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The Glass Menagerie Struggles Essay

In 1944 Tennessee Williams playwrights The Glass Menagerie, a memory play about the lives of the Wingfield’s. A family of 3, Amanda, Laura, and Tom Wingfield, who lived together in an apartment in St. Louis 1937 during the pre-war depression era. The play comments on the way people would try to distract themselves from the unpleasant events that would surround them every day. Williams wrote the journey and “the hopelessness of the Wingfield family” (Beaurline 4) and how they struggled to manage their lives. The Glass Menagerie was originally called The Gentleman Caller.

It was Williams first successful play that launched his career from obscurity to fame. the characters were based on Williams himself, mother, and his sister Rose. The play was reworked from one of Williams’s earlier works, a short story called Portrait of a Girl in Glass. Generally, both stories shared the same plot but certain sections were given more details, while others were changed or removed. The glass menagerie had won many plays, including a tony recently in 2014. There was an additional character who was absent throughout the play (Mr. Wingfield) but he was often mentioned.

A blown-up photograph of the father hangs on the wall of the living room, to the left of the archway. It is the face of a very handsome young man in a doughboy’s First World War cap. He is gallantly smiling, ineluctably smiling, as if to say I will be smiling forever. (Williams 4) He was like a ghost, a constant reminder to everyone that was hanging over their head. Even through his absence he still left a large impact on the family he left behind. In such a difficult time each of them fought to survive the environment in their own way, by escaping reality or by avoiding it altogether.

As the story went along it described the way of human life is such a state of mind, to see “the fragmented lives of human beings” (Stein 3) and how they cope. Amanda Wingfield lived in a world that wavered between reality and delusion. When it was most convenient to her, she would simply close her eyes to the harsh, realistic world of her position in life. When it became too hard to cope, she reminisced about the days of her youth when she lived at the Blue Mountain and had seventeen gentlemen callers in one afternoon.

She told that story so often that it was no longer a delusion but had become a reality to her. “her background prevents her entry into the century of progress” (reynolds2) she is stuck in the past, where it was easier for her. But she was unable to live forever in this world of her own delusion. The pressures of everyday living forced her to face many truths.

She only wanted the best for her children but she failed to realize that what they wanted was very different from what she wanted for them. “Amanda’s anxieties are in arge part economic and there is money behind many of her illusions”. (Stein) her biggest efforts were in trying to find a suitor for Laura, someone who was well off with money so she could guarantee her daughter’s future would be ok. Laura knows, herself, that finding someone would not be likely to happen because of her disability but Amanda does not listen. She tells her mother “I’m crippled! ” (Williams 7). Amanda refused to acknowledge it and told her that it was “Nonsense, Laura, I’ve told you never, never to use that word.

Why, you’re not crippled, you just have a little defect – hardly noticeable, even! ” (7) She also refused to accept the fact that Tom was so much different from her. She was afraid that he would turn out to be just like his father and leave them to achieve his own freedom and adventures. In an attempt to protect herself she separated herself from him before he could abandon her, she finally told him to “GO, then! Go to the moon-you selfish dreamer! ” (Williams 29) finally accepting the fact that the eventual outcome she had feared for so long was coming, and she prepared for it.

When her husband deserted her and their children, she was left with an empty and meaningless life. She had to fabricate things to fill her life and give her meaning and hope. She invested herself too much into her children and began to live through them. Laura was introduced as an extremely shy and sensitive person. Her shyness was even more noticeable when being compared with Amanda’s loud and out nature.

She was so anxious she could not even attend her business school without getting sick. she was frightened and worried whenever Tom and Amanda would argue and would retread nto her bubble at any sign of danger or discomfort. Laura had withdrawn from the world, she had “failed to establish contact with reality, continues to live vitally in her illusions” (Williams 3). She removed herself from what was real into what was a fantasy. Lara had a glass menagerie that she cared for with all her heart. When she needed comfort she would stay in her room and spend time with her figurines. Laura had a limp, caused by a childhood illness that made one leg slightly shorter than the other. Because of this she had to wear a brace.

She felt that the brace caught a lot of unwanted attention which made her isolate herself from others, Laura sheltered herself “she is like a piece of her own glass collection” (levy 3). She was timid, shy, and reluctant to try anything out of her comfort zone. Her only comforts were her old phonograph records and glass animals. “With an outraged groan he tears the coat off again, splitting the shoulder of it, and hurls it across the room. It strikes against the shelf of Laura’s glass collection, and there is a tinkle of shattering glass. Laura cries out as if wounded”. (Williams 22).

Each small animal needed care just like her, she was so connected to that glass she soon became just as fragile. “the effect of Laura’s self-consciousness is to make her intensely protective of her self-image, and to shield it from exposure to anyone outside the home” (Williams). She had already give up on making a connection with the world around her but Jim O’Connor arrived, and for the first time Laura opened up. she did have charm; it was not the way Amanda envisioned but it was her own unique way. She for a moment was able to forget her physical handicap and became “normal”.

Even though she was able to overcome her crutch she may not have been meant to have a happy ending of her own. In Williams essay. “The Catastrophe of Success,” Williams said that the Cinderella story is our favorite national myth, the cornerstone of the film industry if not of the Democracy itself. ” The social catastrophe inherent in The Glass Menagerie lies precisely in the fact that Laura is not Cinderella: the silver slipper does not fit finally, and Jim is not Prince Charming but one of the innumerable Americans who would soon be moving overseas in troop ships. (Stein 5)

Tom Wingfield, was a creative person stuck in a predictable and materialistic world. He had a free spirit but he had to restrain himself and put away his true wishes. He worked at job in a shoe warehouse to support his mother and sister but at the end of the day it was never enough because he would always be “the man who came to dinner and failed to satisfy the expectations of two neurotic women. (stein 4). Tom had his own list of things he considered important like, his freedom, adventure, dreams and his illusions. The difference between him and his mother’s illusions was that he was realistic.

He knew that his mother’s stories of gentlemen callers were not a reality. He sees that there is nothing for him at his job. It was not until he saw a magic show did he realized that there had to be a way to leave without causing any damage. And, oh, I forgot! There was a big stage show! The headliner on this stage show was Malvolio the Magician… But the wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without removing one nail.

There is trick that would come in handy for me-get me out of this two-by-four situation! William 4) But as he thought it through there was no safe way out, whatever options there was someone was going to get hurt. He knew that if he didn’t act now he would unhappy and full of regret even if it meant hurting his mother and sister. ” tom impulse is to shatter it in order to achieve his freedom” (levy3) He decided that had to save himself. For many years, (Tom had pursued a place to escape) from his mother Amanda and her smothering personality by going to movies almost every night. This was the only bit of adventure he could pursue.

He eventually realized that he was not satisfied with the temporary psychological escape, it only became a reminder of his dull life. He was tired of his job. He was tired of the demand of his mother. And he was tired of his lack of freedom. He wanted to grant “his consuming wish is to leave home and explore his manhood” (levy 3). he knew his mother always held the fear that tom would turn up just like his father and he tries constantly to disprove her– “ultimately, he refused to let the image she holds up to him restrain him; for if he identifies with it, he will never be free” (levy3) tom and Laura are pushed into commercial careers that conflict with their temperaments and aspirations (Reynolds 1) Laura was training at a typing job to become a receptionist. but it would demand her to communicate with other people very often which was a task that was very difficult for her to complete. She had already shut herself out from the world and never really learned how to associate with outers without her anxiety getting to bad. She quit the school and the job when it became too much to handle.

Then she stayed at home with a mother that could not understand her. Thomas had to do the same things every day at his job in the factory. There was nothing exiting, or different, or fun. It was routine everyday with the same outcome and result. He was going nowhere and he was being deprived of any creativity or happiness. Within that time period it was “a time filled with depression and impending war” (Reynolds 1) so it was reasonable to believe that many people wanted a form of escape so they could have a break from their own problems.

No one liked to admit that things were not going very well, so they were willing to “lie” to themselves in any way even if it was for a few hours. “the movies were the nations escape mechanism throughout the depression and on into the war years” (Reynolds 4) as soon as you step inside of theater you enter a totally different world where nothing bad could happen and you could just focus on something else other than yourself and you could forget about your worries just for a while. Many people did what Tom and Laura did to ‘escape’ “lights go out, telephone is hung up; cinema and phonography serve merely as escapes” (Reynolds 1).

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