The Differences and Similarities Between the Protagonists of The Glass Menagerie and October Sky

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

The world is designed in a particular way, through people’s perception on certain experiences, but made different by other people experiences. In The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, the idea of overruling truth, flaws of humanity, and different perception of others is greatly explored through different characters, with a main focus on Tom’s narration. William constantly argues that the truth is open to opinion and judging; not black-and-white and is created through different perceptions of humankind, which is, at first, modelled through human flaws. The first main idea circulates around how people are perceived by others and how others perceive them, which is seen through Laura and Tom. Finally, comparing the difference between the views of how people perceive themselves and how others perceive them, through which is deeply rooted in the sources of worry and stress of Laura and Tom. Considering both The Glass Menagerie and October sky, both protagonists have incredible passions to escape their lives and fight their fate. Homer decides to fight his fate with effort, while Tom makes the decision of running away from it. Laura decides to conform to society. Although awfully different, Tom and Homer have similar stress, passions, and happy endings. In The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and in the October Sky, the interaction between how people perceive themselves and how others perceive them is deeply interconnected within each individuals own fear and sources of worry and stress.

To begin with, the main idea circulates around how individuals are perceived by others and how others perceive them, which is witnessed through Laura. Laura initially displays uniqueness and innocence, which is reflected through her possessions, such as the glass unicorn – a symbol that reveals its importance near the end of the play. Blue Roses, which do not exist in the real world, suggest her delicacy. Much like the unicorn, both Blue Roses and the Unicorn do not exist naturally in the real world. Laura herself points out how “blue is wrong for a rose”(Williams, 84), whilst Jim believes that “[Blue is] right for [Laura] because everything about her is pretty” (84).

Moreover, because of Laura’s unordinary beauty, she is compared to unearthly objects which do not exist. Laura is unique because she is different from all the other girls. Jim says it himself, “common as-weeds, but…you’re Blue Roses”(84). Laura stands out among the rest, as her mother does say “why can’t you and your brother be normal people?”(57). No matter how much Laura tries, she will never be like the ‘normal’ people. Laura and her family view her uniqueness as something bad, but others, like Jim, view it as something refreshing and rare. Laura spends most of her time at home, taking care of her glass menagerie, but in reality, this is just an excuse to excuse herself from the adult commitments, like school, socialization, and marriage, that one needs to endure at a certain age. Near the end of the play, Laura meets Jim, and as a result, just like the unicorn, some of her purity is lost during that scene. In that particular scene, Laura lives through her childhood fantasy of falling in love, merely to find that Jim is engaged and that he was only flirting with her.

This experience allows Laura to come out of the hiding and really understand how the outside world works, people do not always mean what they say. Laura gives Jim the unicorn as a “souvineur”(91), mainly suggesting and reminding him of the wound he left on her. Jim takes part of Laura’s innocence, which makes her slightly more ordinary and broken, similarly to the unicorn. Laura’s shyness reaches such a degree that she is unable to ask Jim for his autograph in high school. When Jim first arrives at Laura’s house, Laura is so anxious that she is unable to open the door. However, Laura is so caught up in her imagination, that she is too far from reality. An event that took place which shows how others perceive Laura is when Jim arrives. Laura begins to escape her comfort zone and finally bloom out. Jim is known to be very persuasive, as he suggests ideas to Laura to do things that she would never even think of doing herself. Laura begins to unravel, which allows her petals to bloom out of her shyness, as Jim is successful in persuading Laura to open up and speak out. Laura begins to accept a part of the outside world as her own. However, when Laura is hit with the real world, she is also hit with a certain, unpleasant element, similar to a flower when it receives too much water or sunlight. Jim reveals that he is engaged and soon to be married. This information crushes Laura to the point where she goes back into hiding At that moment, Amanda walks in concerned, “Why Laura! You look so serious!” (87), but by the time this is said by Amanda, Laura has already closed herself off from the real world. Before Laura could unravel entirely, it is taken away, which shows how Laura’s need for love will never be satisfied.

Just like how Laura is compared to blue roses, she is also compared to a mythological unicorn. Laura is known as a reclusive character, at least from the eyes of others. It takes quite a while for her to blossom. Laura’s shyness is well known to Tom and Amanda; “Laura is…terribly shy” (77). Although Laura does not intend to make it obvious, strangers still see Laura as peculiar and shy. An instance in which this is proven is when Laura was still in school, she was always nervous of walking in front of the class. Laura is always conscious about her every step due to her being “crippled”(22), as it is a compound to her shyness. Laura’s limp symbolizes her different and uncommon nature. The “thunder[ous]” (75) sound that her leg makes seems extremely loud to her, but is rarely noticed by others. Due to her limp, the reality and the outside world scares her into hiding. To a great extent, Laura makes her flaw look so big that it overtakes her personality and ultimately, her life. She suffers through an inferiority complex and becomes self-conscious about her differences, afraid of people judging her every move. She drops out of school in hopes of withdrawing herself from reality and instead lives through a world of illusions and imaginations in the forms of glass ornaments and magic shows. Furthermore, her limp is parallel to her physical instability, which also adds on to her emotional instability; this is symbolized through her glass ornaments. The unicorn is made out of glass and is very fragile, yet it is very reflective of its owner. The unicorn is beautiful and rare, just like Laura; glass can easily shatter, “glass is something you have to take good care of” (74). To show how fragile the unicorn is, it is mainly expressed when Laura says, “if you breathe, it breaks!”(74), emphasizing her own fragileness. It is seen just how delicate the glass is when Laura and Jim knock it off the table while dancing. Laura is broken just like the unicorn, but Jim revives her by giving her hope, which is soon taken away. Laura previously shared her world and possessions with another, to come to a conclusion of false love. Laura’s life is held together, but it is very fragile, like a piece of glass, which is easily shattered and nearly impossible to repair.

The glass unicorn is not only fragile but also transparent., which is another aspect of Laura. Laura is described as “a piece of translucent glass touched by light…”(69) for several reasons. In a series of events, it is seen that Laura is capable of being completely open. If light were to shine upon Laura, it is said that she is filled with “delicate rainbow colors” (72). The light and rainbow describes and reflects Laura’s personality, dreams, beauty, and her hopes. The unicorn represents the “shattered rainbow”(72), as both Laura and the unicorn are broken. Laura continuously searches for an escape that could break her and essentially make her exactly like all the other girls that have experienced heartbreak. This is evident through her glass collection and the victrola. The complexity and the development of Laura is continually looked upon through two significant symbols, blue roses and the unicorn. Laura is unique, just like a “a piece of translucent glass touched by light, a given a momentary radiance, not actual, not lasting” (69). Laura reflects light as her unique personality is present in a rainbow, which is unable to be touched. Although Laura is quiet, she is a very complex character. Therefore, symbols such as blue roses and the unicorn have a key role in the development of this character. Laura is unable to adapt to the real world as she is suitable in her imaginary world. She is exactly like a flower, as she develops the same way as a flower does. In the past, Laura did face the real world, but the results lead to her current doomed fate. Laura’s connection to the unicorn and blue roses is profound, but as those object are lost, so is her hope. Therefore, the interplay between how Laura perceives herself and how others perceive her is deeply entrenched within insecurities.

Similarly, the interplay between how Tom sees himself and how others perceive Tom is deeply interconnected within his own insecurities and self consciousness. Tom Wingfield is a creative character that is stuck in a materialistic world. He is known to be a free spirit that has to work extremely hard in a shoe warehouse to support his family. Although this is what he does, on the side, Tom has his own independent world that consists of poetry, his dreams, adventure, freedom, and his books. All these things are in direct opposition to his mother’s. Nonetheless, Tom’s main conflict is between his world and the real world. Tom is real enough to recognize his sister’s desires and predicaments, and is also able to understand that his mother’s idea of gentlemen callers is surely false. He understands that he does not have a future at the warehouse and is able to recognize his actions of leaving his family as not necessarily him being petty and selfish, but rather a method of preserving his mental stability. At the end, he has no choice but to disappear and leave his mother and sister, without being destroyed by his illusions, withdrawal, and by the deceptions. Tom continuously gets annoyed by his mother and her constant nagging, and for this reason, he escapes to the movies frequently. This is his way of adventure, to go to the movies and live through the lives of another, and to drink to temporary heal his physiological pain.

Tom is tired of Amanda’s constant reminders and instructions of how, what, and why to eat, as well as the harms of smoking and what to read. She also begins to confiscate Tom’s books, which makes Tom’s life intolerable. Finally, Tom begins to show that he is very different from his mother and that there is no need for another Amanda, this idea is rejected vigorously. Tom is known to be a “man of instinct”(24) a hunter, lover, and fighter. All these qualities connect to his father’s. Therefore, he comes to the conclusion that he will eventually end up following in the footsteps of his father. Soon after, Tom becomes aware of his constant “boiling”(27) sensation within himself, which is a sign that tells him to either move quickly or be stuck in such an environment forever. He recognizes that his own special abilities would soon be destroyed by the environment he is around. Furthermore, he is aware that if he does not act soon enough, he will remain unhappy and regretful. Although Amanda recognizes Tom’s departure as a selfish one, it is not selfish at all, rather an egocentric escape. He escapes to save himself, which is a means of self preservation. He understands the responsibilities he is to leave behind, and because of this, he is unable to forget his delicate and lovely sister. In the story, The Glass Menagerie, Tom is fighting his fate of following his father and working in the shoe warehouse by being a dreamer who goes out every night to watch movies to escape to a world of adventure. In the movie, October Sky, Homer accepts his destiny of following his father’s footsteps in the mines, but that all changes the day he watches a rocket fly through the sky. Homer’s father does not approve of Homer’s dream of entering the science fair and winning a scholarship due to the fact that he wants his son to be successful in the mines.

Tom’s mother, Amanda, is so stuck on Tom stopping his silly actions throughout the night so he can be fresh and energized for work. Both of the protagonists’ parents do not see eye to eye with their sons, and believe that living an adventurous life outside what they know is preposterous. Tom essentially dreams of the life outside, an adventurous life that involves screenplay. Afterall, Tom has had a dream of becoming an entertainment producer since his highschool years, thus, his name given to him by Jim, ‘Shakespeare’. Tom found his passion when he was young, but decided not to take action with his ambition until much later, when Tom was working in the shoe warehouse. Just like Homer, Tom did not wholly appreciate pursuing the dreams of their parents and following their father’s footsteps. Homer, when he stopped flying his rockets for a short while, went back to believing that the only option he had was the mines. As soon as he found himself again, he went back to his goals of a scholarship. Both the protagonists dream of adventuring outside their towns, and their dreams do not include that of their parents’.Homer ended up getting the scholarship he worked so hard for with his friends, and got the approval of his father, who did not wholeheartedly agree with Homer’s ideas at first. Tom, on the other hand, left his family behind as he decided to pursue his career, and ironically followed in his father’s footsteps in the end. Considering this as their happy ending, both protagonists ended up with what they wanted in the end. Homer and Tom may have went through multiple struggles, from following a fate in disagreement to going against the ones they love, they still did their best to fight their fate and use free-will to pursue what they desired most.

Contrastingly, The interplay between how individuals perceive themselves and how others perceive them is deeply rooted in the insecurities of Laura and Tom. Tom and Laura are known as two dreamers, they are pushed by their mother, Amanda, to fit into her frame of mind that consist of thoughts of hard working individuals. Both Tom and Laura have come across the fire escape, which serves to be a gateway, mentally and physically. Tom has a problem of working in the warehouse as he believes that he does not fit in.

Lastly, it is noticed that society forces change and Laura quickly loses her status when Jim comes to visit. The fire escape is served as a passageway for the real world and the imagination. Both Tom and Laura have stumbled on this passageway, whether it is physically or mentally. In a particular scene, Laura mentions that “I’m all right. I slipped but I’m all right” (47). In this quote, Laura is trying to fit into society and cross the border from her imagination to the real world, but she could not do so as society is incapable of accepting her and her ways. Tom is the character known to stumble mentally to look for a way to escape. He slowly loses most of his strength by looking out into the world. He is forced to work and he is unable to leave, this makes him an even stronger dreamer. Therefore, at the end, he finally chooses to use the gateway of society to use it as a means of transportation to go down. Laura is a character who shows what is left of her ego, and she has a great relationship with her brother Tom. In a particular scene in the play, Laura reminds her brother that their mother needs to be respected. Later in the play it is witnessed that Tom and Amanda get into a fight. Laura beseeches her brother to apologize to their mother; “Tom, speak to mother this morning. Make up with her apologize, speak to her” (43). Laura becomes very uncomfortable when both Tom and Amanda fight. Although Tom may have an excuse to how he reacts in certain circumstances, it is due to Amanda’s constant direction on how to live that aggravates Tom. Laura always takes a gentle approach in such circumstances. She respects Amanda much more, although she receives the same criticism. Laura is also true to herself, as she does not present herself in a false manner. In a certain event, Amanda places “gay deceivers”(56) into Laura’s dress, which is initially done to enhance Laura’s figure. Laura takes them out because she has no intention of compromising her integrity. Laura may be shy and innocent, but she is much more honest than Jim, Tom, and Amanda.

She is more conscience of her actions, unlike Jim, who flirts with her, kisses her, and then leaves her, after telling her that he is “engaged and soon to be married”(88). The central theme of ‘difficulty of accepting reality’ comes into play. This connects to both Laura’s and Tom’s insecurities as a whole. Both Tom and Laura have difficulty relating to, and accepting reality. They are unable to overcome their own difficulties, and due to this mishap, they both tend to enter a world of illusion in which they find comfort in. Tom is able to adjust slightly more than Laura as he has a job in the real world and is capable of talking to strangers. In the end, neither Tom nor Laura have the motivation of pursuing an actual career. Laura is unable to pursue a professional job, a relationship, or an actual friendship. Tom is unable to do the same, and instead, he escapes reality by watching fantasies in literature or movies while being drunk. Laura has the hardest time in grasping a hold of reality. The world she lives in consists of glass animals, that are very delicate and beautiful like Laura herself. This is all significant because Laura and Tom have their own insecurities within, they are unable to express and heal them properly, which leads to their mishap. To conclude, in The Glass Menagerie and in the October Sky, the interaction between how people perceive themselves and how others perceive them is deeply interconnected within each individuals own fear and insecurities.

The idea of overruling truth, flaws of humanity, and different perception of others is greatly explored through different characters, with a main focus on Tom’s narration. William constantly argues that the truth is open to opinion and judging; not black-and-white and is created through different perceptions of humankind, which is, at first, modelled through human flaws. The first main idea circulates around how people are perceived by others and how others perceive them, which is seen through Laura and Tom. Comparing the difference between the views of how people perceive themselves and how others perceive them, through which is deeply rooted in the sources of worry and stress of Laura and Tom. Thus, The Glass Menagerie indeed has several factors that affect how one is perceived and how they perceive themselves, which is simply portrayed through the characters Laura and Tom. For them to choose to either conform or pursue their own personal desire is up to them. In this case, October Sky and The Glass Menagerie, the characters Tom and Holmer chose to pursue their own personal desire while Laura decided to conform.


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