The Glass Menagerie is a 1945 play written by Tennessee Williams. The play premiered in Chicago and had its Broadway debut with star Jessica Tandy. The Gentleman Caller (or The Young Man) symbolizes the idea of opportunity, especially for Amanda Wingfield, who desires to escape her oppressive life through him. The Gentlemen Caller’s interactions with Laura and Tom allow them to dream of a better life as well. The Gentleman Caller represents the idea of real opportunities, and although doesn’t necessarily help Amanda escape her life and surroundings, he does offer an opportunity for something more than what she has now.
The Gentleman Caller is able to visualize the things that Amanda seeks: beauty and gentility. The Gentleman Caller pities Amanda Wingfield but is also irritated with her because he sees how much she desires something different than what she has here in present time. The Glass Menagerie takes place in 1937-1938 St. Louis Missouri during The Great Depression. The play was published in January 1944 by The New York Drama Book Shop, which led to its first production by the Chicago Theatre Guild at The National Theatre in Chicago on December 2, 1944.
The play opened at The Broadway Theatre with a series of out-of-town tryouts on November 3, 1945. The show was directed by Eddie Dowling and Jerry Connelly while The Gentleman Caller was portrayed by Alexander Knox. The Gentleman Caller is described as an appealing young man who arrives unexpectedly one day to the Wingfields’ home. He represents opportunity for all three members of The Wingfield family: Laura, Tom, and Amanda Wingfield.
The play depicts the struggle of Tom Wingfield, after coming home from his time in the Merchant Marine, to support his family while living with his mother and sister who both have a mental illness. The Gentleman Caller is an important character in The Glass Menagerie, but he symbolizes much more than just one character’s development throughout the play. The Gentleman Caller represents many different things throughout The Glass Menagerie. The Gentleman Caller is introduced when Tom says: I had this date with Laura last night. The first time we’ve ever been out together alone, without Mama alone. ” (Act 1)
This quote introduces The Gentleman Caller through Tom’s eyes as someone that he is interested in and someone that can help him move past Laura. The Gentleman Caller also has to be seen as simply the catalyst for Tom’s growth during The Glass Menagerie. The Gentleman Caller makes an impact on everyone in The Glass Menagerie even if they aren’t fully aware of it. The Gentleman Caller as a love interest:
Tom Wingfield sees The Gentleman Caller as a potential romantic partner to his sister, Laura. The Gentleman Caller represents much more than just a romantic prospect though; he brings out new emotions and motivations in Laura and Tom throughout The Glass Menagerie. “… Laura opened the door and said shyly, “Come in. ” She was close to tears, but the same time there was something of an elfin delight in her expression. The Gentleman Caller was not easy to entertain; he kept us both on the jump. (Act 3)
The Gentleman Caller brings out a new side of Laura that Tom had never seen before. The Gentleman Caller breathes life into Laura and helps her open up, even if it’s just for a little while. The Gentleman Caller makes people see others in ways they hadn’t thought to before and that is no different when The Gentleman Caller enters The Glass Menagerie. A catalyst for change: The Gentlemen Caller’s presence is helpful but also detrimental to the inhabitants of The Glass Menagerie.
The Gentlemen Caller may have been what started Tom moving forward with his life, but The Gentleman Caller also helped lead him to become slightly delusional. The Gentleman Caller had a hand in Tom beginning to realize his mistakes. “I want everything for us, some day – the moon, the stars – but you have to help me get them. ” (Act 2) Tom’s promise that The Gentleman Caller can have anything he wants shows how The Gentleman Caller gave him motivation and dreams of future success.
The downside for The Gentlemen Callers’ influence on Tom is that The Gentleman Caller made up this idea of love materializing into something tangible even though The Gentleman Caller knew it was only temporary. The power of The Glass Menagerie’s dynamic symbolism can be seen through The Gentleman Caller. He is more just the catalyst for change within The Glass Menagerie, The Gentleman Caller is the exact change. The Gentleman Caller symbolizes an idea of success, love, and most importantly hope for The Wingfields in The Glass Menagerie.
The play is also not as somber as it is usually presented. The laughter of the audience often interrupts Tom’s narration, and Amanda sometimes breaks into peals of laughter herself. The dramatic irony in The Glass Menagerie, then, is that both Tom and Laura wish that there were a gentleman caller for them just as much as their mother does. Tom’s role in The Glass Menagerie has been said to be a “mirror” of Williams himself. The play displays some autobiographical elements from the life of Tennessee Williams’ own family, including his sister Rose who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at an early age.
In the novel The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone published two years prior to The Glass Menagerie, Williams wrote: “I feel in my own flesh and blood, and in my sister Rose’s, the strongest motives for the writing of The Glass Menagerie. ” The character of Tom Wingfield is believed to be a representation of Williams himself. The narrator speaks directly to the audience (without any fourth wall) throughout The Glass Menagerie, like how Tennessee Williams became heavily involved in directing The Glass Menagerie when it was entered into a contest with his friends.
The play also alludes to many different plays by Shakespeare, such as Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The original Broadway production ran February 15, 1945 – July 13, 1946, at the Paramount Theatre located at 149 West 45th Street The play was adapted for film in 1950 and 1963 and for television in 1973, The last Broadway revival opened at the Beaumont Theatre on February 12, 2005. The Glass Menagerie has been revived four times on Broadway: The first New York revival ran at the Martin Beck Theatre from September 26, 1987, to January 8th, 1988 starring Jane Kaczmarek as Laura Wingfield, Stephen Collins as Tom Wingfield, Pamela Payton-Wright as Amanda Wingfield and Michael Learned as The Lady of the Lake.
Directed by Simon Staho with set design by John Lee Beatty, costume design by Jennifer von Mayrhauser, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt , The Martin Beck Theatre was originally named The Alvin Theatre, The Alvin Theatre is Now known as The Foxwoods Theatres.