Tennessee Williams describes his play, "The Glass Menagerie" as a "memory play presented with unusual freedom from convention." The glass menagerie combines naturalistic and expressionistic elements as it was written at a point of transition between the two different dramatic periods. In the production notes, Williams describes expressionism in The Glass Menagerie as "a closer approach to truth". By this he meant the truth about life and reality. He uses different expressionistic devices such as irony to put across the themes of the play; escape, reality and memory.
The Glass Menagerie shows influences of both expressionism and naturalism because Tennessee Williams was greatly influenced by European playwrights such as Eugene O'Neill and Anton Chekhov. Chekhovian elements such as irony, pathos and comedy characterises The Glass Menagerie and other pieces of Williams work.
Naturalistic theatre was a reaction to nineteenth century theatre - whose purpose was purely to entertain.
Theatre had lost the 'lofty' functions such as poetry, religion and politics and naturalistic theatre was aiming to give back the "sublime emotion and almost religious uplift" that had been previously lost. Naturalistic theatre focuses on normal life. Actors are positioned on stage as they would be in real life and rather than attention grabbing acting, lighting and sets, everything would be as in real life. Sets would be designed to look like real rooms. When the curtain goes up, the audience is given the impression that they are watching the actors through an invisible fourth wall. The subject matter would be that of real life.
In the 1920's, American theatre was going through an expressionistic phase. Expressionistic theatre does not reflect everyday life, and differs in the fact that instead of attempting to represent the world conventionally, expressionist writers showed reality distorted by an emotional state of mind.