Notes on Characters from The Glass Menagerie

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The Glass Menagerie Major Characters

Tom Wingfield: Tom is the narrator and a main character of the play. Son of Amanda and the escaped father in the photograph above the mantle, and brother to Laura, Tom is the breadwinner for the family. He works in the Continental Shoemakers' factory and sneaks away to write poetry when business is slow. He dreams of getting away from home where he's trapped in a job he hates, and he goes to the movies every night to seek out adventure. The movies stop being enough to satisfy his desire, and he joins the Merchant Marines, using the money that was meant to pay the electricity bill for his membership fee. Although he does escape as his father did, he is still haunted by the memory of his sister he left behind, Laura.

Amanda Wingfield: Amanda is Tom and Laura's mother. She is a faded Southern belle whose greatest accomplishment in her own eyes was having 17 gentleman callers in one day when she lived in Blue Mountain. Out of those reported 17, she chose a man she loved, but he abandoned her, leaving her to raise their children alone. Amanda encourages her children to engage in activities to improve themselves (such as taking typing classes) because she wants them to be successful. But after Laura's failure to complete a typing class, Amanda concludes that she and Tom must find a husband for Laura so that she will have someone to support her. Amanda and Tom never really see eye to eye on anything; she worries and nags him constantly about his smoking and his escape to the movies every night (she thinks he is out drinking). Although she and Tom argue a great deal, when Jim O'Connor, the gentleman caller, arrives, Amanda is all sugar - her manners are perfect Southern hospitality.

Laura Wingfield: Laura is Tom's sister, older by about two years. She is crippled -- one leg slightly shorter than the other -- and wears a metal brace on her foot that is barely noticeable. In her mind, it is a neon sign pointing out her imperfection. She is painfully shy and self-conscious because of her infirmity, and because she is so timid, she withdraws from society. Laura finds comfort, safety, and companionship among the glass animal figurines she collects -- her glass menagerie. This escape becomes her world.

The Father: The only visual we have of the father is an enlarged photograph hanging on the living room wall. He's smiling from beneath a World War I doughboy cap. Mr. Wingfield was 'a long distance man who fell in love with long distances' and left his family. The last correspondence he sent them was a postcard from Matzalan, a town on the Pacific coast of Mexico, with only the words, 'Hello -- Goodbye!' written on it. Tom thinks of his father as an escape artist, but Amanda's feeling toward him is ambiguous. She doesn't want Tom to become like his father, and yet she keeps his picture hanging prominently, sixteen years after he abandoned them for good.

Jim O'Connor: Jim O'Connor is the gentleman caller Tom brings home from the Continental Shoemakers warehouse. He is a shipping clerk and takes night classes in public speaking and radio engineering. He has big plans to enter the television industry because he believes it will do well. He was the most popular boy in high school, and although he doesn't remember right away, he shared a choir class with Laura. He called her 'Blue Roses' then because he had misunderstood her when she told him she had pleurosis. She had a crush on Jim then, so when he comes to their apartment for dinner, she is overcome by anxiety, but he is able to draw her out of her shell. He encourages her to be less self-conscious and more confident and gets so carried away in his encouragement, that he kisses her. Jim, knowing he cannot date Laura because he's engaged to a woman he loves, tells her everything and that he won't be visiting again and leaves. Before he goes, however, Laura gives him a souvenir --her favorite glass unicorn. Jim broke the horn when he knocked it from the table, and Laura gives it to him to remember her by. He takes the glass figurine when he leaves and his departure crushes any hope his visit created.

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