Tennessee Williams


I. Teaching/Learning Objectives for College-Level Students


In this first section, I will list some teaching/learning objectives for college-level students studying Tennessee Williams. They are:


v To read and comprehend the plays written by Williams.


v To be able to explain quotes and/or passages from the plays.


v To be able to tell about the life of Tennessee Williams.


v To have an understanding of the 20th century culture (ex. - language, family life, etc.).


v To be able to read and respond to the plays by writing essays of criticism.


v To be able to do through research on Williams.


v To learn how to enjoy the writings of Tennessee Williams.





II. Brief Overview of Tennessee William’s Career


Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in 1911. He attended the “University


of Missouri in Columbia” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 21). There he became the “first freshman to win an honorable mention in the Dramatic Arts Club One-Act Play Contest” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 22). One of the poems he wrote was published in his college yearbook in 1932.


In 1938, Williams “graduated from the University of Iowa” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 115) and in 1939, he received the “Rockefeller grant” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 115). In 1944, one of his most famous plays, The Glass Menagerie, opens up in Chicago. Three years later, A Streetcar Named Desire is debuted. Within the next ten years, Williams had written at least ten other plays. In 1961, he won the “New York Critics’ Circle Award” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 116). He received that “National Arts Club god medal for literature” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 117) in 1975. Williams received an “honorary degree from Harvard University” (Bloom’s BioCritiques, 117) in 1982, a year before he died.


III. Analysis/Close Reading of The Glass Menagerie


The Glass Menagerie has four main characters. They are Amanda Wingfield, Tom


Wingfield, Laura Wingfield, and Jim O’Connor. Amanda Wingfield is the single mother in the play. Her husband had deserted the family years before. Tom Wingfield is the son of Amanda. He works in a shoe warehouse and is the main breadwinner of the family. Laura Wingfield is the daughter of Amanda. She is slightly disabled and enjoys playing with her collection of glass animals. Last, but not least, Jim O’Connor is the man who Laura had liked in high school. He later shows up at their home as a gentleman caller for Laura. There are many themes that the readers must take under consideration. They are: escape, disappointment, dreams, hope, and despair. This analysis comes from The Anthology of American Literature.


In Scene I, Tom is seen addressing the audience from the fire escape. He tells the audience that this is a “memory play” (Williams, 1450). He also tells them about the other characters in the play. Tom speaks about his father who had left the family some time ago. He said that his father was “a telephone man who fell in love with long distances” (Williams, 1450).


Tom goes into the dining room where Amanda and Laura are. Amanda, being a nagging mother, is fussing at Tom about how he eats his food. This starts a small argument between the two and Tom goes into the living room. Laura gets up the “blanc mange” (Williams, 1451). Amanda tells her to sit down because she wants her to be fresh for her gentlemen callers. Laura tells her that she is not expecting any. Amanda then begins to tell her story of how she had seventeen gentlemen callers in one day. Laura and Tom patiently listen to the story once more. Amanda sends Laura into the living room to practice her typing. She also tells Laura to “Stay fresh and pretty – It’s almost time for our gentleman callers to start arriving” (Williams, 1452). Laura is sure that she would not have any and she feels that her mother was afraid that she was “going to be an old maid” (Williams, 1452).


As Scene 2 opens up, Laura is seen playing with her glass animals. As soon as she hears Amanda coming, she puts them away quickly and pretends to study her typewriting homework. When Amanda comes in, Laura asks her how everything was. Amanda accuses Laura of deceiving her, but Laura does not know what she is referring to. She tells Laura that she had gone