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Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie

In the Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie, the main character, Tom Wingfield, is also the narrator, and the play is recalled from his memory. The story begins by telling of Toms father who has abandoned his wife, Amanda, and children sixteen years prior, leaving Tom the sole benefactor. Their father only sent word once in the form of a small postcard from Mexico. After this has been narrated, Tom, with his mother and handicapped sister, Laura, sit down to dinner and immediately Amandas pushy and dominant personality becomes overwhelmingly clear.

Amanda criticizes Laura and argues with Tom. Amanda becomes angry with Laura because she has been walking in the park, skipping out of her classes because they give her nervous indigestion. Amanda feels that it is time for Laura to be married so she invites young men over to visit with her. Laura is really interested in a man named Jim OConnor that went to her high school. He was the school hero, but Laura has no idea where he is now. Amanda also criticizes Tom for smoking and watching too many movies, yet she takes away his books.

Amanda and Tom have a huge argument but Amanda takes the time to ask Tom to bring his male friends over to visit Laura. A few days later, Tom tells Amanda that he will bring over a friend named Jim OConnor. Amanda is thrilled and makes elaborate preparations, even down to Lauras clothing. Laura thinks that if it is the same Jim OConnor she had a crush on in high school, she will not be able to face him now, and she ends up making herself sick with worry. Amanda insists that Laura answer the door, but she became so sick, she couldnt eat dinner with the group.

During dinner, Jim turns out to be an excellent, sweet guy. Amanda gets frustrated and concocts a plan to get Laura and Jim together by bringing Tom into the kitchen to wash dishes and sending Jim to the living room with Laura. Laura miraculously looses some of her shyness and her sickness and becomes very pleasant and charming in Jims company. Jim likes Laura enough to kiss her and she is thrilled. However Jim then tells Laura that he is engaged to be married. Amanda blames Tom for trying to play a cruel joke on the family by bringing over an engaged man.

Tom defends himself saying he had no idea Jim was to be married. At the end of the play, Tom is the narrator again. He has left home to become a sailor and pursue his dreams of adventure. He feels guilty for leaving his mother & sister behind just like his father had done. The climax of the story is perhaps the part where Laura finds out that Jim is engaged and Amanda attempts to throw the blame to Tom and none of the characters take responsibility for their actions except Jim. The structure of the play is very unique.

It is a memory play of several episodes told by the narrator who is also the lead character. The technique of using flashbacks in the play to cover up the loose or confusing ends was cleverly used my Williams. Despite this being a memory play, it follows well with the curve of dramatic action. Amanda is a frustrated woman. The man she loves who left her to raise two children on her own deserted her. She often fantasized about her days as a Southern Belle with several suitors at once. Amanda has no skills and therefore cannot hold down a permanent job and relies on Tom to provide for her and her daughter.

Laura is a girl who is frustrated as well as heartbroken. He mother does nothing but nag her all the time, she is handicapped, and going to school makes her violently ill. She has never had a chance to grow in any way because of her mothers poor treatment of her. Tom lives most of his life thinking about his dreams of adventure and wanting to become a sailor. He feels held down and taken advantage of because of Laura and Amanda. He doesnt want to stay home and take care of his sister & mother, he wants to go out and have a good time, seeking his dreams.

Personally I didnt like this play at all when I read it the first time in high school (11th grade). I thought it was so terrible. I think the reason I thought it was so awful and unbearable is because of the mother. I couldnt handle her criticism and her whole character bugged me. I didnt like Laura a whole lot either, mostly because she played the role of the pathetic, helpless little girl. The second time I read this play, I kind of enjoyed it a little more. It wasnt near as eye rolling and yawning the second time as the first time I suffered through it.

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Home » Tennessee Williams » Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie

In Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie, Williams uses many symbols which represent many different things. Many of the symbols used in the play try to symbolize some form of escape or a link to a world of illusion. Just a few of these are the fire escape, the movies, and even more important, Laura’s glass unicorn. Williams uses numerous representations in his play to create a more elaborate story for the reader. Some are very subtle such as the blue roses flashed across the screen. These may represent the melancholy attitude of Laura.

Many, however are much more glaring. The first symbol, presented in the first scene, is the fire escape. This represents the “bridge” between the illusory world of the Wingfields and the world of reality. While it may be a symbol of passage to all the charachters, it seems to have an individualized meaning to each of them as well. For Tom, the fire escape is the way out of the world of Amanda and Laura and an entrance into the world of reality. For Laura, the fire escape is a way into her world. A way to escape from reality.

Both examples can readily be seen: Tom will stand outside on the fire escape to smoke, showing that he does not like to be inside, he would rather venture out into the world. As Tom seeks a route outward, Laura, thinks of the fire escape as a way into her own private place where she is safe from reality. This can be seen when Amanda sends Laura to go to the store and Laura trips on the fire escape. She uses it much more directly to shield her from the harsh world that she despises. This also shows that Laura’s fears and emotions greatly affect her physical condition, and perhaps even begin to throw doubt on the degree of her handicap.

Another symbol presented deals more with Tom than any of the other characters. This is Tom’s habit of going to the movies. It shows us his longing to leave the apartment and head out into the world away from the confines of the same rooms he has always known. A place where one can find adventure and romance. And Tom, being a poet, can understand the longing men sometimes have for adventure and romance. A similar symbol is the poster of the Merchant Marines, which Tom aspires to join. He is kept from realizing his ambitions by Amanda, who criticizes him for being a “selfish dreamer.

But, Tom has made steps to escape from his monotonous life by transferring the payment of a light bill to pay for his dues in the Merchant Seaman’s Union. Still another symbol, which deals with both Amanda and Laura, is Jim O’Connor. To Laura, Jim represents her greatest fear, reality. She is so scared of facing up to life that she runs from any responsibility or connection to the outside world. Jim is a perfect example of “the common man. ” A person with no real outstanding quality. In fact, Jim is rather awkward, which can be seen when he dances with Laura.

To Amanda, Jim represents the days of her youth, when she went frolicking about picking jonquils and relishing in her “seventeen gentlemen callers on one Sunday afternoon. ” Although Amanda desires to see Laura settled down with a nice young man, it is easy to see that she wanted a gentleman caller to be invited for Laura so she could live vicariously through her and remember what it felt like to be wanted. One of the most obvious symbols is Laura’s glass menagerie. Her collection of glass animals represents her own private world. Set apart from reality, a place where she can hide and be safe.

The events that happen to Laura’s glass affects Laura’s emotional state greatly. When Amanda tells Laura to practice typing, Laura instead plays with her glass. When Amanda is heard walking up the fire escape, she quickly hides her collection. She does this to hide her secret world from the others. When Tom leaves to go to the movies in an angered rush, he accidentally breaks some of Laura’s glass. The shattered glass represents Laura’s understanding of Tom’s responsibilities toward her. She understands that she is one the main reasons he can not live him life the way he wants to.

Also, it is not just a coincidence that the piece involved was the unicorn, which represents Laura directly. Laura points out to Jim that the unicorn is different, just as she is different. She also points out that the unicorn does not complain of being different, as she does not complain either. And when Jim breaks the horn off the unicorn, Laura points out that now it is like the other horses, just as Laura has shed some of her shyness and become more normal. When she hands the broken unicorn to Jim, this might represent Laura handing over her shattered love of him, because he has revealed that he is engaged to be married.

As can be seen, there are more than just a few symbols in this play. A number of them have very intricate meanings. A great many of them have a direct relation to events in the author’s own life. It is easy to understand why Williams chose to write this as a memory play since he was using many of his own memories. It is obvious that this memory play is based on Williams’ own memories and that he feels linked to Tom. The play is filled with objects and visions that Williams uses to contribute to the recurring themes and motives of the play. His use of symbolism is, indeed, very effective.

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