In his earliest years as a playwright, Williams was largely unsuccessful. His first major play, Battle of Angels, which he had received a $1,000 Rockefeller Grant to create, failed to achieve success. Modern critics have agreed that Williams had tried too hard to make his earliest plays have an earth-shattering effect on its audience; he tended to overemphasize aspects in his plays. However, Williams eventually learned that all he had to do was create a play that mirrored his own life in order to achieve success.
The Glass Menagerie is play that tells the story of Tom, his disabled sister Laura, and his mother Amanda who is deeply concerned about finding a match for Laura. Laura parallels his own sister Rose in many ways, and Amanda seems to represent his mother. Even the missing father in the play mirrored his own. Tom, the narrator, was a representation of the author himself. The Glass Menagerie achieved much success and was followed by A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which both received the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Those who read Williams’ work today must consider the period in which it was written in order to truly understand the risks that Williams was taking. Williams addressed issues that other authors and playwrights refused to incorporate into their work including homosexuality (he was himself a homosexual) and alcoholism. Many directors would not produce the plays as they were written. (e.g. When Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was produced as a movie, the main character Brick’s flaw, failure to accept his own homosexuality, was hidden and was replaced with a stubborn immaturity.)
At the age of 71, Williams died choking on an eye-drop bottle cap in his room at the Hotel Elysee in New York. His death is a rather obscure detail, but it was his life, and the way he addressed it through his plays, that is worth reading about.