The Glass Menagerie
Woman As Victim In Tennessee Williams’ “Glass Menagerie”
The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, is a play that tells the story of a mother, Amanda, and her two children, Laura and Tom. Laura is a young woman who suffered from a disease that left her crippled, mentally and physically. Tom brings home a gentleman caller for Laura at the request of his mother. The Glass Menagerie not only reflects on the playwright’s sister Rose’s diagnosis of schizophrenia and her lobotomy, but also Williams’ feelings about the procedure. Williams’ had a close relationship with his sister and doted on her. He grew up experiencing Rose’s episodes of insanity and blamed himself for her lobotomy procedure (Morton). Therefore, Tennessee Williams was affected by his sister’s schizophrenia and lobotomy, resulting in his memory play, The Glass Menagerie, and the development of Laura’s character.
A lobotomy is a form of psychosurgery that requires the drilling of holes into a patient’s head to treat chronic mental disorders and behaviors. One of the first psychosurgeries was performed by Gottlieb Burckhardt in 1890 and Ludvig Puusepp in 1910, however, both surgeons decided that the procedure was far too dangerous to be conducted on patients. In 1935, Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz and surgeon Pedro Almeida Lima brought back psychosurgery and modified the treatment. “Holes were drilled into the patient’s head and then injected with ethyl alcohol”, in which the alcohol was used to “disrupt the neuronal tracts” that they believed caused the recurring symptoms of a patient’s mental illness (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). Created by Moniz, the leukotome was used to be inserted into the drilled holes in a patient’s head, “designed specifically to disrupt the tracts of neuronal fibres connecting the prefrontal cortex and thalamus of the brain” (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). In 1936, physician Walter J. Freeman II and surgeon James Watts introduced the procedure to America. The two men modified the procedure and called it the Freeman-Watts standard lobotomy, in which it was modified again into the transorbital lobotomy ten years later. The transorbital lobotomy required a sharp instrument to be pushed into the eye socket to break the bone behind the sockets, and then “inserted into the frontal lobe and used to sever connections in the brain” (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). The current form of lobotomy today has been modified throughout the years and a few operations were reported to be effective for several patients. When other forms of therapy and treatment were developed in the mid-1900, the lobotomy became less popular, but, it is still rarely used to treat some mental illnesses today.
Schizophrenia was one of the disorders that were treated by a lobotomy. This common psychotic disorder alters the way one thinks, feels, and behaves. The term “schizophrenia” was coined by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (Piotrowski). Symptoms usually begin to develop in the twenties for males and females, and then progresses as a person gets older (Piotrowski). Symptoms of schizophrenia are separated into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive (National Institute of Mental Health). Positive symptoms are thoughts and behaviors that are present in people with the illness. Symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, and withdrawal from reality. People often confuse hallucinations and delusions, thinking that they are the same thing. Hallucinations involve seeing or hearing things that others do not, while delusions are misconceptions about the actual truth and reality. Negative symptoms are thoughts and behaviors that are “taken away” from someone with schizophrenia. Negative symptoms of this disorder may include “disconnected speech patterns, broken sentences, excessive body movement, and purposeless activity” as well as “extreme anger and hostility”. Cognitive symptoms deal with one’s thinking, with cognition meaning reasoning or understanding. Symptoms can include “poor ability to understand and make decisions, trouble focusing, problems with “working memory”. There is not one exact cause for schizophrenia, just like how there is not just one reason as to why someone has depression or any other mental illnesses. But the psychotic disorder can be caused by “genetics, the environment (viruses or malnutrition), and/or brain chemistry” (National Institute of Mental Health). Schizophrenia cannot be cured, but there are ways to treat this mental illness such as medication and therapy. While schizophrenia affects about “one percent of the general population”, it is still a serious disorder, with Rose William’s falling victim to the illness, and Tennessee Williams as the witness.
Tennessee Williams puts a character in his own shoes because of Rose’s schizophrenia and lobotomy. With background knowledge of the playwright’s life, readers can conclude that Tom Wingfield is a literary representation of Tennessee Williams. Williams’ real name is Thomas Lanier Williams, and Tom Wingfield is the younger brother of Laura Wingfield. Not only are the two men’s names similar, they are also both younger brothers of their fragile sisters. Another factor is that Tom is a poet who works in a warehouse, specifically a shoe warehouse. Williams also worked in a shoe company, but then became a playwright instead of a poet. Additionally, Tom cares deeply for his older sister, Laura, in the same brotherly way Williams did for his older sister, Rose. In Scene IV, it is morning and Laura is to get butter for her mother. But when she rushes out the door, she stumbles over her legs and falls: “A second later she cries out. Tom springs up and crosses to the door. Tom opens the door” (Williams 689). In this situation, Tom’s first instinct is to quickly go to the fallen Laura, knowing that she is crippled and that any assistance would be useful for her. As simple as this act of kindness may be, it clearly portrays Tom’s brotherly love for Laura, the way Williams’ fondness did for Rose while growing up.
Also in Scene IV, Tom shows more of his brotherly fondness for Laura. After Tom and Amanda’s argument, Laura pleads with Tom to apologize to their mother: “Don’t make Mother nervous… Tom, speak to Mother this morning. Make up with her, apologize, speak to her!”. Tom argues with Laura that his mother decided to not talk to him first. But after a few exchanges with Laura after she leaves, he sucks up his pride and apologizes to his mother. With knowledge about Williams’ resentment towards his mother for allowing Rose’s lobotomy, readers can speculate that Tom apologized to Amanda to satisfy Laura’s request, not to truly make up with Amanda. Tom knows that Laura is mentally “crippled” and tends to “brood” about the things she notices, so staying on bad terms with Amanda could possibly make Laura worried and unhappy. In Scene III, prior to Tom’s apology to Amanda, the mother and son argues about little things and he ends up calling her an “ugly—babbling old—witch” before taking off for the night (Williams 687). It has been reported that Williams had a “bitter resentment of his mother for allowing Rose to be so callously mistreated” (Morton). Therefore, Tom’s quarrel with Amanda symbolizes Williams’ grudge and dislike for his mother, Edwina Williams, for allowing Rose’s lobotomy. But, not only did Tennessee Williams create a character to represent himself, he developed a character to represent his sister as well.
To further express his rancor about his sister’s condition and operation, Tennessee Williams turned Rose Williams into Laura Wingfield. Rose Williams is the older sister of Tennessee Williams, and Laura Wingfield is the older sister of Tom Wingfield. The first distinct similarity of the two females is their perception of reality. Rose Williams was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent a lobotomy for this. One symptom of schizophrenia is withdrawal from reality, and it is unknown whether Laura is schizophrenic or not. However, in the introduction of the play, it is noted that Laura’s case of reality is much worse than Amanda’s failure “to establish contact with reality” and that she is “crippled”. Readers can theorize that Laura’s perception of reality is also skewed in the way schizophrenics are. Also, Laura being crippled may not apply to her physically, in which “one of her leg is slightly shorter than the other”, but she is also mentally crippled. Even her brother, Tom, acknowledges her behavior and disability, just like Tennessee Williams with his sister.
In Scene V, when Tom talks to Amanda about bringing Jim O’Connor home for dinner, Tom points out that Laura is “terribly shy and lives in a world of her own” (Williams 697). He further explains to Amanda that Laura is “peculiar” because “she lives in a world of her own—a world of little glass ornaments”. Schizophrenics not only withdraws from reality, but they can experience hallucinations as well. It is a possibility that Laura hallucinates in a world of her glass collection, because she, as a 23-year-old woman, personified her glass unicorn to Jim O’Connor in Scene VII: “He doesn’t complain about it… all of them seem to get along nicely together… I haven’t heard any argument among them!” (Williams 712). With knowledge of Rose Williams and analysis of Laura’s character, readers can conclude why Laura’s glass unicorn is one of her favorites out of her collection. A unicorn is a horse with a horn on its head, making it quite unique. This uniqueness in the play parallels with Laura and her fragile, yet schizophrenic behavior and her “clumping” leg brace (Williams 708). However, this uniqueness in the real world connects to Rose and her schizophrenia. When the horn breaks from the unicorn after falling off a table, this symbolizes Rose Williams’ lobotomy. Laura consoles Jim that she will “just imagine he had an operation… to make him feel less—freakish”. The “operation” parallels with Rose’s lobotomy procedure, to make her “just like all the other horses”. But, as evident as the similarities may be, critics may disagree that Rose Williams’ condition and operation had any effect on the playwright.
Critics may argue that The Glass Menagerie had nothing to do with Tennessee Williams’ personal life and feelings. The first argument would just be a speculation that Rose’s condition and lobotomy did not affect the playwright on a personal level. But, this speculation is absurd as Williams’ had a fondness for his sister and was close to her. Other plays by Tennessee Williams were also written to reflect his life, such as Suddenly Last Summer and The Night of the Iguana, in which the “heroine” was “inspired by Rose”. However, the characters of The Glass Menagerie are the closest representation of the people in Williams’ life, himself included. The similarities between Tom Wingfield and Tennessee Williams are just too coincidental. Another argument would be that Rose Williams had no effect on the playwright’s development of Laura’s character. If this is the case, then the similarities between Laura and Rose are also much too coincidental. Why would Laura also be the older sister of “Tom” who also exhibits schizophrenic behaviors of a distorted reality? If Tennessee Williams was never affected by Rose’s schizophrenia and her lobotomy, he would not have expressed his remorse and bitterness in his plays, specifically The Glass Menagerie. Williams felt guilty for not “being able to prevent the procedure” of Rose and was “haunted” by it. Therefore, with coincidental similarities between characters, especially Laura, and their counterparts, it is evident that Rose became the muse behind Williams’ plays.
Sharing a close relationship with his older sister Rose Williams, playwright Tennessee Williams watched his sister fall into a world of madness and eventually received treatment that never truly treated her. Rose was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a serious and chronic mental illness that can be treated with a lobotomy. Lobotomies, however, can be dangerous, as the procedure involves puncturing the skull and prodding the brain to disrupt nerves. Eventually, at the request of her mother Edwina Williams, Rose underwent a lobotomy. To express his guilt for not “being able to prevent the procedure”, Williams illustrated certain elements of his life and his sister’s life into one of his most famous plays, The Glass Menagerie. The first clear element is the narrator of the play, Tom Wingfield and his counterpart, Tennessee Williams, himself. Not only are their names and occupations similar, their brotherly love for their older sisters and ill feelings for their mothers are indistinguishable. Rose, the muse of many of Williams’ plays, was developed into Laura Wingfield. Rose and Laura are the older sisters of the two Toms and both have a distorted sense of reality. After witnessing Rose’s madness and hearing of her operation, it is evident that the occurrence greatly impacted Tennessee Williams, resulting in The Glass Menagerie (along with many of his other famous works) and the development of Laura’s character. The Glass Menagerie may seem like a play that revolves around an ordinary family, but it appears that the play has a much deeper significance, especially to the playwright, Tennessee Williams.
The Different Types of Blindness of the Characters in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
Types of Blindness
Life is full of things that humans wish to forget. Using blindness as a buffer from reality is a natural response to dangerous stimuli. The types of blindness are easily classified into many categories. These classifications make understanding stories and characters much better. The characters in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams are easily classified by their blindness to the past, present, and future.
The first group that that can be seen is those who are blind to the past. Characters in this group are blinded to their past actions and don’t think back on them. Oedipus from Oedipus Rex is a good example of a character in this group. He was the one who killed Laius but he ignores the possibility. It’s evident by how he accuses Creon of murdering Laius and trying to steal the throne. Even when faced with a prophesy by Tiresias that implicates him; “In name he is a stranger among citizens, but soon he will be shown to be a citizen, true native Theban, and he’ll have no joy of the discovery: blindness for sight and beggary for riches his exchange, he shall go journeying to a foreign country tapping his way before him with a stick..” (p. 7), he refuses to believe it. Jocasta from the same story is another character that can be used in this category. Jocasta is blind to how fate can be changed. She was told a prophecy about her child killing her husband, so she threw her baby away to be murdered. The prophecies had been spreading around the whole play, but she never really caught on until it was right in front of her. She tries to keep Oedipus blind to the truth by begging him to “…not hunt this out…” (p. 17).
The next group of characters can be classified by their blindness to the present. This group is blind to what is happening around them currently. Amanda from The Glass Menagerie is a great example of this classification. Amanda is blind to how her actions are affecting her daughter, Laura. She sets up for Laura to go to business classes not realizing how Laura feels about the whole situation. When Amanda finds out about Laura skipping her business classes she goes into a long and anxious rant about Laura’s future asking her, “So what are we going to do the rest of our lives? Stay home and watch the parades go by? Amuse ourselves with the glass menagerie, darling? Eternally play those worn-out phonograph records your father left as a painful reminder of him? We won’t have a business career – we’ve given that up because it gave us nervous indigestion! [She laughs wearily.] What is there left but dependency all our lives? I know so well what becomes of unmarried woman who aren’t prepared to occupy a position. I’ve seen such pitiful cases in the South – barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister’s husband or brother’s wife! – stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room – encouraged by one in-law to visit another – little birdlike women without any nest – eating the crust of humility all their life! Is that the future that we’ve mapped out for ourselves? I swear it’s the only alternative I can think of! [She pauses.] It isn’t a very pleasant alternative, is it? [She pauses again.] Of course – some girls do marry.” (Scene 2). This rant shows her disconnection with her daughter and how obviously blind she is to her daughter’s wants and needs. Tom from The Glass Menagerie also fits into this classification because of how blind to the consequences of his current choices he is. He is always just doing whatever he wants, whenever he pleases without thinking about the repercussions. He even got fired from his job for “writing a poem on the lid of a shoebox.” (Scene 7). This shows how blind he is to his current actions and how he doesn’t think about what he does before he does it.
The third group of classification is blindness to the future. This group is blind to what the future holds. Amanda is the perfect fit for this classification. She is blind to what the future holds for her and her family. She is terrified of this fear and lets it control her decisions. When Laura stops going to business school she asks herself, “What are we going to do, what is going to become of us, what is the future?” (Scene 2). She tries so hard to start a future for her children but is blind to where they will end up. Even Laura fits into this classification. Laura is so blind that she doesn’t even think about the future. Her mother set’s her up so that she may live a life worth living, but drops it because she was frightened. She doesn’t see any error in her actions above the fact her mother would get disappointed. Her only reasoning for not going back to the class was because she “threw up -on the floor!” This shows that she’s blind to the consequences of her actions as well as blind about how her life will end up.
In conclusion, the stories Oedipus Rex and The Glass Menagerie have many characters who can be classified by their blindness to the past, present, and future. Classifying characters help make them easier to understand and like. This brings realism to the story as well as allows the reader to connect with the characters. Without understanding the blindness of these characters, they wouldn’t be as distinguishable from the flat characters.
A Comparison of The Glass Menagerie and Hamlet
The Glass Menagerie is a play that involves characters like Amada, Laura, Tom, his friend Jim and their father a character who never physically appears only that he is said to have left them since he was constantly away for a job. Laura is disabled, and her mother always worries that she might never find a “gentleman caller”. The Hamlet on the other handle revolves around the life of the dead King Hamlet’s family in old Denmark kingdom. Hamlet is the Son of a king who had died not long before. He was the heir to the throne but when his father the king died, Hamlet’s uncle Claudius took over. As if that was not enough, Claudius married Gertrude, the late king’s wife. A ghost that belonged to Hamlet’s father appeared to him, informed him that it is Claudius who killed him by having poison put in his ear. The king’s ghost then asks Hamlet to revenge for his death. The unravelling of incidences in the Helmet and the Glass Menagerie, the memories and the future happenings are comparable. This essay will focus on the influence of the past on the present based on the incidences that took place in the Hamlet and the Glass Menagerie and how they influenced the lives of the involved characters.
In both the Hamlet and the Glass Menagerie, a few of the characters have known each other for a long time some of which have high expectations for each other with the hope of being in a relationship and spend a life together. In the Hamlet, Ophelia and Hamlet were said to have been in a relationship, but Ophelia was instructed against entertaining Hamlet into her life. As her brother Laertes makes preparations to leave for France, Ophelia is cautioned by her Brother to avoid falling in love with Hamlet, and he refers to Hamlet as a person who is high above her level to be able to love her honourably. He mentions that Hamlet had a far greater responsibility of taking care of his feelings as well as those of the kingdom which means that the marriage between the two might be impossible. Ophelia’s father Polonius then makes enquiries from her on what the brother was speaking about, and she opens up to her father. She told her father that the brother spoke of “something touching Lord Hamlet” (Shakespeare, p89). When Polonius enquires about her relationship with Hamlet, she discloses to her father that Hamlet speaks of being in love with her. The father rebukes this act and warns his daughter not to fall for the false vows that Hamlet makes to her. He warns her against being associated with him.
After the death of Hamlet’s father, Hamlet seemed to have gone mad, and his reactions were far more erratic. With everyone not knowing the cause of such behaviours, Polonius assumed that his reaction was because his daughter Ophelia had refused to reciprocate his love for her by loving him back. At one point when Polonius sends out his servant to spy on Laertes, Ophelia enters the house looking upset and tells the father that Hamlet had at one point confronted her looking unkempt and with wild eyes. Hamlet out of anger grabbed her but did not even make a word. Polonius concluded that irrational behaviour was because Ophelia has kept a distance from Hamlet since her father warned her and that all these forms of reactions that Hamlet had been due to the love Hamlet had for Ophelia. Polonius was for the idea that this might have been the reason as to why Hamlet was in a strange mood, an idea that he rushed to tell Claudius.
To prove that Hamlet’s madness was due to the love he had for Ophelia, a plan was devised to have both Hamlet and Ophelia converse as the father listens. Ophelia was then ordered to approach Hamlet and tell him that she would reciprocate by loving him back since he seemed to be so much in love with her. Surprisingly, Hamlet denies having loved her at any point. Hamlet makes known to Ophelia that humankind is wretched and that she should not let herself to be a “breeder of sinners” (Shakespeare, 122). He even urged Ophelia to join the nunnery. Hamlet makes a critic of women where he argues that women make men behave like monsters and that they always paint their faces which makes them look more beautiful than they are supposed to be. Hamlet then denounced humankind, women and Ophelia and made known his wish to Ophelia of bringing all marriages to an end (Shakespeare, 122). Ophelia could not believe the words that were uttered by Hamlet, and she suffered heartbreak after being warned by the father not to associate herself with Hamlet since he might not be able to love her. This heartbreak was then aggravated by her father’s death which then made her commit suicide by drowning herself.
In comparison with The Hamlet, the Glass Menagerie is a play that revolves around the life of disabled Laura who thinks that she might never get a man at any point in her life. Her mother however believes that this is possible and when Laura makes no efforts to get herself a man after she dropped out from the business school (Tennessee, scene ii), Amada her mother tells her that she should not spend all her life playing with her glass menagerie and that she should find something meaningful to do with her life. Laura, however, feels inferior and her disability barricades her from exploring and venturing into life.
Meanwhile, Amada had asked Tom her son to look for a gentleman caller for his sister at the warehouse where he used to work. Tom hand invited his friend Jim for supper. Laura had revealed to her mother that she had a high school crush who to some extent found her unique from the others. When she realizes that the person who had been invited over for supper is the same guy she had a crush on back in high school, she was reluctant to open the door for him when the doorbell rang. She even fell sick and could not take supper with the rest of the family. Her mother, however, had ensured that she looked decent to have something to attract the visitor. Jim was said to have been in the singing group in high school, and as they converse with Laura, he is carried away by a song that was singing from a distance, and he decided to dance with Laura. As they danced, Jim told Laura that she was exceptional, referred her to “blue roses” (Tennessee, scene II) the famous name that she used to call Laura in High school and ended up kissing her (Tennessee, scene VII). Laura’s hopes are shuttered when Jim confesses that he is an engaged man and that he had to leave. The only man that Laura had ever loved was gone which led to a lot of pain to Laura, the mother and the whole family.
Both, Laura and Ophelia despite living a different life can be compared to that they all at one point feel shuttered and restrained by things that are beyond their control. Laura feels that now that she is decapitated, she can only spend her life playing with her glass menagerie. She even dropped from business school and spent her time going to the zoo, to the museum and at the houses where they “raise the tropical flowers.” (Tennessee, Scene ii). Feeling useless also made her think that she might not even ever get a man in her life despite her mother’s famous motivational story of how at one point she had seventeen gentlemen watchers within one day. The lives of the two characters were not so different since each one of them had their battles that they even never knew how to win. When an opportunity to advance and make life better came along, Laura played around with it, dropped from school and continued with her normal old fashioned life playing with her glass menagerie and spending time in the house. When Jim, Laura’s high school crush came to visit them, Laura practically fell sick. When she was motivated, she took the opportunity with passion, danced with him, showed him her possessions, received a kiss from him but when she thought that it was the beginning of a life she was so much longing for, Jim made his confession that he was engaged to someone. In a blink of a second, all she was hoping for was long gone including her brother who later confessed that he would never forget her.
Hamlet was a dreamer who longed for the best in his life and everyone’s life. Being the rightful heir to his father’s throne, he felt shuttered that his father’s most inferior brother had taken his position and ended up marrying his mother. This in combination with his father’s death made him long to die. Unfortunately, he did not know where to begin and what exactly to so that he can put things in order. Things seemed to be beyond his control, and he ended up suffering psychologically. The lady to which he had confessed his love for was not willing to be with him after she was advised by her father to stay away from him. Nonetheless, Hamlet was still confused on how to fight his battles. When an opportunity prevailed itself when his father’s ghost appeared to him informed him that it is his uncle who was responsible for the king’s death and asked him to revenge for his death, Hamlet felt motivated (Shakespeare, p189). He embraced the opportunity and devised plans on how to destroy his uncle. Just like the way Laura dropped from the business school hurting his mother so much, Hamlet ended up killing his lover’s father, and this drove her crazy.
After Hamlet realized what killed his father, he made a play that captured similar incidence based on how the death of his father occurred. He was hoping to see his uncle the king react, and this would make him guilty. The most expected thing occurred, and when the point of putting poison into the sleeping king’s ear came, Hamlet’s uncle left the scene. Unfortunately, when Hamlet followed him, he found him praying, and he was reluctant to kill him since he thought that if he killed him at this juncture, his soul would go to heaven and this would not have been enough revenge. This hesitation can be compared to that of Laura to meet Jim her longtime crush (Tennessee, scene vii).
When the king realized that Hamlet might be dangerous, he decided to send him away. He even planned a fight against him and Laertes, the son of Polonius who was murdered by Hamlet. This was vengeance, and Laertes would be so much willing to engage in a fight with Hamlet and destroy him. Claudius poisoned the blade that was to be used by Laertes so that when the blade cuts through the fresh of Hamlet, this will result in his death. Hamlet refused to take the poisoned wine that Claudius offered to him. When the queen took the wine, she could not resist but die (Shakespeare, p189). Nonetheless, Hamlet was struck with the poisoned sword, but he managed to win the fight by slaughtering Laertes with the same sword. Hamlet then realized Claudius’ plans, and he made him drink the poison. This was an opportunity that he was so passionate about and he could not let go. With high expectations that this was over, he lost his whole family, and he also died losing everything that he ever longed for. This moment can also be compared to the moment when Laura was so much passionate about having Jim in her life and then all was shuttered after Jim’s confession, and she lost it all.
Both the Glass Menagerie and the Hamlet are comparable regarding the tension that was being experienced in the families. Tom and his mother were always quarrelling about various issues like spending time doing a job that he did not like, always going to the movie every night, failing to pay for electricity and also bringing into the house an engaged man who Amada hoped that would take Laura as his spouse. Hamlet, on the other hand, was not in good terms with his uncle the king since he had immediately married the fallen king’s wife. Hamlet also thought that he was the rightful heir to the throne to which his uncle was now sitting on. He also knew that his uncle killed the king that Hamlet was always looking for a way to revenge for his father’s death as he was advised by his father’s ghost (Shakespeare, p40).
Both the Hamlet and the Glass Menagerie can be compared in that the incidences that take place in both the writings depend on what had happened in the past. The present characters life is influenced by what happened in the past. Laura is struggling with her longtime disability which to a great extent influences her life. She then meets her high school crush the only person she has ever loved. Her hopes however never bore fruits since Jim was already engaged. Hamlet, on the other hand, is possessed with the vengeance of his father’s death. Along the way despite having taken the revenge with his dying breath, he lost everything his family and the throne that he always thought that he was the rightful heir
The Conversations Between Characters in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
The Glass of Menagerie
Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass of Menagerie” is a play set in an apartment in St. Louis. The play presents the narrator’s memory of the life he went through in 1937. As a character in the play, Tom Wingfield, the play’s narrator presents his memories from the time his father abandons the family to the time he leaves home to look for a job. Although Tom is an aspiring poet, he works in a shoe warehouse to support his mother Amanda and sister, Laura. His father, Wingfield, as Tom narrates, abandoned them at the time they were young. Tom’s memories and his mother’s contemplations reveal that the family misses their breadwinner. Amanda tells her children about the many suitors she had when she was the age of her daughter, Laura. She wonders why Laura does not attract suitors.
Amanda enrolls Laura in a business college so that she can provide for herself when she graduates. However, Amanda comes to learn that Laura dropped out of college and spent time polishing her glass menagerie. Disappointed, Amanda tells Tom to look for a suitor for his sister and he agrees to bring Jim who turns out to be engaged, thereby disappointing the family. The author’s concentration on the events that take place in Wingfield’s family has triggered criticism that the play only features the theme of family relations. Critics have argued that the book is not rich in thematic concerns. However, an in-depth review of the text reveals the author’s success in presenting the themes of marriage and love, abandonment, freedom and confinement and dreams and aspirations.
The insistence that Amanda has on Laura to get herself a man reveals the theme of marriage in William’s play. Although the writer does not explicitly show an intention of presenting the theme, it comes out clearly based on the conversation between Amanda and Laura. The mother asks her daughter; “haven’t you ever liked some boy?” (Williams 35). The question opens a conversation that reveals the theme of marriage and love as one of the main ideas that Williams presents in the text. Amanda claims that failure to get married prepares women for lowliness and forces them to live sorrow lives. She claims that women that are not married are tossed from relative to another as they look for a place to end their loneliness (Williams 33). The author creatively packages Amanda’s message to her daughter about marriage in a way that portrays marriage as a social fulfillment in the society. For instance, Amanda says that women that fail to get married in her society end up developing grudges with their brothers’ wives or sister’s husband. Interestingly, Amanda does not say anything concerning love in marriage. Williams may have omitted Amanda’s views about love because she is a victim of abandonment.
Although Amanda asks about her daughter’s love life, she does not experience love in her marriage given that her husband abandoned her and the children. Contrary to the reader’s expectation, Williams portrays Laura as having fallen in love with one person. Laura remembers Jim and tells her mother that he is the only person that she has had love for in her life. Since Jim calls Laura “Blue Roses,” she remembers him as a person that has recognized the uniqueness in her (Williams 37). Williams builds the theme of love as something that develops after a character is abandoned. For instance, Tom’s family hangs a portrait of their father on the wall to remember him after he abandons them. Also, Laura remembers Jim at the time she cannot get him. Besides, she feels weak when she discovers that Jim is engaged.
The brief interaction between Laura and Jib when the latter comes visiting reveals the author’s ability to package theme of love. Although Jim and Laura been out of touch for a long time, their interactions lead to a kiss that gets Laura out of her shell and confesses that she liked Jim from the time they were in school (Williams 57). By portraying Jim praising Laura for her uniqueness the author builds the theme of love in a way that suggests that the two characters may want to get married in future. Williams portrays Jim as the only man that has managed to trigger Laura’s desire for love. For instance, the author reveals that Laura shows Jim her favorite artwork and he likes it. Although the play ends in suspense, the audience understands that Jim is interested in Laura even though he has a fiancé.
Tom’s narration reveals that his father abandoned the family and he did not seem to regret his decision. Williams’ presentation of Tom’s memories reveals the theme of abandonment. Tom says that the last the family heard from their father was a note saying “hello-goodbye” (Williams 1). Tom’s memories show that his father was a soldier who might have fought in the world war and he could have abandoned the family to continue fighting in the war. In his conversation with the mother, Tom expresses his displeasure with the five-dollar salary and claims that he can abandon the family just like the father did. He says to his mother, “…listen, if self is what I thought of, Mother, I’d be where he is-GONE” (Williams 34). Williams seems to suggest that in the play’s setting, abandonment happens after a conflict between the characters. By showing Tom contemplating to abandon the family after his argument with his mother, Williams manages to connect the themes of dreams and aspirations with abandonment and family conflicts.
By saying “where he is gone,” Tom points at his father’s photograph and therefore, he suggests abandoning his sister and mother (Williams 34). The theme of abandonment is also seen when Tom quarrels with his mother and leaves home for unnamed location. Although Tom makes the final decision to abandon the family, Williams presents him thinking a lot about his sister. The thoughts indicate that Tom is haunted by his decision to abandon his sister and mother.
Williams uses the experiences of Tom at the workplace and home to bring out the theme of freedom and confinement. For instance, Tom claims that he does not want to spend his years in the “celotex interior with-fluorescent-tubes” (Williams 33). The author uses the claim to show that Tom is confined to his workplace and he lacks freedom. As a poet, Tom feels that his talent is threatened by his continuous stay at the shoe factory. However, Williams portrays him as an individual with little options given that he has to take care of the family.
Regarding the theme of dreams and aspirations, Williams builds the play in a way that portrays Tom, Laura and their father as individuals that are constantly pursuing their dreams but fail in most of their attempts. For instance, Laura dreams of becoming a successful artist, but her mother interrupts her aspirations as she sends her to a business school and always reminds her to get a boyfriend. Amanda’s hope for Laura fails to materialize when she abandons school and starts loitering in town. Amanda says that she hoped for “success and happiness” for her children, but she did not achieve it (Williams 23). Tom’s aspirations for a better life, just like his father lead him to abandon the family. The author uses the conversation among the characters and their memories to show how the play explores the theme of failed dreams.
The critics of Williams’ work, especially the aspect of themes argue that the play only reveals family conflicts that lead to the separation of characters. The argument is based on the setting of the play in that the acts revolve around one environment. However, the criticism fails to consider the author’s use of conversations among characters to build other themes. For instance, the conversation between Laura and her mother brings out the theme of marriage while Tom’s ranting and memories portray the theme of abandonment and confinement.
Therefore, contrary to the critics’ assertion that Williams’ “The Glass of Menagerie” fails to reveal its thematic concerns, the play reveals the author’s main ideas in the form of the theme of marriage and love, confinement, freedom and abandonment. The author uses the character’s conversations to portray these themes in a way that show the views of the protagonists. By using Tom’s narrations and the confrontation between him and his mother, the author succeeds in showing how the aspect of family relationships in the play gives rise to the other themes. Thus, the book can be recommended for readers that want to be entertained as they read much about the American society during the 20th century.
The Age of Miracles and The Glass Menagerie
Passage: “Meanwhile my soccer team practiced mostly as usual, and my mother’s drama students continued to rehearse their production of Macbeth. All across the country, events like these were held as planned. Shows had to go on. We clung to anything previously scheduled. To cancel seemed immoral, or it might mean we’d given up or lost hope” (Walker 104).
Julia describes the tenacious hold everyone has on adapting and what tactics they will use to continue on with their existences.
Although the public just found out about this unfortunate event, they are deciding to carry on with what is already programmed.
To be able to keep sane, preserving routines help control outrages.
Not yet obtaining realism.
Karen Thompson Walker’s novel gives a view on how the country, North America, is hooked into their own reality in a way and is aspiring to stay with their “flow.”
Schedules and plans are made to keep everything intact and organized. Without them there would be a sense of chaos everywhere we go.
This considers how insubstantial we would all be if there wasn’t something we could hang onto i.e., a clock.
Passage: “At school, we dissected frogs, we ran the mile, our spines were checked for scoliosis. Soccer season stretched into January because of all the games we’d canceled in the fall. But I’d lost interest in the sport. What was the point anymore? What did it matter?” (Walker 220).
After the discovery, the story suggests as if everyone wanted to keep everything little thing under control, but now it seems as if dismissing the fact is making it worse. Especially for those who are younger and/or do not apprehend with what is happening.
It suggests as if everyone is just going on with their personal lives with no worries.
Julia’s doubt of those who are investigating the subject at hand is growing stronger and stronger.
She is starting to give up and is question everything.
To Julia, nothing appeared as important and her persistence was beginning to fade.
In the middle of the novel, people are starting to lose hope in the scientists and their advances on figuring out what is going wrong with their planet.
Passage: “My mother says I spend too much time thinking about the past. We should look ahead, she says, to the time that’s left but the past is long, and the future is short. As I write this account, one ordinary life, our days have stretched to the lengths of weeks, and it’s hard to say which times are most hazardous now: the weeks of freezing darkness or the light” (Walker 388).
The past is something that you can’t help but consider at certain times.
Julia’s past made a colossal impact on her life.
As a result of this affect, Julia had to mature instantaneously and ultimately did not have the finest adolescence because of this.
What the general assumed was going to be a temporary dilemma, turned out to be everlasting.
Passage: “The straight realistic play with its genuine Frigidaire and authentic ice-cubes, its characters who speak exactly as its audience speaks, corresponds to the academic landscape and has the same virtue of a photographic likeness. Everyone should know nowadays the unimportance of the photographic in art: that truth, life, or reality is an organic thing which the poetic imagination can represent or suggest, in essence, only through transformation, through changing into other forms than those which were merely present in appearance” (Williams xix).
This play is meant to capture the audience’s attention and give the people something they can relate to or something that they are familiar with.
Tennessee Williams wanted to represent the realistic part of a family or of life in general.
Playwright Tennessee Williams also wanted to give an idea of what life was like in America during his time using during his time by using the literary genre, southern gothic and memories.
Passage: Laura: Now it is just like all the other horses
Jim: It’s lost its—
Laura: Horn! It doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.
Jim: You’ll never forgive me. I bet that that was your favorite piece of glass.
Laura: I don’t have favorites much. It’s no tragedy, Freckles. Glass breaks so easily. No matter how careful you are. The traffic jars the shelves and things fall off them.
Jim: Still I’m awfully sorry that I was the cause.
Laura [smiling]: I’ll just imagine he has an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less—freakish!
[They both laugh.]
Now he will feel more at home with the other horses, the ones that don’t have horns…
This represents how much Laura wants to be like the others in a metaphor of her being the unicorn and everyone else being the horses.
She realizes that if she gets rid of her horn or her disability in her case, she could become like the others and not stand out from the crowd.
Laura has a true complication of in grasping onto the real world.
Laura believes that her limp is keeping her from being with others who are not like her.
This could also show how alike Laura and the glass unicorn are.
They both do not fit into crowds and are both fragile.
Passage: Tom: I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something. It always came upon me unawares, taking me all together by surprise. Perhaps it was a familiar bit of music. Perhaps it was only a piece of transparent glass. Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I have found companions. I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of shattered rainbow. Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! (Williams 97).
It seems as if he can find a piece of Laura everywhere he goes and cannot escape his former home.
This quote could also imply what Tom is feeling after leaving his mom and sister as his dad did once before.
The memory of Laura gives the impression that Tom must be slowly regretting his departure.
The Glass Menagerie Illusion vs Reality [Essay]
The Fundamentals of the Play
When discussing one of the most famous plays like The Glass Menagerie written by Tennessee Williams, I would like to consider the fundamentals of the work. So, first of all, I would like to define the key themes.
Generally, one is to keep in mind that famous work discloses ten major themes, namely, illusion vs. reality, memory, freedom, quest, instinct vs. civilized behaviors, famous American Dream, a person’s survival in the machine age, fragility vs. strength, and a person’s need to be far away from his or her surrounding. The Glass Menagerie illusion vs. reality theme I would like to highlight in detail in this paper.
While speaking about the first theme, illusion vs. reality, I have to point out that the play explores a family that lives in the shadow of reality. The playwright Williams Tennessee alludes from his early life to write an explicit play focusing on the social lives of specific individuals. Amanda is a mother of two adult children Tom and Laura.
After her husband abandoned her, Amanda struggles to take care of the family. Unfortunately, besides suffering from mental instability, Laura is also crippled. Therefore, Tom has a job at the shoe warehouse to provide for the family. Consequently, the three members of the family become engrossed in illusions, an aspect, which separates them from the real world.
As the essay on illusion vs. reality in the story shows, the so-called illusions help the main characters escape an unpleasant reality. I suppose it is a loss of psychological space that makes the characters to realize that it is impossible to escape the realities of the real world. Dipa Janardanan believes that the author is able “to get to the marrow of universal truth – the human condition of an individual’s inability to escape a psychological loss of space no matter how much physical distance is attained” (24).
I have to admit that the playwright uses innovative production techniques to draw the reader’s’ attention to the contrast between illusion and reality. Moreover, the author showed us that the so-called survival mechanisms family decided to rely on were transformed into destructive power.
The Thesis Statement
One of the major themes of the play is considered to be the characters’ inability to meet reality, and the meaning of illusion for them. Taking into account the attitude of all characters towards the realities of life, one can conclude that the main characters require objectivity. No one is ready to accept reality because it is really painful. While considering such complex psychological situations, it becomes evident that the psychological loss of space seems to be one of the key problems the author highlights in his play.
Tennessee Williams and his Story
I would like to say a few words about the author of the play. Generally, there is a need to point out that the author’s father was adventurous and an alcoholic. His mother was a submissive but hysterical woman. Tennessee spent the first ten years of his life living with his grandparents.
His health deteriorated an aspect that did not only make him shy but also contributed to his social weakness (shy). Due to constant relocation and social/financial instability, Williams and his sister became close, however, after some time, Rose suffered from a mental breakdown, a development that equally traumatized Williams.
Similarly, Tennessee acquired poor social skills, and most of his peers referred to him as ‘Miss Nancy’ (Londre 20). Education-wise, he did not finish his first degree after failing his exams in the third year. However, after acquiring literacy skills from his grandfather’s library, the author embarked on writing plays. Most of his plays were a reflection of his early life.
He focused on themes such as sexual violence, social misfit, family, and financial constraints, among others. Tennessee wrote the play glass menagerie when the Second World War was about to end. Consequently, most spouses (men) had abandoned their families and ventured into the war, therefore, creating a social gap.
The Theme of Illusion vs Reality in The Glass Menagerie
Amanda Wingfield, who is one of the main characters of the play doesn’t live, but exists. Socially, Amanda’s husband abandoned her, leaving her with the financial and emotional burden to take care of the family. Amanda longs for financial and social success, but this element makes her adopt an illusionary life. Secondly, Amanda declines to accept the exit of her husband from the family; thus, acquiring a domineering and hysterical attitude, especially towards the children.
For instance, Amanda says, “Gone, gone, gone. All vestige of gracious living! Gone completely! I wasn’t prepared for what the future brought me” (Williams 694-696). This shows that Amanda has declined to let her past go and accept reality. So, this is an example of illusion. Unfortunately, Amanda can’t face the realities of life.
When analyzing the play, it becomes evident that in real life “Williamses were never as hard up as the fictional Wingfields and so, without denying the effect of the general socio-economic environment as an intensifying element, I tend to see Amanda’s insecurity as characteristic of the alcoholic’s family” (Debusscher 59).
While speaking about the second character – Laura, I have to point out that the girl lives in an illusionary world. According to Williams, Laura has “Little articles of [glass], they’re ornaments mostly! Most of them are little animals made out of glass, the tiniest small animals in the world.
Mother calls them a glass menagerie!” (547). Therefore, Laura distances herself from the real world. According to Joven, Laura is “like a piece of her own glass collection, too exquisitely fragile” (57). Consequently, as the summary shows, Laura is using both her physical and mental disability to detach herself from realism.
The third character is Tom. He struggles to balance his family’s responsibility as the breadwinner, thus, trying to escape from reality. According to Williams, Tom says, “There is a trick that would come in handy for me—get me out of this two-by-four situation!” (680).
Although Tom is narrating a movie to Laura, his mind is struggling to devise ways in which he can run away from home and offload the responsibility burden that always awaits him. Furthermore, he visits bars and theatres to stay away from home. However, Tom’s actions are unreal because he is the only male figure in the family.
However, abandoning his family means running away from the real aspects of life thus, he is living in a fantasy. The movie is only an illusionary step that, in reality, it is hard to accomplish. For instance, he says, “I am more faithful than I intended to be!” (Williams 682). As The glass Menagerie conclusion evidences, this statement shows that Tom finds it unreal to abandon his sister and mother, therefore, his dream of pursuing adventure away from home is only illusionary.
Similarly, according to critics, Tom’s “nature is not remorseless and to escape from the trust he has to act without pity” (Broom 20). However, he finally deserts his family when he loses his job. Therefore, Tom lives with an illusion that if he stays alone, then he may have a comfortable life.
Conclusion: Reality vs. Illusion Theme
In brief, Williams’ play focuses on the lives of three family members, who lack social skills. Thus, they become caught between realism and fantasy.
Although Amanda’s husband left her with family responsibilities, she is reluctant to accept her situation. She lives in the American dream, whereby everybody should have a comfortable life. In addition, she reflects on her early life, whereby her family was wealthy.
Surprisingly, she confers her son with financial responsibility a step, which motivates him to dream of how to abandon his family. Finally, due to her physical disability, Laura detaches herself from other people and become engrossed with her glass menagerie. Therefore, all three characters have to come out of their cocoons to face the real world. Thus, in the conflict of illusion vs. reality in The Glass Menagerie, reality wins.
Bloom, Harold. Tennessee Williams’s (Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations): The Glass Menagerie. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2007. Print.
Debusscher, Gilbert. Tennessee Williams’s Dramatic Charade: Secrets and Lies in The Glass Menagerie, 2000. Web.
Janardanan, Dipa. Images of Loss in Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Marsha Norman’s night, Mother, and Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, 2007. Web.
Joven, Nilda. “Illusion Verses Reality in The Glass Menagerie.” Diliman Review 1.1(1966): 52-60. Print.
Londre, Hardison. Tennessee Williams. New York: Frederick ungar publishers, 1979. Print Williams, Tennessee. The glass menagerie. New York: Random house, 1950. Print.
The Glass Menagerie: Figurines’ Significance Research Paper
The playwright Tennessee Williams has been described as a genius playwright for capturing the ideas of his society in his lifetime effectively through his works of arts. In this paper the focus will lead to a discussion of the significance of the glass figurines and their symbolic value to the whole play as representation of the most central symbol uniting and supporting the riding themes of impossible escape from reality and the difficulties of accepting reality as guided by the question.
The play Glass Menagerie is a memory play, which is given form by the narrator’s surrounding events and environment. From the play we learn that the narrator who is also an actor works in the shoe warehouse to support his windowed mother, Amanda and fatherless sister, Laura.
The depiction of life by William in the play is that of daily desire to have the best, an indication of unsatisfied life full of despair, disappointment and disillusion. Tom, the main protagonist is a disillusioned character who in the family takes up the role of the male figure hence we connect with his source of sorrow and pain (Sparknotes 293).
As indicated in the play, Tom is most interested in drinking, movies and literature, thus he irks her mother that they keep on quarrelling. On the other hand her mother is a character who lives by thriving on her old memories. We get it from her speech that she was brought up in a good family, where life was good and thus she continues to brag that she had quite a number of suitors which is a complete contrast to her daughter’s, Laura situation.
She is supposed to lead the family out of the current abyss but the playwright portrays her as a far illusion to hope and betterment rather than a reality. In this stance, we can see the results in that her family is almost at the verge of breaking up. Tom is no better than Laura though he is capable of running away just like his father as foreshadowed in the play.
Laura in her character traits is depicted as a personality who has no desires of her own thus driven by the will of others and their means plus mechanisms. She is not free to pursue what would be hers rightfully probably as a result of poor upbringing and shyness. In that connection she ends up hopeless as her supposed suitor, Jim O’Connor, confesses that he is engaged thus shattering the family’s hopes of marrying off Laura.
Laura as a major character is seen in possession of glass figurines that she values more than anything else. The collection of the glass figurines is a representation of the plays central most theme. These glass figurines are a clear depiction of Laura as the most affected personality in William’s play.
Laura is far removed from reality and real life thus she retreats to her shell, away from profession real jobs, real relationship with people and love relationships. Unlike her brother Tom and Amanda her mother, she cannot hold against the currents or the fires of daily life thus leaving her to the world of imaginations and illusions.
Although she is as a result of the Wingfield’s poor family upbringing she does not play her part like Tom because she is shy as Jim tells her, a point posited by the symbol of the blue roses (O’Connor 77).
The Symbolic representation and significance
It is symbolic that theses figurines have been put in the play by the playwright to illustrate removal from reality and reflection of wishes that the Wingfield’s desire but cannot have. In this sense therefore, William effectively, puts himself above as a genius playwright who captures the concerns of the society in a unique way during the middle of the twentieth century.
The significance of these glass figurines is symbolic of how Laura looks for alternative way of coming into terms with the jumbled things in the family. Just like her brother, life to her has been riddled with alcohol that has seen the departure of her father leaving them in a sorry state and dependent on Tom (Williams and Ehrenhaft 66).
In almost all works of art the necessity of symbols and imageries is a prerequisite to easier, hidden conveyance of the intended message. This arises from the fact that an artist is the voice of the society and draws from the daily happenings of the human experiences. In this effort to depict the society as it is, the medium, literature, must gear to point out to the issues in the society with the given and available structures that define the form and the content of the art.
On the other hand, some of the daily happenings of the society require the delicate yet fresh way of announcement thus the reader as the consumer of the art connects with what the artist intends in his or her message. In addition, the artist may want to ridicule, satirize, or disapprove anything in the human nature necessitating use of symbols and imageries for the authoritative command of the artist.
Thus, the glass menagerie as a symbol is a representation of the personalities of the characters in the play. The glass is defined as an illuminating source, transparent and at the same time capable of reflecting and refracting. To a large extent it can be applied to symbolize Laura as one who is different at different situations and yet she is delicate at any time just like the glass.
Laura’s world is imaginative and very brittle thus as the glass can be broken, her life is resembled with the glass. On the other hand Tom and Amanda can be identified through this symbol on the fact that what they portray to us is different from what is real to them. Tom actually wants to leave everything that is connected and has the Wingfield’s attachment (Krasne 178).
Amanda on the other hand, lives in a life that she was not used to noting that she is from a rich background. In this sense, she never accepts the reality that this is her poor family opposite of how she was brought up and the fact that she even cannot be able to bring bread to her family is a reflection of her sorry state in her life as a woman. This symbol captures the internal struggles and conflicts of the characters and their desire to be free from the heavy life experiences they are facing.
On the other hand, the glass unicorn is a symbol of Laura’s peculiarity and uniqueness. The unicorn a type of a horse that ceased to exist reminds the audience that Laura has just been brought up in the confines of their apartment and thus is rare to the outside world thus when she encounters Jim she cannot resist his charm and eventually ends up kissing him.
In this encounter, Jim kills the unicorn beak which is symbolic of what Laura has undergone. This represents Laura’s inability to remain in such a mythical state when the other parts of the world are changing and embracing new things.
When Jim breaks, the unicorn it depicts what he has done to Laura removing her from her encasing and setting her onto the world of reality. However, she decides to go back to her world after realizing that Jim is not the man of her life thus she gives him the unicorn as a souvenir of their encounter though she had confessed of liking him back in high school. Thus, things to her turn back to normal (Bloom 68).
In conclusion, therefore, a work of art becomes vivid and memorable from the creative use of symbols and images. Williams as a great playwright has used symbols and images to effectively represent and send his ideas and notions to the reader thus it is the work of the reader to decode the underlying meaning and appreciate or criticize it. In the Glass Menagerie, play, lack of symbolism or images would have rendered the work of art hard to understand and to communicate the intended message.
It is futile to try to explain the whole messages in words as it would lead to time wasting and extra long plain text that raises no artistic interests. It is imperative of the artist to convince the reader of what he or she is speaking therefore the structures available to literature design the form of presentation and thus symbols and imagery are part of these thus making William a complete convincing playwright.
Bloom, Harold. Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations). New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2007. Print
Krasne, David. A Companion to Twentieth-Century American Drama. Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 2007. Print
O’Connor, Jacqueline. Dramatizing Dementia: Madness in the Plays of Tennessee Williams. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1997. Print
Sparknkotes. Sparknotes 101 literature. New York, Spark Educational Publishing, 2004. Print
Williams, Tennessee. & Ehrenhaft, George. Tennessee Williams’s The glass menagerie & A streetcar named Desire. Barron’s Educational Series, 1985 Print
The Glass Menagerie Essay
Written by Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie is a masterpiece and it passes as a memory play for it exposits Tom Wingfield’s thoughts. A wishful poet, brother to Laura, and son to Amanda and ever absent Mr. Wingfield; Tom works hard in a shoe store to provide for his mother and sister. Amanda on the other side is a complicated mother who regales her children in this moment and scolds them in the next.
Amanda plays important role in Laura’s reticence and pathological shyness. While she cannot be blamed for making her shy in the first place, she is to blame for making Laura’s continued shyness.
Instead of supporting Laura emotionally, she goes out to look for quick fixes and material gains. First, she enrols her in a business school for her to earn some good fortune. After realizing Laura’s weakness has kept her out of school, she does not care to investigate the problem and settle it amicably; on the contrary, she resorts into finding her a fiancé.
These are uninformed decisions and she is to blame for Laura’s continued shyness. If only Amanda were supportive, Laura would probably gain self-confidence and have high self-esteem. Amanda’s reminiscences on her youth in the South are not reliable. They are too overstated to be true. How can someone get seventeen callers in one afternoon? This is unrealistic; therefore, judged from this platform, Amanda’s reminiscences are treacherous.
Throughout this play, there are different forms of music, movies, and legends. These elements create emotional impact in the play. The audience can connect with the main characters. For instance, the music and lightning used make the audience connect with Laura’s shortcomings, Amanda’s indifference, and Tom’s struggles.
This play suggests a repressed desire boiling under the surface. Tom holds this burning passion; he wants to get out there and explore the world. This burning desire explains why Tom visits a witchdoctor and finds a way of getting out of a coffin without the hustle of pulling any nail.
He coffin here represents Wingfield’s home. The object of Tom’s longing is to explore the world out there and this is why he plans to accompany Merchant Seamen to get out and explore the world. He says, “I am tired…movies tranquilize people, making them content to watch other people’s adventures without having any of their own…plan to join the Merchant Seamen” (Tennessee 62). This trip would finally quench Tom’s desire to explore the world.
Absence of Mr. Wingfield affects his children and wife greatly. Tom has to work for the family whilst Laura knows only a nagging mother. Perhaps she would gain self-confidence and self-esteem if she had her father around her. Amanda is ever worried because of her fatherless family.
She is too concerned about her family’s financial security that she would not let Tom leave without getting Laura a suitor who would provide for her. To counter her fears, Amanda enrols Laura in a business school hoping that she would be stable; provide for her self and probably for the family. This stems from the fact that she fears without a father; her family would be insecure. If only Mr. Wingfield were around, she would be financially secure.
Jim O’Connor is a “nice, ordinary, young man” (Tennessee 5). These adjectives come out clearly in the context of the play. Due to his ‘ordinary’ nature, he manages to win Laura’s confidence, dances with her, and finally kisses her. His ‘niceness’ drives away Laura’s fears and low self-esteem and she opens up to him. As the play closes, Tom tells Laura, “Blow out your candles, Laura–and so good-bye” (Tennessee 97). Audience may respond to this statement by concurring to it.
Laura has to blow out her candles and reach for the lighting that lights the world nowadays. Tom is the protagonist in this story. Tom is the most crucial to the play’s dramatic action because everything revolves around him. Without him, the Wingfields would not be, Jim would be unknown, and the central theme of illusions would not be realized.
Tennessee, Williams. “The Glass Menagerie.” Oxford; Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1968.
The Glass Menagerie Term Paper
The Glass Menagerie is a play that was written by Tennessee Williams and debuted in Chicago in 1944. It won a New York Drama Critics Award a year later. The Glass Menagerie propelled Williams to higher circles in the literary industry and established him as one of the most articulate playwrights in America.
The Glass Menagerie has three major characters, Tom Wingfield, his mother, Amanda and his sister, Laura. Tom is an upcoming poet and works in a warehouse. His father abandoned them some years back and, apart from one postcard, has not communicated with the family since. Tom’s mother is from a genteel southern ancestry and frequently narrates the stories of her youth to her children and the number of suitors who wanted her. She is upset that her daughter, who is agonizingly shy, does not draw a similar number of suitors.
Amanda takes her daughter to college hoping that she will have her own family and an occupation. However, she discovers that Laura’s extremely shy behavior has made her to drop out of college and spends her days roaming in the city all by herself. Laura’s only comfort seems to come from her music records and a set of small animal statuettes.
Tom hates his job and is dying to leave the family in order to have fun in the outside world, he frequently stays out late and claims to have been at the movies. In one of the disagreements with his mother, he unintentionally breaks Laura’s animal statuettes.
Amanda tells Tom to find suitors for Laura at the workplace and Tom chooses Jim O’Connor, his friend, and asks him for dinner at their place. We learn that Jim went to the same school as Tom and Laura. Before Jim’s arrival, Laura makes Amanda to wear a new dress while she wears a beautiful gown to remind her of her youth.
Jim arrives and is let in by Laura, but she leaves, leaving the two men alone. Tom informs Jim that he used the electricity bill to join the merchant marine and intends to leave the family, Jim informs about his aspirations to become an executive. The lights go out as the characters are still having dinner and are forced to light candles. Amanda persuades Jim to entertain Laura as she and Tom clean up.
Laura is initially too shy to converse with Jim, but his friendliness soon warms her up to him. She admits that she knew and developed a crush on Jim but was too shy to talk to him. They talk fondly about their schooldays for some time. Laura then decides to show Jim her favorite animal figurine, a unicorn, but he unintentionally knocks it and its horn breaks, making it resemble other horses. Shockingly, she forgives him and laughs off the occurrence. It is obvious she likes him. Eventually, Jim tells her,
“Somebody needs to build your confidence up and make you proud instead of shy and turning away and—blushing—Somebody ought to—ought to—kiss you, Laura!” (Williams, scene 7). He kisses her but swiftly withdraws, apologizes, and mentions that he has a fiancée. Laura presents him with the broken animal as a memento.
As soon as Jim leaves, Amanda reprimands Tom for bringing home an engaged man for a suitor. Tom had not known that Jim had a fiancée. As they argue, Tom shouts:
“The more you shout about my selfishness to me the quicker I’ll go, and I won’t go to the movies!” (Williams, scene 7).
Tom becomes the narrator at this moment as he was at the opening of the play and explains how he left his family and ran away, just as his father did. He spent many years journeying overseas, but something still bothered him: he is unable to forget the guilt that Laura placed on him.
Tom acts as the author’s mouthpiece in some scenes. He provides a separate explanation and evaluation of what is taking place. He also acts in the play. This duality in role makes Tom’s position confusing to the audience, as we do not know whether to trust the role he plays as a character in the play or that of being a narrator. However, The Glass Menagerie is partially an autobiography and Tom is Tennessee William’s mouthpiece, therefore we can learn of William’s experience in his own youth through Tom (Heintzelman & Howard, pp. 182).
Tom is full contradictions, on one hand he reads books, writes poems, and wishes he could escape the family and have adventure, but on the other hand, he appears to be inextricably attached to the nasty, paltry world of the Wingfield apartment. We know that he studies D. H. Lawrence’ works and tracks the politics of Europe, but we do not know his intellectual ability. Besides, we have no knowledge of the genre of his poetry. All we know is his thoughts on Laura, Amanda, and his job- exactly the things he wants to flee.
Tom’s position on his mother and sister is clearly puzzling. While he evidently cares for them, he is often unconcerned and even mean to them. His closing speech shows how strongly he feels for Laura, yet he abandoned her (Bloom, pp. 57).
Amanda has a hard time measuring up to her role as a single parent. She is frequently nagging Tom and refuses to recognize Laura’s shy behavior. She also reveals a readiness to sacrifice herself for her children. Fro example, she engages in the embarrassing labor of subscription sales to increase Laura’s chances of landing a suitor, she does it without ever complaining.
Similar to Laura and Tom, she pulls out of reality and engages in fantasy: she frequently tells her children of the number of suitors that came after her, and wishes the same for Laura. However, she feels she is not doing enough and involves outsiders. Her numerous monologues with her children plainly reveal her moral and psychological failures, but they are also some of the most vivid and memorable statements in the play.
The emotionally disabled Laura is the only character that never upsets anyone. Despite having a heavy burden, she demonstrates deep kindness and empathy: she sheds tears due to her brother’s unhappiness despite the egotistic and resentful acts that typify the Wingfield household (Williams, scene 4). She has the least role in the play among the Wingfields, yet everything in the play revolves around her. The major symbols in the play- blue roses, the glass unicorn, the complete glass menagerie- all seem to characterize her (Bloom, pp. 74).
Everyone in the play sees Laura as one who can assume whatever role they wish, similar to a transparent glass that takes on any color going through it. Her mother uses her to stress how glamorous she was during her youth days while Jim and Tom view her as an exotic being, very different from others.
The Impossibility of True Escape
Tom amuses his sister with the story of a magic show in which the magician escapes from a nailed coffin. He pictures his life at home and at the workplace as a confinement. The desire to escape haunts him throughout the play and in the end, he opts to free himself by running away from his mother and sister.
This escape haunts him wherever he goes and leads to questions of morality. How does an able-bodied young man leave his struggling mother and a sister behind for reasons only beneficial to himself? Leaving home is no true escape for him and no matter how far he wanders, memories of home still linger in his mind.
Difficulty of Accepting Reality
One feature of characters in The Glass Menagerie is their difficulty in accepting the truth, especially Amanda. Laura’s keeps glass animal figurines- items that are fanciful and precariously fragile. Tom is a realist: he has a job and makes friends with other people, be eventually succumbs to fantasies written in books and the trance offered by alcohol, he runs away from home to seek adventure.
Amanda’s relationship with reality is the most distant if the three: she desires to achieve financial and social success and wishes the same for her daughter. She cannot come to terms with the realities of life, for example, she refuses to accept that Tom is not an upcoming businessman, that Laura is unique, and that she might be to blame for some of her children’s failures (Heintzelman & Howard, pp. 257).
Bloom, Harold. Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: InfoBase Publishing, 2007.
Heintzelman, Greta and Howard, Alycia Smith. Critical Companion to Tennessee Williams. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2005.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New York: Random House, 1945.
The Glass Menagerie: How Laura’s Relationship with Jim Changed the Tone of the Play Research Paper
The Glass Menagerie play was written by Tennessee Williams. Born in 1911 in Mississippi, Williams lived in Tennessee as well as Mississippi until their family moved to St. Louis. The play seems to draw parallel with Williams’ own family, whose lifestyle was almost like that of the Wingfield family.
During his time as a writer, Williams received various awards especially in this play, The Glass Menagerie. Among his awards was the prestigious New York Drama Critics Circle, which he won four times (The Book of the Dead Man 109-110).
His play, The Glass Menagerie gained popularity throughout United States. The play portrays Williams’ use of thematic devices and production values. It is based on a melancholic family that struggles with several issues in life ranging from single parenthood to family conflicts and financial support. This paper will analyze Tennessee Williams’ play with much focus on how Laura’s relationship with Jim changed the tone of play (Williams 155).
The Glass Menagerie
The whole drama takes place in St. Louis, at narrator’s family home (Tom). Tom lives in a small apartment with his mother and sister. The latter is crippled on one of her legs and is disillusioned by her glasses. Tom’s father, Mr. Wingfield is said to have deserted the family for a long period and the play does not go on explain why he left, although he sends greetings postcard to his family, he disappears from the scene. Tom’s mother Amanda or Mrs.
Wingfield is depicted as persistently reprimanding Tom over almost all issues of his life, ranging from his personality to eating habits, among others. The Family struggles both financially and emotionally given the disappearance of Tom’s father. Amanda is more sociable compared to her daughter Laura who is very shy and delicate.
Tom works to support his family but is divided on whether to pursue life far away from his family, so he plots to desert them and eventually does. Jim is Tom’s friend and was in the same school as Laura, he is engaged and when he tells this to Laura on their first meeting after school, she is heartbroken because she loved him. The story ends in disharmony when Tom finally decides to abandon his family obligations and never to return (Bradford 1-2).
In Tennessee Williams’ play, The Glass Menagerie, four characters are well brought out, that is Tom, his mother Amanda, Sister Laura and friend Jim. The characters meet together on the day Tom invites Jim to their house, and Laura’s mother thinks she has got a suitor for is her daughter.
Tom Wingfield is the only son of the Wingfield family; He lives with his mother Amanda and sister Laura. His father deserted them and so he carries on, his responsibility by providing for the family, he later leaves the family never to return.
He is frustrated with life and wants to leave for a strange adventure. This comes out clearly when he talks to Jim about his future at their house and even leaves the family. Tom also performs as the narrator in the play.
Laura is Tom’s sister and has been out of high school for six years. She is shy and only focuses on her glass figurines. She is crippled and loves Jim so much but gets disappointed when Jim tells her he is engaged. She is described as losing touch with reality and as fragile as her glass collections. She is tender, especially in the way she deals with Jim. Laura is lonely and this is conveyed when her mother tries to find a suitor for her. She is also cheerful as she receives Jim, her dream man, into the house and even faints for Joy.
Amanda is both Tom and Laura’s mother. She is depicted as loving; this is conveyed in her love for them. She keeps track of her children’s emotional and physical status, for instance, she reprimands Tom for bad eating habits as well as the job he does.
She tries to help Laura gain confidence and even tries to find a suitor for her in Jim. She is also temperamental especially towards Tom; she expects too much from her son and is greatly disappointed in Him. Laura is caring, she wants good things for her children and keeps them on course where possible, and this she does when she prepares Laura for Jim. Amanda is also lonely, for she is single and deserted by her husband, frequent quarreling in the house also keeps her lonely (Bradford 1-2).
Jim is Tom’s friend at work and they were in the same high school with Laura. He is described as a well mannered, handsome and polite young man who studies public speaking so as to become an executive. He is empathetic; this is seen in how he encourages Laura to be confident and even dances with her. Jim is also truthful, this is seen in the way he tells Laura that he is engaged to be married.
How Laura’s relationship with Jim changed the tone of the play
Earlier in the play, we are told that Laura was shy and delicate just like her glass figurines. Her mother had tried to cheer her and find her a suitor to no avail. She could not go out like the others ladies, instead she remained fixed on her glass figurines.
Just before Jim came into the house, expectation was high; Amanda was trying all her best to prepare Laura for her suitor Jim. Everyone was cheerful, expectant and hoping for the best except Jim who had intentionally defaulted in paying electricity bill. Jim seemed not to care much for her sister Laura as he kept dragging his feet on bringing her a suitor.
We are told that Laura and Jim were in high school together, along with Tom. Laura had a childhood dream, to get married to Jim; he was the most handsome boy that had ever happened to her.
When Jim entered the house, he was perplexed as to the welcoming he received. Everything was ready and Amanda was cheerful, Laura on the other hand, was both surprised and excited as to the scene that was presented before her. She even fainted at the thought of meeting her dream man.
The tone of play changes when Jim reveals to Laura that he is engaged. Laura had hoped to finally find her man Jim, especially when he made the initiative to talk to her, but this did not work out, she was disappointed and dejected for the man was never going to be with her.
Aggressive tone is quite rampant towards the end of this play as Amanda furiously demands answers from Tom as to why he had brought someone’s fiancée. Anger flares in all direction from Amanda, while Laura cries uncontrollably. Tom decides to desert the family. He leaves his mother and sister helpless and jobless. This sentiment is shared by Amanda when she flares her anger at Tom towards the end of the play.
Laura is on a sad note having missed the opportunity to have her man. She is dejected and disappointed in what has happened. Amanda on the other hand is very much disappointed and regrets having spent a lot of cash on preparation of Laura for an engaged person. The tone is sad and everything looks gloomy as Tom leaves home for an adventure.
The story ends in an angry tone as anger flares everywhere, Amanda is very annoyed by Tom’s behavior of bringing an engaged friend to meet her sister. This enrages her and breaks the family code that was already loose and unstable due to hardships and conflicts. Tom therefore decides to leave her family and never returns (Bradford 1-2).
The play starts in a melancholic state and continues as family members struggle with hardships, Amanda is expecting too much from her children; Laura is very shy and delicate, while Tom is fantasizing about the world.
These young adults need to make it in life, the mother tries to make them so but they seem unprepared, the tone of the play starts in mild state, moves through a jovial state when Amanda and Laura meet Jim, but the tone moves back to an aggressive, angry as well as sad tone.
This is because of their disappointment in Jim and Tom who had brought him, the family breaks from Tom as he escapes and leaves his responsibilities (Pretorius 339-3560).
“The Book of the Dead Man (The Red Wheelbarrow).”Boulevard. 109-110. OpoJaz, Inc., 2010. Literary Reference Center.EBSCO.Web.
Bradford, Wade. “The Glass Menagerie.” About.com Guide. 02.05. 2011. 02.05.2011. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-glass-menagerie-overview-2713491
Pretorius, Elizabeth J. “Issues of complexity in reading: Putting Occam’s razor aside for now.” Southern African Linguistics & Applied Language Studies 28.4 (2010): 339-356. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO.Web.
Williams, William Carlos. “The Red Wheelbarrow.”Literature: Craft & Voice. Eds. Nicholas Delbanco and Alan Cheuse. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009.155.Print.