The Glass Menagerie Essay

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The Glass Menagerie Essay
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    University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 438

  • Pages: 2

The Glass Menagerie

Throughout “The Glass Menagerie” Tennessee Williams creates an intricate dynamic between the three main characters, as well as symbols and symbolic language in order to exemplify the fragility of livelihood. Without a single one of the members of the Wingfield family the other’s lives would be dramatically different. Much as the collection of glass menagerie would not be the same collection without one of its pieces. As many collectors know the presence or absence of one item can drastically change the value of the whole collection. So also is a family unit, as one member affects the others, they form an identity they become accustomed to and often cling to.

Amanda exemplifies how vital it is that a family unit stay loyal. After Mr. Wingfield disappeared her life has become a constant struggle in order to survive, a far cry from the Blue Mountain setting she idolizes in her past. Amanda symbolizes a downfall, but she also symbolizes drive for her children, encouraging Laura to blossom into something that they can both be proud of and encouraging Tom to keep his job and support his family until they can fend for themselves at least. Laura symbolizes fear and instability through the first five acts. She failed out of her class, that was a hope for a better future, because of her fear and doesn’t let herself actually try to engage in social interactions for fear that she will be inadequate in another’s eyes. Without Laura to feel sorry for and take care of Tom most likely would have left Amanda on her own in Mr. Wingfield’s footsteps a long time ago.

Tom represents unrest and boredom, but he also provides the money and stability for the family to keep living in its present state. Though Tom is uneasy he still gets up in the morning and performs his duties knowing that he is a key member of their family unit, or the most valuable piece in the collection. When Tom and Amanda’s fight breaks some of the pieces of the Glass menagerie it symbolizes the breaking of a family unit, making it less valuable. As the pieces are easy to break so is the bond that holds the family together as Mr. Wingfield showed how easy it was to separate this bond. As Tom distances himself the strength of the bond becomes less and less strong and it is only a matter of time before it breaks if it is not mended.

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The Glass Menagerie Essay
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  • University/College:
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  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1233

  • Pages: 5

The Glass Menagerie

In reading literary pieces, we tend to compare one character to another that is similar on physical and mental characterization. Alice Walker’s story “Everyday Use” and Tennessee Williams’s play “The Glass Menagerie” have different attack, contextualization, plot, conflict, and resolution but they have the same idea of character – Laura in “The Glass Menagerie” and Maggie in “Everyday Use. ” Laura and Maggie are both physically handicapped. Laura ‘wears a brace on her leg’ while Maggie has scars all through her legs and arms.

Both of these characters accept their situations as handicapped. That is why they are being oppressed by the society whether directly or indirectly. Therefore, being physically handicapped of the protagonists in the two stories defines their identity and uniqueness despite of their physical imperfection. Walker’s “Everyday Use” is a story about a mother having two daughters. Her daughters are opposite to one another. Maggie is a shy woman while Dee is very expressive with her emotions. Dee’s goals are too high to obtain.

She leaves her family to acquire her personal goals in life. Ms. Johnson, which is Dee’s mother and Maggie are waiting for her return that is why they clean their house and beautify it so that Dee will become happy once she saw their home. When Dee arrives, Maggie and Ms. Johnson are speechless with her transformation. After lunch, Dee went to her mother’s room and asks for a hand-stitched quilt as a souvenir. Ms. Johnson is holding a ‘precious’ hand-stitched quilt that she will give to Maggie. Dee wants it so she grabs it to her mother’s hands.

Maggie understands her sister’s action and even though she really likes the quilt, she let her sister obtain it. However, Ms. Johnson grabs the quilt to Dee’s hands and pulls Maggie into her room and put it to her lap and shows a happy face. Due to disappointment, Dee runs away from their house along with her friend using his friend’s car. William’s “The Glass of Menagerie” on the other hand is about a woman named Laura. Tom is the narrator of the story. Laura is a shy woman because of her appearance – having her leg being braced. She does not want to enter school because of this.

Another reason for this is that she does not want people to look at her and being humiliated by her surroundings. Because of this issue, Amanda whom to be Laura’s mother asks Tom to find a man that will suit Laura despite of her physical situation. Tom found Jim, his co-worker. He asks him to have dinner in their house. When Jim went to the dinner, Laura is afraid to see him because she is attracted to Jim even before. After the dinner, Jim starts talking to Laura. In the beginning, Laura is aloof but as the conversation went on, she becomes comfortable with Jim.

“LAURA: I was out of school a little while with pleurosis. When I came back you asked me what was the matter. I said I had pleurosis – you thought I said Blue Roses That’s what you always called me after that I / JIM: I hope you didn’t mind. / LAURA: Oh, no – I liked it. You see, I wasn’t acquainted with many – people…. (Williams, Chapter 7)” Jim becomes attracted to Laura’s uniqueness that led him in kissing her. After the kiss, Jim says sorry to Laura and tells her that he has a fiance and soon will get married. Even if Laura is upset, she accepts it.

Amanda blames Tom for being insensitive by not choosing the right man for Laura. Tom leaves for this reason but even if he tries to begin his life again, Laura’s image emerges within his mind, thinking his offense against her. Laura and Maggie view themselves as weak and incapacitated. They accept their situation in a worst-case-scenario. They do not fight against the common norm of the society towards them. As long as their family accepts them, everything would be fine. However, problems occurred because they admit that they are handicapped and could not obtain things that a usual woman should have.

That is why people around them took advantage against them in different cases and issues. In the case of Laura, her mother wants to make her happy and would like her to find a man that will fit her capability as a woman but Amanda did not think of Laura’s feelings towards her action. As she (Amanda) pushes Laura towards Jim, it is clear she has never paused to find out who her daughter really is, nor what her aspirations might be, nor has she ever considered modes of living other than her own (Debusscher, 60).

Maggie’s situation is also the same through her relationship with Dee. Because she accepts that Dee should have better life than her, she lets her sister obtain everything that should be rewarded to her. Because of this, she needs to cope up with the demand of others to satisfy them. “Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and awe.

She thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that “no” is a word the world never learned to say to her (Walker 47). ” However, at the end of the plot of these two stories, the supporting characters realized the manifestations and effects of their actions in the lives of the protagonists. That is why they resolve their conflicts by way of recognizing the identity of Laura and Maggie as individuals with own uniqueness and sense of womanhood. “When Maggie spoke and suggested that the quilt be given to her older sister Dee, she (Ms.

Johnson) began to see Maggie in a different light. She also learned to appreciate Maggie’s simplicity and goodness as compared to Dee’s sophistication and ambitions (Cuizon). ” Like what happened to Maggie’s mother, Tom also accepts the realization that Laura needs sensibility from the people around her and she should experience it through her family. In the end, both the protagonists and the supporting characters reconcile and acquire the realization of reality and live a better life.

Works Cited

Cuizon, Gwen. “A Review on Alice Walker’s Everyday Use. ” HubPages. (2008). 23 November 2008. http://hubpages. com/hub/Alice-Walkers-Everyday-Use Debusscher, Gilbert. “Tennessee Williams’s Dramatic Charade: Secrets and Lies in The Glass Menagerie. ” (2000; pp. 57-68). 23 November 2008. http://www. tennesseewilliamsstudies. org/archives/2000/4debusscher. pdf Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use. ” In Love and Trouble. New York: Harcourt, 1973. 47-59. Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie. ” (1944). 23 November 2008. http://pagesperso-orange. fr/absolutenglish-972/notes/uscivi/glassmenagerie/scene_by_scene. htm

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The Glass Menagerie Essay

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The Glass Menagerie Essay
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  • University/College:
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  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1618

  • Pages: 6

The Glass Menagerie

The play ‘The Glass Menagerie” of Tennessee Williams focuses on the life of Amanda along with her son Tom, and “weakling” daughter Laura during the year 1937 at St. Louis. Having left by their father, Tom, as the eldest son, was forced to work for the family. This characterization, the lines used, and the various symbolisms frequently used in the play makes up for a one whole interesting and heartwarming play.

Moreover, the feelings of isolation, disappointment, entrapment, and/or expectations coupled with failed dreams are all highlighted in this story, written in a very dramatic and effective way enabling the readers to easily relate to the feeling of each of the characters. First, there are personality differences. This occurs in the three most important characters in the play – Amanda, Laura and Tom. Tom, as the sole breadwinner of the family attains a strong personality along with a great determination to keep on living, not only for himself, but also to the people who only live because of him.

During the day, he is seen working at the Continental Shoemakers warehouse, but at nighttime, he seems to be always out, watching movies. Tom is a lot different from Amanda, the loving yet nagging mother, who is frequently in word fight with Tom because of her habit to meddle over her son and daughter’s lives. Her past story with her “bad” ex-husband kept on bugging her as if reminding her how she chose badly when it comes to man. And Tom is also a lot different from Laura, the frightened and shy daughter of Amanda, and his younger sibling. Her lame foot and poor self-confidence makes her as the “burden” for the family.

This is the reason why upon knowing that she has no guts to finish her class in Rubicam’s Business College, she is pushed by her Mom to look for a possible husband. However, Laura seldom goes out and is always seen holding and taking care of her glass menagerie, that is why it is Tom whom Amanda tasked to find the guy for Laura. These well-entangled characters in the story plus the number of lyrical symbolisms used made the spectators became more connected with the play. Further, the symbolisms used in the story completed the mood in the story – that of disappointment, isolation and failure.

Among of the most “obvious’ and well put up symbols are: The glass menagerie – this is a very fragile and delicately and beautifully made glass. This symbolizes the life of Laura. Like the glass that should always be taken care of and should be carefully handled, Laura is also being taken care of by Amanda and Tom. Her sensitivity is her greatest disadvantage. Likewise, Laura, like the glass, seems to be peculiarly beautiful yet can be easily destroyed. And like her glass menagerie, Laura seems to have a world of her own, not minding anybody but herself alone.

The fire escape – this is what Tom used in his attempt to move out of his mother’s and sister’s lives. First, he uses this to get out of their apartment and watch movies outside. Then on the last part of the play, Tom is seen going down the fire escape and standing on the landing area. This fire escape, as the name implies, is what Tom really wants in his life. To escape from his mother’s continuous nagging and interfering on how he lead his life, to escape from the “hard” responsibility of providing for his family and to escape from the very life that they have. And that is what he did on the last part.

Though his mere standing on the landing area – him in between their house and the “outside world” – shows that he is torn between his desire to escape and his love for his family. The scarf Tom had after watching a magic show and he gives it to Laura – This scene depicts that Tom wanted to share his “dream” of escaping from Amanda and from their poor state with his sister Laura. His love for Laura is very evident, even up to the end the play, especially with his words at Scene 7 (years after he has finally left his family) “Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be” (Williams 46).

4. Gentleman caller – Amanda, having been a victim of a cruel husband because he left them even in such a state of poverty, started to think of man as cruel, not responsible and other mean things any man could be hurt hearing. But this “gentleman caller” symbolizes what man is in the “real” world – and that is not all of men are like that of Amanda’s ex-husband. Amana used to imagine all of men as the same as her ex-husband, and that gentleman caller became the reminder that her imaginations are not utterly correct.

Tom’s dialogue about the significance of this gentleman caller is: “[H]e is the long delayed but always expected something that we live for. ” (Williams 36). The main problem in the play started when the father and the husband left his family. That made Amanda’s life miserable resulting to an equally miserable life of their sons and daughter. All the problems encountered by the family such as Laura’s indifference and lack of confidence for herself are just part or the results of what happened to Amanda. And with this, the solution for their problem should also start with Amanda.

If only she restrain herself from thinking and burying herself with the memories of the past… if only she just encourage her son and daughter to live a happy life, advice them of what is good and teach them how to avoid those that are not good instead of full interference with their lives even to the point of pushing her daughter to marry the guy Laura doesn’t know personally… if only she knows hoe to show love and concern for her family and to put a happy environment with their home, maybe their lives could be a lot different and maybe Tom will not leave them and Laura will not be that ashamed of herself.

With the theme, characters and the symbolisms I have stated above, it became very clear that the major theme of the play is all about moving on… continuing your life … and making it more productive despite every negative thoughts and/or bad experiences you may have had. The feeling of failure is clearly depicted to Amanda’s personality. Her way of nagging her kids is the best sign that she really felt bad of what had happened to her love life. That could be a greatest failure for a woman.

Failing to maintain a complete family – one which has a responsible father, a loving mother and respectful children – seems to be the heaviest burden on her shoulder. The burden that she seems to pass on to her only son, Tom. Tom, on the other hand, feel isolated. He feels that he became the sole responsible for his family; with no help whatsoever from his sister nor from his mother. That made him think and feel that no body is really there for him… that no body has been backing him up.

Moreover, because of his mother’s problem, he then feel that he was trapped inside the web of his own family. This is because he feels trapped and obliged that he should provide for his family, because it is only him who has the means to do that. The feeling of disappointment is what in Laura’s mind and heart. She is disappointed towards her physical appearance… her being lame. She is extremely disappointed with her family’s way of life, in general, with which she thinks is responsible why she can’t find a good guy to marry her.

Indeed, this is one good and carefully written story… a story that is about a family and really for the family. Every family member could reflect his or her life on this story. Every family member could get some lessons on this story… lessons which she/he could use in managing his/her own family life in the end.

Work Cited:

Bigsby, C. W. E. “Celebration of a Certain Courage. ” Modern Critical Interpretations: Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1988, 89-99. Falk, Signi. “The Southern Gentlewoman.

” Modern Critical Interpretations: Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1988. 79-89. Nelson, Benjamin. “The Play is Memory. ” The Glass Menagerie: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. R. B. Parker. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 87-95. Tischler, Nancy. “The Glass Menagerie: The Revelation of a Quiet Truth. ” Modern Critical Interpretations: Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1988. 31-41. _______. “The Timeless World of a Play. ” Three by Tennessee. New York: Signet, 1976. 129-33.

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The Glass Menagerie Essay

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The Glass Menagerie Essay
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  • University/College:
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  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1645

  • Pages: 7

The Glass Menagerie

      In The Glass Menagerie all the characters: both the members of the Wingfield family and the gentleman caller –Jim, live in worlds of their own making. Theirs is a painful environment; one that has  been produced  from dashed expectations. With such harshness surrounding them, each of the characters finds a way to filter it out; to suppress the truth by replacing it with illusion. Only then can they cope.

     The imagery of blindness symbolizes what has happened to these people: “The huge middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind. Their eyes had failed them, or they had failed their eyes.”(scene 1, 23).They cannot see what to do. Since they have lost their way, they create an illusory path.

        Tom, Laura and Amanda Wingfield live in reduced circumstances in a lower middle class apartment in St. Louis. Amanda’s husband  left the family to travel as a phone salesman, and just kept going; never to return.

This contributes to major financial difficulties and worry. It necessitates Tom’s working at a warehouse job he hates to such a degree that he is envious of dead people who don’t have to get up and go to work they despise.

        At the opening of the play, Tom formulates the predicament:

       “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”

(scene 1, 22.)

       To escape from his truth, Tom wishes to be transported away, to leave just as  his father did. He sends in money to the Merchant Seamen in the hopes of doing so. In the interim he writes poetry and frequents movies.

His mother becomes frustrated:

    AMANDA:     But why–why, Tom, are you always so restless? Where do

                            you go to, nights?

    TOM:              I– go to the movies.

    AMANDA:    Why do you go to the movies so much, Tom?

    TOM:             I go to the movies because–I like adventure. Adventure is

                          something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the

                         movies.(scene 4,51)

     Tom is quite aware of his illusions. But his boss is also aware of his deceptions. As Jim conveys to him the seriousness of his circumstance:

“You’re going to be out of a job if you don’t wake up,” Tom responds that he is waking up: “I’m right at the point to committing myself to  a future that doesn’t include the warehouse and Mr. Mendoza or even a night school in public speaking.”(scene 6,79).

     Restless, he wants to “remove the nail out of his coffin and escape”…is  tired of the movies and wants to move  himself. “People go to the movies instead of moving!…of watching Hollywood characters have adventures while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them.”(scene 6,79).

     Meanwhile, his mother Amanda also copes with her situation  through escape.  Only she retreats into the past; into the genteel traditions of the Old South: a time of gentlemen callers, cotillions, cotton planters, and jonquil filled refined living; a time in which she never spoke of anything “coarse or common or vulgar.” Although she lost that world by marrying the telephone salesman, she constantly returns to it in her conversations because it shields her from her coarse and  vulgar present– in which she says that: “I’m just bewildered by life.”(15) and “ I wasn’t prepared for what the future brought me.” (scene 6, 82 ).

    Because of her confusion, she is easy prey. Deception defines her as she  even mutters the word in scene two: “Deception? Deception?”  Not only is Amanda deceived by marrying a man who left her, she is deceived by Laura dropping out of business college, and by thinking Jim was an actual gentleman caller for her daughter; a prospective suitor, when he actually was already engaged.

     Her hopes for Jim are such that she beautifies the apartment, reverts to wearing an ancient cotillion dress and even pretties Laura in anticipation of his visit, pinning all her expectations for a new future on the gentleman caller, even while deceiving him as to Laura’s presence.

     But Laura, who is crippled,  has retreated from life, living in her own world of illusion that revolves around her collection of glass animals which she can order and control. In fact, Williams describes her “like a piece of her own glass collection, too exquisite to remove from the shelf.” The menagerie and playing the Victorola are her way of escaping from unpleasantness and her own sense of futility. (Presley,1990,40).

     A drop out from business college, she finally ceases deceiving her mother once she has discovered the truth, telling her she really goes walking.

     Just as the unicorn, hers is a precarious existence. When Jim breaks off the unicorn’s horn, it looks like a horse, but nevertheless remains a damaged unicorn. This is what Amanda has done to the damaged Laura; distorted her true childish nature, plying her with “gay deceivers” to make her appear like any other normal young woman who is being courted. (Tischler, 2000,33).

    Jim lives for his former glory and his bright tomorrow. He is friends with Tom because he knew him in high school where he was a star. His present is not as appealing, so he depends on his future. Yet Jim’s vision of himself as this man “with the promising future is as deceptive as Amanda’s vision of herself as a woman from the gallant past.(Presley,48).

    Although Amanda tells Tom, “You live in a dream. You manufacture illusions!”, the truth is that  the pathos of the play comes from the illusions created by all the characters. Though the glass menagerie pertains to Laura, all four characters have redirected their reality to  beautify their lives. Laura has her glass collection, Tom his movies and poetry, Amanda her jonquil filled past, and Jim his cliché of progress. (Cohn, 1987, 59).

References

Cohn, Ruby. (1987). “The Garrulous Grotesques of Tennessee Williams,” in

     Tennessee Williams-Modern Critical Views. Harold Bloom, ed.

      New York: Chelsea House.

Ganz, Arthur. (1987). “ A Desperate Morality,” in Tennessee Williams-               

      Modern Critical Views. Harold Bloom, ed. New York: Chelsea House.

King, Thomas.(1987). “Irony and Distance in The Glass Menagerie,” in

       Tennessee Williams-Modern Critical Views. Harold Bloom, ed. New

       York: Chelsea House.

Presley, Delma.(1990). The Glass Menagerie. An American Memory.

       Boston: Twayne Publishing Co.

Tischler, Nancy.(2000). Student Companion to Tennessee Williams.

        Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Co.

Williams, Tennessee. (1945). The Glass Menagerie. New York:

        New Directions.

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