Welcome to this SuperSummary plot summary of “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams. All summaries on this site use important quotes with page numbers or citations to online books and provide useful information in the form of a synopsis or overview that covers the main ideas and themes in “Glass Menagerie”. If you have questions about this plot summary and analysis of “Glass Menagerie” email us anytime. Also, be sure to check out this analysis and summary of other Tennessee Williams plays, The Rose Tattoo and A Streetcar Named Desire.
Plot Summary of The Glass Menagerie: Scene 1
Tom Wingfield enters and introduces himself and sets the stage. This play takes place in a tenement apartment in St. Louis in the 1930s. He introduces his mother, Amanda, his slightly crippled sister, Laura, and a gentleman caller. There is a fifth character who is represented only by a portrait, his father. Tom describes him as, “a telephone man who fell in love with long distances; he gave up his job with the telephone company and skipped the light fantastic out of town” (23). The play begins with the family of three sitting at the dinner table. Amanda badgers Tom about the way he eats his food, recalling the genteel manner in which she was taught to eat as a young lady, but with graphic descriptions of salivary glands and mastication. Disgusted, Tom steps out.
Amanda is expecting gentleman callers for Laura. She starts into her stories of being a young debutante in Blue Mountain, Tennessee. One Sunday, she claims that she received seventeen callers. She talks wistfully about how much more the art of high conversation was valued by young people in those days, and boasts about her suitors. She claims that all of them were wealthy planters and sons of planters in the Mississippi Delta. She goes through a long list of all her suitors and tells about how each of them ended up leaving their spouse a large sum of money or plot of land, etc. Only the Fitzhugh boy still lived. Laura gets up to clear the table, but Amanda insists that she not exert herself, as she needs to be nice and fresh for the slew of gentleman callers she is expecting. None show up, to nobody’s surprise but Amanda’s.
Plot Summary of The Glass Menagerie: Scene 2
Laura sits in the living room, polishing her collection of colored glass animals. She hears footsteps on the fire escape, and quickly hides the animals and pulls out her typewriter chart. Amanda comes in, visibly shaken as if she has seen a ghost. She was planning on going to her Daughters of the American Revolution meeting to get inducted into her new office, but has come straight home in a state of shock. Laura was supposedly enrolled at the local business college. However, when Amanda stopped by there to check on her progress on her way to the DAR meeting, they could not find a record of her being a current student. Upon further investigation, it is revealed that Laura had attended for a few days, but was incredibly nervous. When they had their first examination, she had a complete mental and physical breakdown and was so humiliated by the experience that she never went back to the school after that.
Amanda is hurt and outraged that Laura had been pretending to go ever since, as she had paid for her to go to those classes from money she made demonstrating bras at Famous-Barr. She is afraid that Laura will become an unemployed spinster. In one o f the important quotes from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, she describes such women as “little birdlike women without any nest- eating the crust of humility all their life!” (34) As Amanda sinks deeper and deeper into her despair that Laura will never get a job, she starts to grow more and more tenacious about the idea of her getting married. She asks Laura if she has ever liked a boy, and Laura says yes, a boy named Jim from her high school. He used to call her “Blue Roses” from a time when she had pleurosis and he misheard her. But even if he is still single, she does not think he would like her because of her disability.