Amanda Wingfield is a faded, tragic remnant of Southern gentility who lives in poverty in a dingy St. Louis apartment with her son, Tom, and her daughter, Laura. Amanda strives to give meaning and direction to her life and the lives of her children, though her methods are ineffective and irritating. Tom is driven nearly to distraction by his mother's nagging and seeks escape in alcohol and the world of the movies. Laura also lives in her illusions. She is crippled, and this defect, intensified by her mother's anxiety to see her married, has driven her more and more into herself. The crux of the action comes when Tom invites a young man of his acquaintance to take dinner with the family. Jim, the caller, is a nice ordinary fellow who is at once pounced upon by Amanda as a possible husband for Laura. In spite of her crude and obvious efforts to entrap the young man, he and Laura manage to get along very nicely, and momentarily Laura is lifted out of herself into a new world. But this crashes when, toward the end, Jim explains that he is already engaged. The world of illusion that Amanda and Laura have striven to create in order to make life bearable collapses about them. Tom, too, at the end of his tether, at last leaves home.
The Glass Menagerie premiered on Broadway at the Playhouse Theatre in March 1945 under the direction of Eddie Dowling.