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This is a four-act play by the American playwright who wrote other famous plays including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer and a Streetcar Named Desire.
In this play, Williams talks about a family who was abandoned by the father. The play takes place in St.Louis in 1937. Tom Wingfield, his mother Amanda and his sister Laura live in a small apartment after the father abandoned them years earlier. Tom is the family breadwinner who works at the shoemakers' warehouse during the day and at night disappears to " the movies". Tom is unhappy with his life and dreams of freedom away from the family. He wished to leave about is held back by a feeling of guilt.
Amanda is a nagging mother who was frightened of the future and dreaming of the past. Laura is a frightened shy girl with weak nerves. She's slightly lame in one leg and socially isolated because of a lack of confidence. She spent her time looking after her "Glass menagerie" which is a collection of delicate little glass animals. Amanda tried to enrol Laura in a typing class that Laura stopped attending because of her shyness. Amanda gives up the idea of finding a career for Laura and puts all her hope into finding a husband and daughter. She asks Tom to invite a gentleman caller from the warehouse where he works as a potential husband for her daughter. Tom brings a fellow employee had the warehouse for dinner. Jim O'Connor who has been in the same high school as Laura remember that shy girl who had the nickname "Blue Roses". Jim is quite friendly with Laura and they danced together which ends when he pushes accidentally the glass unicorn breaking its glass horn. Jim feels sorry for it but Laura says it is now a normal horse. Jim O'Connor admits that he has a fiancee and are planning to marry and he would not call again.
Amanda is furious and fights with Tom accusing him of lack of concern about his sister's future and being irresponsible and "a dreamer". Tom leaves the family though he cannot escape the memory of his sister.
The characters in the play are confined to their helplessness and unachievable dreams. Tom dreams of being free, Amanda dreams of a better future for her daughter, and Laura is confined into her weakness, lack of confidence, shyness and withdrawal from the world living instead with her glass animals. The glass menagerie is Laura's world, unique and beautiful but unrealistic. The gentleman caller comes to break the glass shell in which Laura lives and reminds her that she is as normal as anyone else and he's not actually Blue Roses. He tells her that no one actually noticed what she believed to be her unique defect, her defective leg which she believed everyone notices. She's not a misfit and she exists this in the real world. Amanda is imprisoned in her social disadvantage, Tom is imprisoned with his nagging mother and lack of opportunity and dreams of freedom in the outside world, why Laura is imprisoned in her imaginary defect and imaginary world of pure glass non-existent animals.