The Books: “The Glass Menagerie” (Tennessee Williams)

Next in my Daily Book Excerpt:

Next on my script shelf:

glassmenagerie.jpgNext Tennessee Williams play? His first success, the play that made him a star: The Glass Menagerie.

After the flop of his first play, Battle of Angels, Williams went back to work. The Glass Menagerie opened in 1944 in Chicago – before moving to New York. To say it was a success is to make the word “success” utterly meaningless. Here are a couple of the things I have written before about this play, and Tennessee Williams, if you’re interested:

Tennessee Williams: “that nice little guy” (That’s about the opening in Chicago)

The Glass Menagerie, continued

Happy birthday, Tennessee Williams

The first production of Glass Menagerie (especially in Chicago – before it moved to New York) is one of those events where – dammit – I wish I had a time machine. What I wouldn’t give to have been there …

I will post an excerpt from the scene where Tom tells his mother (Amanda) that they will be having a “gentleman caller” the next evening. The tragedy of the ending of this play hovers and trembles through every line of this scene. Because the high-flying hopes, the wishes, the dreams … that all go shooting through the ceiling at the expectation of this gentleman caller’s visit … are bound to come back to earth someday. Amanda is a fantasist. Watch how she hears the news, prosaic really, that they will have company for dinner – watch how she hears that news and leaps off the cliff into the abyss of a fantasy. I know people who do that. Hell, I’ve done it myself. To pretty much disastrous results. But Amanda lives her life that way. It’s a runaway train – and Tom can’t put on the brakes.

I love the part where Tom tells Amanda the gentleman caller’s last name and her immediate response is: “That, of course, means fish. Tomorrow is Friday.”

EXCERPT FROM The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

AMANDA. What are you looking at?

TOM. The moon.

AMANDA. Is there a moon this evening?

TOM. It’s rising over Garfinkel’s Delicatessen.

AMANDA. So it is! A little silver slipper of a moon. Have you made a wish on it yet?

TOM. Um-hum.

AMANDA. What did you wish for?

TOM. That’s a secret.

AMANDA. A secret, huh? Well, I won’t tell you mine either. I will be just as mysterious as you.

TOM. I bet I can guess what yours is.

AMANDA. Is my head so transparent?

TOM. You’re not a sphinx.

AMANDA. No, I don’t have secrets. I’ll tell you what I wished for on the moon. Success and happiness for my precious children! I wish for that whenever there’s a moon, and when there isn’t a moon, I wish for it, too.

TOM. I thought perhaps you wished for a gentleman caller.

AMANDA. Why do you say that?

TOM. Don’t you remember asking me to fetch one?

AMANDA. I remember suggesting that it would be nice for your sister if you brought home some nice young man from the warehouse. I think that I’ve made that suggestion more than once.

TOM. Yes, you have made it repeatedly.


TOM. We are going to have one.


TOM. A gentleman caller!

[The annunciation is celebrated with music. Amanda rises. Image on screen: A caller with a bouquet]

AMANDA. You mean you have asked some nice young man to come over?

TOM. Yup. I’ve asked him to dinner.

AMANDA. You really did?

TOM. I did!

AMANDA. You did, and did he — accept?

TOM. He did!

AMANDA. Well, well — well, well! That’s — lovely!

TOM. I thought that you would be pleased.

AMANDA. It’s definite then?

TOM. Very definite.


TOM. Very soon.

AMANDA. For heaven’s sake, stop putting on and tell me some things, will you?

TOM. What things do you want me to tell you?

AMANDA. Naturally I would like to know when he’s coming!

TOM. He’s coming tomorrow.

AMANDA. Tomorrow?

TOM. Yes. Tomorrow.

AMANDA. But, Tom!

TOM. Yes, Mother?

AMANDA. Tomorrow gives me no time!

TOM. Time for what?

AMANDA. Preparation! Why didn’t you phone me at once, as soon as you asked him, the minute that he accepted? Then, don’t you see, I could have been getting ready!

TOM. You don’t have to make any fuss.

AMANDA. Oh, Tom, Tom, Tom, of course I have to make a fuss! I want things nice, not sloppy! Not thrown together. I’ll certainly have to do some fast thinking, won’t I?

TOM. I don’t see why you have to think at all.

AMANDA. You just don’t know. We can’t have a gentlemancaller in a pigsty! All my wedding silver has to be polished, the monogrammed table linen ought to be laundered! The windows have to be washed and fresh curtains put up. And how about clothes? We have to wear something, don’t we?

TOM. Mother, this boy is no one to make a fuss over!

AMANDA. Do you realize he’s the first young man we’ve introduced to your sister? It’s terrible, dreadful, disgraceful that poor little sister has never received a single gentleman caller! Tom, come inside! [She opens the screen door]

TOM. What for?

AMANDA. I want to ask you some things.

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2 Responses to The Books: “The Glass Menagerie” (Tennessee Williams)

  1. Laura(southernxyl) says:

    I’ve always wondered if Amanda’s “Blue Mountain” was Blue Mountain, MS. It has a small Baptist women’s college where you can get a degree in things like teaching and nursing and music, but when I was a girl had a reputation of being pretty much a finishing school (maybe still does, I don’t live in the area any more.)

  2. Belinda says:

    Ah, the tattered splendor that is Southern literature. It can’t be beat, in my book. Bring on the Faulkners, Gilchrists, O’Connors, Weltys…I will be happy for my entire life. I could probably be stranded on a desert island with copies of “In The Land Of Dreamy Dreams”, “Everything That Rises Must Converge”, and “The Wide Net” and not lose my mind. Well, I dunno, I might need some Yoknapatawpha county in there somewhere.

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