In Tennessee Williams' play, The Glass Menagerie, stage directions are as important to the theme of the play as the dialogue itself. Detailed stage directions intensify the unrealistic setting, foreshadow and emphasize events, and develop the characters.
Dim colored lighting and symbolic melodies create the unrealistic setting for the memory play. In his opening narration Tom says, "Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic. In memory everything seems to happen to music. That explains the fiddle in the wings" (699). Throughout the play the stage directions call for "a turgid smokey red glow," "gloomy gray" lighting and "deep blue dusk" which create the hazy images of a memory. For a short while, as Jim enters, there is a "delicate lemony light" (688), and a soft light from the new lamp brings out Laura's "unearthly prettiness" (695). Yet, at the end of the play, and throughout its majority, the set is grim, characteristic of Tom's sad memory. Music in the play can be symbolic or simply add to the emotion of a scene. In scene four, "Ave Maria" plays softly in the background, symbolizing Amanda's duties as a mother. Throughout the play, music swells and recedes with the rising and falling of the characters' emotions. For example, as Tom is confronting his mother with the reality of his sister's handicap, "the music changes to a tango that has a minor and somewhat ominous tone" (687).
Describing characters' appearances and presenting messages upon the screen, the stage directions foreshadow and emphasize events. The description of Tom standing on the fire escape looking "like a voyager" (692) foreshadows his escape to th...
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... actions of Amanda and Laura, an audience might believe that Laura has come out of her shell for good or that Amanda is simply an overprotective mother who cannot face reality. Yet, with the elaborate stage directions, Tennessee Williams creates a distinctive memory play with each character tragically failing to reach his or her goals.
Jolemore, Nancy. "Lecture Notes and Study Guide Questions for Tennessee William's The Glass Menagerie." Old Dominion University. 18 January 2000.
Accessed: 29 June 2002.
Reser, Rob. "A Touch of Glass." 29 June 2002.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. Literature and The Writing Process. 5th ed. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X. Day, and Robert Funk. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 1999. 693-734.
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