In Tennessee Williams’ poignant and touching play The Glass Menagerie, we are introduced to the Wingfield Family—Amanda, Tom, Laura and the absent father who is visible by only a picture in the St. Louis’ flat living room. The play is a memory play as Tom, the son, remembers and narrates what he recalled of the events of years ago.
Amanda, the mother, is lost in her reminisces of her past as a Southern Belle. She regales her children with stories of her many gentlemen callers and the post antebellum life.
Tom dreams of adventure and travel. He goes to the “movies” every night, but secretly he has joined the Merchant Marine using the money intended for the electric bill to pay for his membership.
Laura, who is crippled in one leg, is lost in her vast glass menagerie. Her favorite piece is the unicorn because, like her, he is different from the rest of collection.
As she listens to her phonograph records her mind wanders like a flowing rivulet over the old stones of her high school memories. She is a poignant wallflower in her own reality.
Entering this play near the end is Jim O’Connor, the Gentleman Caller. Jim. Laura and Tom were in high school together, but Jim never made the connection between Tom and Laura who he called Blue Roses.
Jim brings Laura out of her shell as they talk, dance and finally kiss in the candlelight. Unfortunately, the kiss is the seal of utter disappointment for Laura when Jim reveals he is engaged to a good Catholic girl and abruptly has to leave to meet his girl at the depot.
During the euphoric moment of their dance, the solitary unicorn is broken. Laura gives it to Jim since in many ways it represents her broken heart; she had carried a torch for this man.
Tom leaves for the adventure he craved. What happened to Amanda and Laura? Unknown.
Amanda, Laura and Tom are not unlike many people on this planet traversing the cosmos. The past, present and future coalesce into what they are.
The violin strings of memories are like ripples on the beach. Sometimes they are barely noticeable, yet other times they beat the shoreline of life with unending fury.
Lost in the past
Lost in fantasy
Lost in dreams of adventure
In secondary school this play was produced under the creative guidance of our English teacher. I was a member of the stage crew and replaced the assistant lighting director when he decided to leave for some unexplained reason one night.
My friends who played the four characters did a wonderful job. However, there was a great deal of controversy over the casting of Laura. A number of the teenage girls did not like the girl for a number of reasons.
Let’s call her Kara. Kara did an excellent job of playing Laura who was the total opposite of her personality. Her parents were a teacher and a hospital administrator which gave her a higher station in the community. She was not shy.
The local paper referred to her performance “the best casting of the play” .
The auditorium was not packed. Perhaps, in a mountain hamlet, the culture of play production by teenagers was viewed as just another school project.
The play closes with this scene after Tom’s soliloquy:
Laura bends over the candles. For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura—and so goodbye…She blows the candles out.
Tragically, the friend who played Jim died several years ago of a heart condition. The others have aged and experienced their own glass menagerie dance where the solitary unicorn loses its horn and become just like the rest of the horses.
As we travel the road of life toward the shore of the cosmic ocean, may we always remember our dreams—both those realized and those faded like candlelight—as we reach that ultimate shore where all possibilities exist. For what is a shoreline for except to gaze upon the vast expanse and to sail into adventure on the high seas of dreams forgotten and seek the gold doubloons on the islets of time.
G. D. Williams © 2016