely exaggerated picture of the sorry fate that an unwed, unemployed single woman must face. Since Laura has failed to secure a career, Amanda suggests that the only thing she can do is marry, even though Laura is extremely shy and does not seem very eager to pursue romance. Amanda wants to make the best of what she perceives to be a dire situation, and she latches onto her idea of what might be a sliver of hope.

Amanda is fearful about her own future. Her husband has left her, she is not trained in a career, and she is no longer an attractive young woman, which, in her own calculus, means that she may have to live off the charity of others. But instead of admitting her worries about herself, Amanda projects her fears onto Laura. Amanda still pretends that she lives as a golden past version of herself, and to admit a lack of self-confidence in her own capabilities would be to face the real world and her own flaws in a way that she’s not capable of doing yet.

Scene 3 Quotes

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
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom and Amanda have been arguing vehemently over Tom’s role in the family. Although Laura doesn’t speak during the argument, the spotlight stays on her the entire time, showing that she is often at the center of their fights. Both Tom and Amanda project themselves and their concerns onto Laura. Tom desperately wants to lead an independent life, but he feels trapped at home. Tom yells at Amanda because he feels as though he has no privacy. Amanda accuses Tom of doing sordid things and ruining his reputation when he claims that he is going out to the “movies” at night. Not only does she assume that he’s lying, she assumes that he is being disreputable, which will give the family and thus Amanda herself a poor reputation by association. Tom lashes out so violently against Amanda because he sees that she doesn’t trust him and that she wants to control every aspect of his life. Even though Amanda is stifling Tom, Tom does not exactly demonstrate fair and balanced behavior to Amanda. Tom leaps around the stage, admitting to all the horrible deeds Amanda accuses him of undertaking.

When Tom calls Amanda a witch, however, he has gone too far, and the relationship between them literally shatters: as Tom violently leaps around the stage, he knocks over Laura’s glass menagerie, and some of the animals shatter. Tom and Amanda have reached the breaking point, and this becomes literally rendered in the breaking of the animals.

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
Related Symbols: The Movies
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom’s description of the coffin trick to Laura is deeply symbolic of the way he feels about his own life. Tom escapes the apartment when he goes to the movies at night, but the movies can only offer an imaginary, temporary escape, and he still feels trapped day after day. Because he perceives himself to be stuck and stagnant, with no foreseeable change in his future, he feels dead, caught physically and emotionally in the same place. Tom feels as though the external forces of his mother and the world at large have kept him nailed into place, and the magician’s ability to escape represents his greatest desire. However, Tom never quite articulates what he would do with his freedom.

It's important to note that Tom is also trapped inside his own head and his own memories. The apartment is a coffin, but the stage itself is also a trap for Tom. He keeps putting himself voluntarily back into the coffin of his memories because he feels too guilty to escape completely.

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
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

After Tom and Amanda have had their enormous fight about Tom leaving the house every night, and after Tom has called Amanda a witch, he eventually apologizes to Amanda, and they resume their conversation about the movies in a more measured, civil fashion. Amanda is afraid that Tom has inherited his father’s desire for escape, which is why she objects so strongly to his fantasy life. She becomes domineering and clingy because she fears that if she loses control of Tom, he will leave the family, just as her husband has. Tom feels stifled both at home and at work, so he seeks adventure through other methods. The movies allow Tom to have the freedom, even if that freedom is imaginary, to be the hero of another story. Though Tom is trapped physically, he finds some solace in imagination. However, the movies are only a temporary relief.

The movies also serve as an intriguing parallel to the space of the theater that the play itself inhabits. The Glass Menagerie does not hide its theatricality and artifice. On the contrary, the play is always very aware of its status as an art object. The audience is at the play for some reason, and that reason might well be to escape from some aspect of the real world. Just as Tom seeks adventure at the movies, so the audience might be seeking adventure at the theater.

Scene 5 Quotes

Amanda: A little silver slipper of a moon. Look over your left shoulder, Laura, and make a wish! ... Now! Now, darling, wish!
Laura: What shall I wish for, Mother?
Amanda [her voice trembling, and her eyes suddenly filling with tears]: Happiness! Good fortune!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire Escape
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

Laura and Amanda are in a co-dependent relationship, which stifles both of them and keeps them stuck in the past and in their own imaginations instead of moving forward into the future. Laura does not know how to desire anything for herself, so she defers to Amanda to tell her what to wish for. Laura has not had the opportunity to practice any sort of independence for herself. Amanda, meanwhile, projects her own wishes and desires onto Laura. Amanda says that she wants Laura to be happy, but Amanda does not really listen to what Laura wants. Instead, Amanda wants Laura to want Amanda’s definition of happiness.

Indeed, Amanda projects all her desires onto her children. Earlier that evening, when she and Tom had been looking at the moon over the fire escape, Amanda tells Tom that she has wished for success and happiness for her children. Tom then reveals to her that he has arranged for a gentleman caller for Laura. In the first scene of the play, Tom calls himself a “magician,” and now, it seems as though he is making Amanda’s wishes come true. However, the scene is also tragic, since the audience knows that the happily-ever-after ending Amanda seeks will not come to pass.

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.

A fragile, unearthly prettiness has come out in Laura: she is like a piece of translucent glass touched by light, given a momentary radiance, not actual, not lasting.

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

This description of Laura as a piece of glass comes from the stage directions for the scene in which the family is preparing for Laura’s gentleman caller. Since the description is written for the reader or the actor to internalize rather than for the audience to witness, the line does not move the action forward, but rather sets the symbolic tone for the scene. The stage direction also indicates that this description of Laura as glass-like is intended as symbolic. In Tom’s memory, Laura is just like one of the creatures from her beloved menagerie. Like the glass, Laura is beautiful but fragile, seemingly about to break at any moment. She is also removed from the realities of the world. The world is too harsh and cruel for her, and just as Tom breaks the glass animals when he lashes out against Amanda, Laura cracks under the pressures of reality. Laura would rather live in a dream world, kept safe and untouched in a beautiful bubble.

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.

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

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Tom Wingfield
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

In Amanda’s final line of the play, she accuses Tom of being selfish and of not facing reality, yet she is also guilty of these exact qualities. She lashes out at Tom because she thinks that he has made a fool out of Laura and, by extension, out of Amanda. Amanda feels like Tom has betrayed the family by creating a dream and then shattering it. By inviting Jim over to dinner, Tom gave both Amanda and Laura the hope that Jim would be the hero who would come in and save the family. However, Jim already has a fiancée, and he will not leave his current life to come live with the Wingfields. Tom has created stage magic, but now the magic evaporates. Amanda is even more furious at Tom for presenting a possibility to them that then gets snatched away. Not only is Tom a selfish dreamer for only thinking of himself, he is also a selfish dreamer for presenting dreams that will not become reality. Amanda would rather live in memories and in a haze of the past than in the present. Tom takes Amanda’s angry cry at her word and leaves the house for good, and unlike their earlier fight, Tom does not return. He has finally succumbed to his desire for escape, and abandoned the family just as his father did.

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)
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom ends the play with a long monologue that describes his escape from the Wingfield apartment. When Tom leaves his family, he leaves behind not only their reality but also their fantasy lives. The moon symbolizes hope and dreams throughout the play, as the family wishes on the moon to make their lives better. However, Tom realizes that wishing on the moon and dreaming is keeping himself tied to illusions and the past, rather than allowing him to move forward in his life. Tom abandons the promise of the moon and the dreams of his youth to try and pursue a new kind of life for himself (but also by following Amanda's angry command to "go to the moon").

The final monologue also re-introduces time into the play. This monologue pulls the audience out of the scenes in the apartment and presents a span of time over many years. Throughout the play, there is a continual tension between the characters’ recollections of the past and the present that they live in now. Amanda wants to cling to the past, and she fights against the realities of the present. Laura seems to exist in a bubble outside time. Tom, meanwhile, resents the past and the present and wants to fling himself into the future.

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)
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom’s literary ambitions and his desire for adventure finally outgrow his life, and he breaks free of what he perceives to be his prison. Boxes are extremely symbolic for Tom. He sees the apartment that he lives in as a stifling box, and the fire escape is the only place that provides any kind of relief. Tom describes the magic trick with the man who escapes from the coffin as a metaphor for Tom’s own life, since he feels trapped and dead inside his physical and symbolic box. The warehouse is another box that imprisons Tom inside a dead-end job. Even the movies, Tom’s escape mechanism, are inside a screen and a theater that are both box-like. The shoe-box is symbolic of Tom’s feeling of being trapped. However, the shoe-box is also what sets Tom free. He takes the symbolic shoes out of the symbolic box and walks away from what he perceives to be his prison. Tennessee Williams’s description of Tom’s literary ambitions is also somewhat autobiographical. Williams himself had literary ambitions that extended beyond the scope of his own life in St. Louis, and he, too, left the city to pursue bigger dreams.

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
Related Symbols: Fire Escape
Page Number: 96-97
Explanation and Analysis:

The image of the city sweeping about Tom like dead leaves is perhaps a reference to a famous description in the Inferno, in which Dante describes souls as fluttering around the Underworld as lightly as dead leaves. Tom believed that when he left the apartment and sought his freedom, he would be able to escape (via the "fire escape," symbolically) the forlorn nature of the house. Tom felt like he was dead in that apartment, as he signified in his speech to Laura about the magician’s trick of getting out of the coffin. However, Tom learns, perhaps too late, that though he thinks he can find freedom by roaming far afield, he is still in the underworld, since he is still trapped within his own memories and his emotions. Physical freedom is not the same thing as psychological escape. Tom’s world becomes an inferno, the seasons and cities as empty and fruitless as dead leaves and dead souls. Just as the family is haunted by the specter of the father who left them, Tom is haunted by the specter of the family he himself left. Tom’s sudden break feels like a victory in the moment, but in reality, because he has had no closure, a huge part of Tom still remains in that apartment (as the very existence of the "memory play" itself makes clear).

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
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

In Tom’s final monologue, memory, reality, symbols, time, and space all swirl together in Tom’s head. Although Tom thinks that he can escape the prison of his stifling home life when he leaves the Wingfield apartment and travels far afield, Tom cannot escape the memories of his past. Tom is heartbroken at the end of the play because he feels as though he has betrayed his sister. Even though Tom left the family to obtain his own freedom, which is what he thought he wanted, he hadn’t counted on the deep bond between himself and his sister, and his deep love and affection for her. He sees images of her everywhere, representing the guilt he feels. Tom shattered a bond between himself and Laura when he left, and every time he sees delicate glass objects, he is reminded of this symbolic shattering, because glass reminds him of Laura. Tom also sees himself in the glass, or, rather, the memory of his former self. 

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

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom’s final line of the play emphasizes the symbolic importance of the many different kinds of light and darkness that appear throughout the play. The lightning that strikes in this line is a very violent kind of light. Lightning is even more cruel and harsh than electric light or the light of the sun, since it is so highly concentrated and powerful. The lightning here also represents Tom’s feelings of guilt at leaving his family behind. Like the moon or the stars, lightning is a natural phenomenon, but it is quick, powerful, temporary, and all too real. The lightning also symbolically divides Tom’s present from his past. Tom knows that he can never return to the world of moonlight and candlelight that Laura and Amanda inhabit, because this world doesn’t even exist anymore. The memories of his family haunt Tom, but he must live in the present day. He thinks about Laura all the time, and his interior life has been lit by her memory since he left the family physically, but he also knows that he has to let her go in order to move forward with his own life.

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