Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie is indeed a very powerful play when you take it in the context of when it was written and what was happening with the world. While the play did not grab my emotions and destroy them as most plays that I see, I have to say that it was quite good.
The play corrupts expectations of what is happening and dives into what happens as we do not live up to out expectations of where we should be. The play takes you down a very dark road of loss and escape from loss.
The main character is not as some might think is not the mother but the son, Tom. Tom believes that in order to escape his disappointment with himself that he can escape via distance and time. The three main characters all try to escape with some kind of time distortion.
The mother tries to escape her disappointment via the past. The daughter tries to escape her disappointment in the present via her own world of shyness and seeking more depth out of the people without looking. The son, as I prior stated tries to escape via the future by putting space and time between him and his disappointment.
The play was written during the great depression in the United States. Tennessee Williams explores what happens as we lose our way the the three ways of escaping disappointment. What happens when we do not live up to what we believe we should be or believe we deserve...we escape. When reality becomes too tough we need to find ways in order to cope with this.
While contectually this is very similar to Death of a Salesman the same emotional depth was never reached but do not think for a minute that it was not a very good play. This was a riviting play as most everyone has gone through something similar.
Jim O'Connor was the only well actualized adult in the play. While he was disappointed with his life and the outcome, instead of finding an escape, he coped with it and made the best of what he had. This is a very important point in life as well as the play. I do not know of many who are really satisfied with their life and where they ended up but instead of escaping, well actualized adults cope and move on. As Jim MAYBE comes to realize that everyone in the family is trying to escape in some way, he tries to bring the daughter around by showing her that she should not be disappointed as she is the least lost of the three charaters.
The concept of "pieces" in the play that it was titled for, The Glass Menagerie is very important and a very beautiful concept indeed. When one just looks at a glass piece, it may be only glass, but maybe we should look a little further. In certain situations not everything looks as good as it is but maybe if you look a little further you will find more. The architypical things that each person hold dear point to what their disappointment indeed is. The daughter holds glass pieces. Her favorite piece is of a unicorn in the midst of horses. It goes a little deeper than that though and the shallowness I will allow you to figure out while I take a little further. The glass is the important aspect to be appreciated. As I have stated, glass on a shelf is nothing particularily brilliant to anyone but when cut glass is held in the right context, ie over a flame, is when the true brilliance begins to shine. It is in her outward appearence that she is disappointed and her handicap but when you go deeper into this is when her beauty shows through.
Tennessee Williams did an excellent job with this play in playing with the emotion of disappointment. It was more than worth the time to see this play.