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The Glass Menagerie | Study Guide

Tennessee Williams

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The Glass Menagerie | Quotes


I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

Tom, Scene 1

Tom says this at the start of Scene 1 when he explains to the audience that the story they are about to see is a memory—his memory, which may seem like an illusion but to him represents truth. Because it reflects his reminiscences, it is as true as his mind permits and explains his vantage point. It is also a comment on theater—that truth is not found in the appearance of reality but, like poetry, through illusion—or the seemingly unreal.



Tom, Scene 1

Tom quotes Mr. Wingfield's words on a postcard he sent from Mexico. This cold and terse last message displays no regret for leaving his wife and family and no love for them. It certainly shows nothing of the "charm" that captivated Amanda, if one can believe what she says, and deepens the sense of her limited understanding of reality.


Mother's afraid I'm going to be an old maid.

Laura, Scene 1

Laura, realistic about her situation, says this after Amanda refuses to accept that her daughter has no boyfriends and probably will never marry. Laura's apologetic tone shows she is not happy with the situation, but mostly because her mother is unhappy, not because she yearns for a husband.


So what are we going to do the rest of our lives?

Amanda, Scene 2

Amanda uses the editorial we when she wonders what will become of them financially after Laura has dropped out of business school. Other than Amanda's selling magazine subscriptions on the phone and Tom's income, the Wingfields have nothing. Amanda is trying, not only for herself, but still hoping that Laura will be able to function in the world.


Laura, I've told you never, never to use that word.

Amanda, Scene 2

Amanda is chastising Laura for referring to herself as crippled. Amanda refuses to face the reality of Laura's incapacity and, by extension, peculiarity.


You'll go up, up on a broomstick ... with seventeen gentlemen callers! You ugly—babbling old—witch!

Tom, Scene 3

In a rage Tom says this at the end of his fight with his mother. It candidly reveals his bitterness and hostility toward Amanda's persistent nagging and demands. He feels disrespected and put upon in general because she willingly accepts his paycheck but refuses to allow him independence about what he reads, where he goes at night, or even where he works. Furthermore, he considers his mother's compulsive chattering about the past intolerable. He doesn't say he will be leaving as his father did, but his intent to do so is unmistakable.


Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter!

Tom, Scene 4

Tom is explaining to his mother he wants adventure in his life. He wants to experience love, the excitement of a hunt—be it for a person, an animal, an intellectual understanding, or anything else. He is willing to fight for what he believes verbally or physically, too. He does not want to stagnate in a life chosen for him, particularly in a shoe warehouse.


Find out one that's clean-living—doesn't drink and—ask him out for your sister!

Amanda, Scene 4

Amanda has asked Tom to find a young man suitable for Laura. She wants Tom to make sure that the prospective husband is moral and not a drinker. These are obviously negative qualities that her husband held, and she wants someone who holds himself and his wife in high esteem and will not walk away.


She lives in a world of her own—a world of—little glass ornaments, Mother.

Tom, Scene 5

Tom is attempting to make his mother understand that Laura is peculiar compared to other girls. He is telling her that Laura lives in a world her imagination has created and prefers it to reality. Laura's world does not talk to her or threaten her. Amanda continues to believe that Laura can function in the real world, but Tom knows better.


Why can't you and your brother be normal people?

Amanda, Scene 6

Amanda is displaying an honesty that she usually hides behind her exaggerated Southern charm and verbal subtexts. Her definition of normal lies in the conventional lives and ambitions her Southern society designated for men and women. It permits no behavioral deviations, and neither will she. Once again she insists that anything outside these conventions is "abnormal" and she cannot deal with it. Yet there are degrees; Tom is unconventional; Laura is emotionally unstable, at best.


I'm tired of the movies and I'm about to move!

Tom, Scene 6

Tom is saying he wants to experience life and not live vicariously through fantasy. If Laura has her glass menagerie and Amanda her past, Tom has the movies, which were enormously popular during the worst years of the Depression as an escape from reality for many. However, he knows they are not real and, using a play on words, states his intention to do what he must, instead of watch the world pass him by.


They're common as—weeds, but—you—well, you're—Blue Roses!

Jim, Scene 7

Jim is trying to make Laura understand how appealing her uniqueness is. Jim sees her beauty as rare and delicate as blue roses.


You live in a dream; you manufacture illusions!

Amanda, Scene 7

Amanda says this to Tom when he explains he and Jim never exchanged personal information and thus did not know Jim was engaged. The statement demonstrates dramatic irony; although Tom may escape to a fantasy world at the movies, Amanda manufactures illusions far more than Tom. She has created the illusions of her girlhood with her constant displays of her old Southern charm. Her reality is still that debutante world, not the one she lives in with an adult daughter and son. The dramatic irony is further deepened on her as Tom aspires to be a writer creating precise illusions with his art.


I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!

Tom, Scene 7

Tom has come back to the alley behind their old apartment. He admits he could never forget his sister, and he has been plagued by remorse for leaving her. His love and loyalty to her remain as strong as they were the day he left.


Blow out your candles, Laura—and so good-bye.

Tom, Scene 7

Tom is asking his sister to forgive and forget him, to dissolve the ties he still feels connect them. He needs Laura to pardon him for deserting her, liberating him to live in peace. This is his final good-bye to her, one offered with love instead of coldness like his father's final farewell. As narrator he is revealing the play is over, and his role as narrator is complete. As the candle is extinguished, all hopes and dreams are gone.

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