This is part of a series of reprints from my classes. Once the class is over, I will lose these if I don't save them elsewhere. I've decided to post them here as they may be of some interest. This work is in reference to the Tennessee Williams play.
In "The Glass Menagerie" I believe that the fire escape is used to reflect upon what has happened within the apartment and plan for the future. When Tom is on the fire escape I think he is introspective, regretful, and a bit sad at first. Later he shows signs of hope for change, with which he is excited, happy, and far more emotional. Being on the steps allows him to distance himself from what has transpired, and it is here where he has time to think more calmly upon the strife that occurs when he is home. It’s at this distance that he can see his future and make plans to get there.
In the opening scene Tom addresses the audience directly from the fire escape, here he sets the scene. He’s also telling the audience, in a matter-of-fact manner what they should expect from the play. The next time Tom speaks from the fire escape he is drunk and returning home, yet he speaks with mild excitement of his night in vague innuendo to the earlier fight. Later, it is only after descending the steps that he agrees to his mother’s plan to fetch a beau for Laura from his workplace, he does so with a pointed quip. When Tom and Amanda are on the fire escape together they plan for Amanda’s future, though also secretly plan their own, flashes of excitement are shown but only in regards to their secret aspirations. When Tom is waiting on the fire escape with Jim he gives details of his plans to reach the future in his dreams, which is the most emotional scene outside for Tom, as his excitement to leave has reached its peak. Finally, at the very end of the play Tom addresses the audience again, here he is his most reverent and seems satisfied with the choices he made, but he’s also calm and somewhat morose.