The Glass Menagerie

As we have learned in our study of the novel and short story, conflict, epiphanies and the resolution are essential components to fiction, but in the dramatic form conflict drives every scene. Where a fiction writer can layer tension, narrative, description, and dialogue over the course of a narrative arc that may span many pages, each of which build toward a climax—drama has no such luxury.

Pared down to stage, costume and dialogue, theater pulls us along not so much with the layering on of more and more tension, but rather by the fact that each scene is conflict-based. In the dramatic form, events don't build up and then happen. Events happen. We are immersed almost immediately in conflict as we move from scene to scene. 

Although we have several monologues that stand out from the conflicts in this play, The Glass Menagerie is no different. In fact, the monologues offer us key insights into the main character's internal thoughts (and conflicts) and in doing really work to extend the conflict in the surrounding scenes. 

Critics have described the relationship between the characters as “frustrated” because of their seeming lack of ability to communicate honestly to each other. Both internal and external conflicts contribute to this frustration. By zeroing in on three members in a dysfunctional family the audience can relate to each character’s plight and to many of the same internal and external conflicts that inevitably shape family.

Today we will look at each of the three characters and discuss internal and external conflicts that contribute to the meaning of the story.

Using the triple-entry journal format groups will examine specific scenes and explain how these scenes are conflicted by both internal and external forces.

The triple-entry journal is a great tool for you to use when you are gathering research for your upcoming research paper. I will go over the basics in class, each group will create a triple-entry journal and we will share our findings as a class.

As you are reading and discussing, please begin to think about what role you will play in our class productions. Will you be the Director, working to shape and control the written content from behind the scenes? Will you be the Writer, the tortured artist (or group of artists) responsible for breathing life into characters? Will you be an Actor, willing to embody the lives of imaginary characters? Costume Director? Set Design? What aspect of the dramatic form most inspires you?

Our mission will be to write a contemporary version of one scene from The Glass Menagerie. Groups will be responsible for writing, directing, editing and designing the in-class productions. Today in class I will have you pick your first and second choice for the following production roles:

Central Character (actor)
Set/Costume Designer

Since we are focusing on New Historicism, we will go over the following historical context in class on Monday in addition to reading and responding to excerpts from Tom, The Unknown Tennessee Williams, by Lyle Leverich.

Historical Timeline


The Cast 

What is a Director?

What is an actor?

What is a copy editor?

What does a set/costume designer do?

What are the writer's main responsibilities?

  1. Immediate Conflict—The heart of drama; someone wants something and people and things keep getting in the way of them achieving the goal. At times, the obstacles can be common to both the hero and villain, and the ultimate goal a laudable one for both parties (Scripped.com). Conflict can be external— what is happening around the characters, or internal—emotional conflict. The screenwriter must make sure both internal and external conflict both utilized to maximize conflict in the scene. 
  2. A Believable Scene—The characters need to be faced with a "real" problem, one that the audience can relate to and care about.
  3. Lively and Realistic Dialogue—the writer must think about the language that each character would use, what they would say and what they would not say are equally important.
  4. Rising Action, Epiphany and Resolution

Topic Teams:
Violence (Note: Violence can include any act of oppression), Family, Culture, Gender

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