Essay on Stage Directions in The Glass Menagerie

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Importance of Stage Directions in The Glass Menagerie

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
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Finally, the screen images also foreshadow and emphasize events. For example the screen legend that says "Plans and Provisions" (681) foreshadows Amanda's plan to find her daughter a husband and emphasizes Amanda's sense of duty to protect her family. The screen legend that reads "Annunciation" foreshadows Tom's announcement that he has found a gentleman caller. It also emphasizes, through its biblical allusion, that the coming of the gentleman caller is a very special and long awaited event.

By specifically stating the characters' actions, the stage directions develop the characters more than their dialogue alone. For example, the stage directions describing Amanda's actions and dress exemplify her pretenses and her inability to part with her past. Amanda sits on the fire escape "gracefully and demurely as if she were settling into a swing on a Mississippi veranda" (683). The night the gentleman caller comes, Amanda "wears a girlish frock of yellowed voile with a blue silk sash. She carries a bunch of jonquils--the legend of her youth is nearly revived" (689). Although the stage directions show Amanda's inability to face reality, they leave the audience with a sense of admiration for Amanda and her attempt to protect her family. In the last scene the audience sees Amanda comforting her daughter with "her silliness gone,

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