What Is the Movie "The Glass Menagerie" About?

by Kevin Johnston Google

"The Glass Menagerie" movie is based on the Tennessee Williams play by the same name. The play was made into a movie in 1950, starring Jane Wyman and Kirk Douglas. A remake was filmed in 1987 with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (along with John Malkovich and Karen Allen). This intense drama remains popular because of its quirky characters and dramatization of struggle.

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A Faded Southern Belle

Amanda, an aging Southern woman, tries to hold onto her family and her dignity. Her somewhat disoriented, sad lines depict the unraveling of a proud woman. This defiant character tends to catch the attention of audiences who sympathize with her fragility. She constantly tells tales about the many suitors who pursued her before her beauty faded.

A Painfully Shy Girl

Laura, daughter of Amanda, wears a leg brace. Her mother reprimands her often for not attracting suitors. Although her mother enrolls her in business school, Laura is too shy to attend classes and roams the city daily, pretending she has gone to school. Laura treasures her collection of glass figurines, which become a symbol of her -- and her family's -- fragility.

Selfish Tom the Drunken Movie Buff

The son, Tom, hates his warehouse job. He tries to escape into entertainment and liquor. During one of his frequent arguments with his mother, he breaks some of Laura's glass animals. He sees himself as a poet, but like his mother, his glory days are already fading.

The Disastrous Dinner

Amanda persuades Tom to invite his friend Jim to dinner to meet Laura. When Laura hears who is coming, she is astonished because she has long had a crush on Jim. The awkward dinner is punctuated by the lights going out due to an unpaid electric bill. Jim announces he must leave for an appointment with his fiancee. Tom says he did not know Jim was engaged. Tom confesses he spent the money for the electric bill to sign up for the Merchant Marines, and he is planning to leave his mother and sister.

Flashback Technique

The entire story is told by Tom through his memories of his home. His decision about leaving his family behind was made long ago, and he is looking back on his life with his mother and sister. The poignancy of both movie versions comes not from any suspense about how things will turn out but from the struggles of the characters to come to terms with unfulfilled dreams.

About the Author

Kevin Johnston writes for Ameriprise Financial, the Rutgers University MBA Program and Evan Carmichael. He has written about business, marketing, finance, sales and investing for publications such as "The New York Daily News," "Business Age" and "Nation's Business." He is an instructional designer with credits for companies such as ADP, Standard and Poor's and Bank of America.

Photo Credits

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