"The play is memory" (5). The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams is a play narrated by the character Tom about his memory of his life with his family in the thirties. Although he is absent for the majority of the latter half of the play, Tom is the main character. Tom is also the protagonist, despite his bad qualities. The antagonist is a character never seen, the father.
Tom is the main character of The Glass Menagerie. He opens and closes the play with his narrations. The play revolves around his feelings towards his mother and sister and his dissatisfaction with his work in the warehouse. Scene seven is comprised of the conversation and relationship formed between Laura and Jim where Tom is not present. However, this scene draws a comparison between Jim and Tom. Jim is excited and hopeful for the future and is looking to move up in life and explore his interests. "My interest happens to lie in electro-dynamics. I'm taking a course in radio engineering at night school, Laura, on top of a fairly responsible job at the warehouse. I'm taking that course and studying public speaking" (81- 82). Tom, on the other hand, is frustrated and trapped in his little world of the warehouse, apartment, and movies. He is desperate to find an escape."Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse!" (34). "Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them!" (61). Tom is a very selfish and sometimes cruel character. "I paid my dues this month, instead of the light bill" (62). Tom wants so much to leave his life at the warehouse behind that he puts this want above the welfare of his family. Tom is the protagonist regardless of his behavior because he is easily identified with. His critical mother, Amanda, and his dull job drives Tom to madness. The audience sympathizes with his situation and desires him to find happiness.
Mr. Wingfield's larger-than-life photograph represents how much influence he has on Tom's decisions even while he is absent from Tom's life. Tom is envious of his father's freedom. "Why, listen, if self is what I thought of, Mother, I'd be where his is - GONE!" (23). Amanda wants the best for her children, while her husband has abandoned them. She looks after them, even if it appears to hold Tom back. Amanda gives Tom permission to fulfill his heart's desire of adventure, as long as Laura's is secure in a home and husband first. If Mr. Wingfield were present in Tom's life, perhaps he'd be happier. Tom has a longing to run away like his father did. His father's decision to leave ruined Tom's satisfaction in life with his family.
Tom is the main character and protagonist of The Glass Menagerie and his father is the antagonist. Tom narrates his memories in this play and the audience roots for his success. Mr. Wingfield's portrait expresses an idea of a better choice, a grass is greener on the other side scenario. As long as Tom feels his father is happy away from home, he can never be content at home. Tom was an ambitious man haunted by the image of his father free to have adventures.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New York: New Directions, 1999. Print.