A 26 year-old woman kneels on the floor, childlike, playing with glass figurines upon a living room table. Too plagued by her own humility, Laura contemplates only one future for herself; seclusion from the outside world where bad encounters prevail the desire for good experiences. A lack of positive growth for Laura, along with the rest of her family, is the pitfall for Tennessee Williams where he pressurizes kindred desperation in The Glass Menagerie only to produce hopelessness as the ultimate outcome.
Expressing the turmoil in the life he sees before him, Tom curses “How lucky dead people are!” (1.3.34). The Glass Menagerie, written by Tennessee Williams, portrays a dysfunctional family succumbing to the recurring destiny of desperation and remorse. Amanda, the mother of two adult children, desperately tries to prod her children into seeking a better future. She pushes her son Tom to the point that he plans to escape his mother’s overbearing presence. His older sister, Laura, is so withdrawn by the embarrassment of a crippling disability that she is not fit to enter society. From this, her mother decides to find a beau for Laura in hopes to marry her. She cajoles Tom into bringing a suitor home for dinner from the factory where he already feels the enslavement of his employment.
The result is Jim, charming and ambitious, who sees Laura for who she is: a shy, introverted girl withdrawn in her own adolescent world. He attempts to shock her into glimpsing reality through a kiss that ultimately backfires as Laura, being enamored by her savior, is soon heartbroken to find that Jim is actually engaged to a girl named Betty. The play concludes with all characters reflecting the epitome of desperation: Laura in her mother’s clutches and Tom desperately beating a path for his own salvation. The Glass Menagerie is a sneak peek into any life where desperation reigns dominate and offers no room for the light of hope to intrude.
In The Glass Menagerie, I felt the ending could have been better crafted. It ends with Tom running from his current destiny stating “I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further-for time is the longest distance between two places.”(1.7.107) In the story, I was confused as to whether he was dreaming or if the events I was reading were actually occurring. Not until I attended the play did I realize that he does leave and is struggling with the bond he has with his sister. Not once did he mention remorse for leaving his mother. Also, I wished for Laura to glean some benefit from the turmoil she had endured. Does she simply continue life in the same manner as always, only now with the full brunt of her mother’s emotional distress? Or does she gain some confidence after her brother’s departure and the reality of his absence? What about Amanda’s future without her son’s income? I felt the play should have answered some of these questions and that each could have been effectively expounded upon. If Williams would have developed the story further with Tom’s job at the factory, Laura’s condition, or even Amanda’s employment, it would have garnered more positive interest. Another issue is the figure of the father in the story. He is mentioned so few times he could have been omitted altogether.
What did work well in The Glass Menagerie was the character of Tom and the interaction with his mother. Without this aspect, it would have been as frustrating as the lives of Amanda and Laura. Tom’s character brought energy and suspense. When coupled with his mother’s outrageous personality, there were often fireworks. His rage and desires kept the play going. When Tom mocked his mother for saying “‘Rise and Shine!’ ‘Rise and Shine!’,”(1.3.34) I felt I could never repeat this same phrase to my own children without remembering the disdain I imagined in Tom’s voice. Another interesting factor was that of Tom as narrator. This tactic provided another avenue to explore Tom’s personality. Amanda’s character inadvertently offered some interest as well. Her disposition inspires disdain in the reader and, in the end, this indicates an effective character. This, with Tom’s interaction, carried the story.
A scenario wherein Laura rises to her feet and courageously vows to attain some sense of fulfillment in her life coupled with Tom’s ultimate acceptance of Jim’s advice for direction would have imparted a more optimistic and satisfying conclusion to this work. Unfortunately, the reality is that the reader is left unfulfilled after enduring a play that ends in a mood even more desperate than when it began.