Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12

Lesson 2: “The Glass Menagerie”: Key Themes

Created March 31, 2015


The Lesson


Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams at 20th anniversary of The Glass Menagerie opening.

Credit: Fernandez, Orlando, photographer, 1965.  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC.

Tennessee Williams’ classic play, The Glass Menagerie (1944) was an extension of the expressionism that came out of Europe in the early 20th century. In essence, expressionism interprets the world through the artist’s internal, subjective lens, not as an objective reflection of reality.

This lesson is one part of a three lesson unit about The Glass Menagerie. Lesson 2 will help students move from their Lesson 1 identifications of expressionist techniques in the play to a comprehension and analysis of how Williams employed them to develop his themes. It offers a foundation that prepares students for the unit’s third lesson, in which they will synthesize their understanding of Williams’ use of expressionist techniques they observe in action here.

Teachers may link to the full unit with Guiding Questions, College and Career Readiness standards and Background. Lesson 2 aligns with CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.2: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Learning Objectives

  • Analyze how Williams uses expressionistic techniques to develop themes over the course of The Glass Menagerie

Preparation and Resources

In their original pairs or triads, students work on Worksheet 2 to detail how Williams’ use of expressionist techniques reinforce and extend his themes.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. “The Glass Menagerie”: Key Themes

To defend and/or refine (and to extend) the analysis students began in Lesson 1, have them work with their partners on Worksheet 2. Extending Analysis. They will focus now on one of the play’s apparent goals or themes; indicate multiple expressionist devices and instances in the play that speak to that theme; and assert how the theme is, in turn, evolving for the reader/audience. (A teacher version of Worksheet 2 is available with suggested answers.)

Once students have had the chance to get some detail and analysis on their worksheets, gather for a whole-class discussion. Ask each pair or triad to share a theme and technique or instance they considerable especially relevant and explain how expressionism in that case is advancing the theme—complicating it, refining it, extending it, and so on.

After each brief presentation, invite the pair or triad and the rest of the class to offer additional examples of where the play speaks to the same theme through a different expressionist device or instance. Let the discussion evolve to a substantial consideration of what Williams’ play communicates about each of the identified themes.


Ask students to answer this question in their own words in a paragraph: “Williams uses [student’s choice of expressionist device] to say what about [student’s choice of theme]? For example …”

The Basics

Grade Level


Time Required

1 class periods

Subject Areas
  • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Drama
  • Literature and Language Arts
  • Critical thinking
  • Essay writing
  • Literary analysis
  • Textual analysis
  • Writing skills
  • Diane Moroff (New York, NY)


Activity Worksheets