The Glass Menagerie

by: Tennessee Williams

Memory

Quotes Memory
The scene is memory and is therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart. The interior is therefore rather dim and poetic.

The stage directions function to introduce the theme of memory at the beginning of Scene One to the audience as well as to inform the play’s production. The story told by the play as a construct of memory has an unrealistic quality, in spite of its emotional power. To make sure the audience gets the point, Tom Wingfield, the narrator and main character of the play, repeats the warning in his opening monologue.

AMANDA [crossing out to the kitchenette, airily]: Sometimes they come when they are least expected! Why, I remember one Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain — [She enters the kitchenette.] TOM: I know what’s coming. LAURA: Yes. But let her tell it. TOM: Again? LAURA: She loves to tell it. AMANDA: One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain — your mother received — seventeen! gentlemen callers!

Amanda Wingfield reminisces about her past to her son Tom and daughter Laura. The playwright establishes the emotional relationships among the three main characters with admirable economy of words. From this brief bit of dialogue alone, the audience can infer that Amanda repeats her stories often and Tom finds the repetition annoying. Laura likes her mother to feel happy, and Laura has the power to persuade Tom. The audience may suspect that the number of Amanda’s gentlemen callers has expanded in her memory.

[AMANDA:] Invitations poured in — parties all over the Delta! “Stay in bed,” said Mother, “you have a fever!”— but I just wouldn’t. I took quinine but kept going, going! Evenings, dances! Afternoons, long, long rides! Picnics — lovely! So lovely, that country in May — all lacy with dogwood, literally flooded with jonquils! That was the spring I had a craze for jonquils . . . And then I [She stops in front of the picture. Music plays.] met your father!

Amanda Wingfield, wearing a yellow dress from her own youth, talks to her daughter Laura as she and Laura get dressed to receive Laura’s first real gentleman caller. The dress takes Amanda back to her younger self, and she wears the girlish outfit oblivious to its incongruity for her age. Amanda’s memories form her character and drive her ambitions. She seems to forget that her daughter, not herself, now expects a suitor.

JIM [smiling doubtfully]: You know I have an idea I’ve seen you before. I had that idea soon as you opened the door. It seemed almost like I was about to remember your name. But the name that I started to call you — wasn’t a name! And so I stopped myself before I said it. LAURA: Wasn’t it—Blue Roses?

Jim O’Connor talks to Laura after having dinner at the Wingfield apartment. Tom, Laura’s brother, has invited Jim home at his mother Amanda’s urging, with the objective of introducing Laura to an eligible young man. For most of the evening, Laura’s painful shyness and her memories of her high school crush on Jim keep her curled up on the couch. Now Jim finally remembers her. However, he does not realize that his high school nickname for Laura—Blue Roses—stands as one of her most treasured romantic memories.