Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie makes use of the characters to not only show a story but to also tell a story. Characterization is how characters are represented and the ways in which this is accomplished, such as, how an author limits one’s responses, questions or observations, for instance. An author may also characterize a character through his or her gestures or speeches. The idea of characterization and how one character’s actions may enlighten audiences to issues surrounding another character is brilliantly illustrated by Williams in his The Glass Menagerie.
On the surface of the play the issues present seem to be rooted in the fact that Laura is “crippled” and unwed, however, upon further examination it is seen that there are other deeper issues. Williams writes in his production notes that this is a “memory play” (1041). What is interesting about The Glass Menagerie is the point of whose memory the audience is exposed to. Tom acts as the protagonist because it is his memory that audiences must trust, as the narrator in addition to being the man of the house in the absence of his father.
As the play progresses we see the relationship and conversations between Tom and his mother Amanda. In this we see Amanda’s character (not the actor) as overbearing, fantastical and controlling. Upon further assessment of Amanda’s character audiences may concede to the fact that she is these things while acknowledging a more admirable facet to her character. As pointed out in a lecture by Dr. Pearl McHaney there are lines in the play in which it is evident that Amanda is trying to love her children. For example, in Scene four during a conversation between Amanda and Tom, Amanda confides, “I’ve never told you but I – loved you father…. (1052). This reveal is an attempt by Williams to show audiences a more gentle side of this character in the play.
So often in life children only recognize their parents’ flaws and shortcomings. “Oh my mother nags too much” and so on and so forth. The play is reflected through the eyes of the son Tom who himself seems to be dealing with hurt and resentment which would cloud his view of his mother as a genuine person. Perhaps if the story was told from the point of view of Laura a different image would emerge. This idea is evidenced in the relationship between Laura and her mother. Amanda seems to nag much less when dealing with Laura but tries to help advance her in this world. She does get upset when Laura drops out of business school but is understanding. What is of more significance is the fact that she paid for the course in the first place.
Amanda is in addition very concerned for Laura and her future. She employs Tom to find Laura a gentleman caller in an effort to secure a comfortable future. She is even more overly concerned because of Laura’s disability. It is interesting how the story is in fact told from Tom’s point of view. Through this lens we can see how his...