Places: The Glass Menagerie

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1945

First produced: 1944

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: 1930’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedWingfield apartment

Wingfield Glass Menagerie, Theapartment. St. Louis, Missouri, home of the narrator, Tom Wingfield, and his mother and sister. Along with its outside fire-escape landing, this apartment is the setting for the entire play. It is too small for the Wingfields’ needs–Laura sleeps on a sofa bed in the living room–and its contents are worn and aging. The contrast between the dingy apartment and the world in which Tom’s mother, Amanda, alludes to having grown up in is striking. During the play’s first scene, Amanda relates a well-worn story of her youth in Blue Mountain in rural Mississippi. Her story contains a significant allusion to the front porch on which she received gentleman callers–some seventeen young men by her account. Williams contrasts the porch in Blue Mountain with the apartment’s fire-escape landing, on which the family watches the moon rise over a delicatessen.

Alleyways

Alleyways. According to Williams’s opening stage directions, the play’s audiences should see alleyways running on either side of the apartment building and its rear wall before they see the apartment rooms in which the action will take place. The alleys are described as “murky canyons of tangled clotheslines, garbage cans, and the sinister latticework of neighboring fire escapes.” This is significant, as the alleys remain visible throughout the play. Williams uses them to generate a constant visual comment on the action within the apartment. The alleys strike a strong contrast to the idyllic life Amanda describes from her youth and are in conflict with Tom’s vision of a life of high adventure.

*Famous-Barr Department Store

*Famous-Barr Department Store. St. Louis’s leading department store at the time in which the play is set, in whose lingerie department Amanda works. Williams uses the store to emphasize Amanda’s frustration over the way her life has turned out. In the opening scene when she talks about her suitors, she blames her poor choice as the cause of her public humiliation of having to sell bras at Famous-Barr.

Suggested ReadingsBigsby, C. W. E. A Critical Introduction to Twentieth Century American Drama. 3 vols. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982-1985.Devlin, Albert J., ed. Conversations with Tennessee Williams. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1986.Donahue, Francis. The Dramatic World of Tennessee Williams. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1964. A discussion of Williams’ plays, with a focus on The Glass Menagerie.Leavitt, Richard F., ed. The World of Tennessee Williams. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1978. A competent introduction to the playwright and his plays, focusing on his themes.Leverich, Lyle. Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams. New York: Crown, 1995.Nelson, Benjamin. Tennessee Williams: The Man and His Work. New York: Obolensky, 1961. The first comprehensive study of the playwright and his work.Spoto, Donald. The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams. Boston: Little, Brown, 1985. The first complete critical biography of Williams. Delineates the connections between the playwright’s work and life.Stanton, Stephen S., ed. Tennessee Williams: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1977. Cogent, in-depth analysis of Williams’ plays, including The Glass Menagerie.
Categories: Places