The Glass Menagerie


Tennessee Williams

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The Glass Menagerie Themes

Themes and Colors
Memory Theme Icon
Abandonment Theme Icon
Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Glass Menagerie, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


In his monologue that opens the play, Tom announces, “The play is memory.” The play is Tom's memory of the past, and all of the action takes place in his head. That action is therefore dramatic, sentimental, and emotional, not realistic. As is fitting in a play that is itself a memory of the past, in The Glass Menagerie the past haunts all the characters.

Tom the character (the Tom who Tom is remembering as…

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The male characters in the play all abandon Amanda and Laura. The father, whom we never see, has abandoned the family: he worked for the telephone company and “fell in love with long distances.” The traumatic effect of this abandonment on Amanda, and Amanda's resulting fear about her own helplessness, is clear in her relentless quest for Laura to gain business skills and then to marry. Jim’s abandonment of Laura forms the play’s…

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Illusions and Dreams

Tom explains that in creating the play from his memory that he is giving “truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion,” and the stage directions of the play are designed to create a nostalgic, sentimental, non-realistic atmosphere to create the unreal yet heightened effects of a dream. The lighting in each scene adds emphasis and shadows: for example, the electric light that goes out, the candelabra, moonlight, the paper lantern that hides the broken lightbulb…

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Escape in the play operate in two directions: from the real world into the world of memory and dreams, as Amanda and Laura demonstrate; or from the world of memory and dreams into the real world, as Tom desires. Amanda and Laura escape reality by retreating into dream worlds. Amanda refuses to see things as they are, insisting on seeing what she wants to see. Amanda still lives as a past version of herself, even…

read analysis of Escape