As humans, we tend to suffer from some sort of flaw in our character that cripples us from being able to have a successful life, this flaw could lead people to make disastrous decisions that can lead to unfortunate outcomes. Two examples of such can be found in the characters Laura and Connie from the play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and “Where Have You Going, Where Are You Been? ” by Carol Oates respectively.
By psychoanalyzing both Laura and Connie, it becomes evident, through actions and dialogue, that both females display symptoms of having a fatal flaw, which in turn causes them to make decisions that lead to each one’s undesirable fates. In The Glass Menagerie, Laura is often characterized as a shy and nervous girl who does not think much of herself. One instance in which her low self esteem is manifested is in an exchange between Laura and Amanda, her mother, where they are discussing the possibilities of receiving a gentleman callers. Amanda says, ”Not one gentleman caller?
It can’t be true! There must be a flood, there must have been a tornado! ” (Williams Sc 1 1161). To this, Laura replies, “It isn’t a flood, it’s not a tornado, Mother. I’m just not popular like you were in Blue Mountain…” (Williams Sc 1 1161). Here, Laura makes evident to the reader that she does not view herself as a person worth/popular enough to have many gentlemen callers. Not only this,but the constant pressure Amanda applies to Laura cripples her even further by making her feel as if she has failed her mother by not enticing the attention of a gentleman caller.
One instance in which Laura makes her growing dissatisfaction with herself evident is when she had this exchange with Jim: JIM. Now I remember — you always came in late. LAURA. Yes, it was so hard for me getting upstairs. I had that brace on my leg— it clumped so loud! JIM. I never heard any clumping. LAURA. (wincing at the recollection. ) To me it sounded like — thunder! (Williams Sc 7 1195). Here in this exchange, Laura makes evident how much she is affected by her disability. So much, that it sounds like “thunder” to her, when in reality, it is barely audible.
As a result of this insecurity, she dreaded to go to class, she always arrived late, and she would eventually drop out of Rubicam’s Business College which has impacted her life in the present. She is dependant on Tom and her mother to support herself, but with Tom’s abandonment, she is forced to face the harsh reality of the world on her own. Even prior to this, Laura gives another demonstration of her lack of self confidence. When Amanda tells her that they will be expecting Jim as a gentleman caller, Laura is completely taken aback and becomes very anxious and nervous.
She tells her mother that, “I [Laura] couldn’t sit at the table if it was him! ”. (Williams Sc 6 1184) Laura feels too nervous because Jim is the boy she liked while she was in high school, and she thinks that Jim will not like her. She thinks less of herself due to not only a physical handicap, but a psychological one as well. Another example of someone that suffers from a character flaw is Connie, from the short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ” by Joyce Carol Oates. This story centers around a girl who has a lot of liberty to do what she wants.
However, her flaw is simply that she is too naive towards the world’s dangers and has a difficulty creating any sort of intimate relationship with anyone. Much like Laura, she has a cold relationship with her mother. Connie sees her mother as a person who is difficult to please and who is also constantly comparing her with her older sister June. “June did this, June did that,, she saved money and helped clean the house and cooked…” (Oates 492). This constant comparison with her sister drives Connie to the point of anger and disgust, where Connie cannot stand being with her mom for extended periods of time.
This will go on to play a crucial role in the development of the story. Connie’s frustration with her mother is also made evident by the way Connie believes that her mother prefers June over her, stating that “if June’s name was mentioned her mother’s tone was approving, and if Connie’s name was mentioned it was disapproving” (Oates 495). Connie feels as if she is not appreciated within her household, a factor that leads her to make questionable decisions once Arnold Friend makes his appearance later on in the story.
Along with her shaky relationship with her mother, Connie also has difficulty creating relationships with other people. At the beginning of the story, Connie is portrayed as an outgoing girl who likes to go and flirt with older guys at a restaurant across the mall. At this restaurant, she actively tries to lure the attention of the older guys. However, when one of the boys, Eddie, takes Connie out for a drink, she quickly loses interest, saying that she “gleam[ed[ with a joy that had nothing to do with Eddie” (Oates 494).
Her inability to make a connection with any of the guys she goes out with causes her to continue her search for a person to be with, even if that person is someone she does not know. In addition to her inability to connect with those around her, Connie actively demonstrates a lack of knowledge towards the potentially harmful people she may encounter. When this danger comes literally to her front yard, she is unable to see the red flags of danger that are thrown in her direction.
She proves to be a malleable person who is easily bended and influenced by others. All of these flaws are brought to the attention of the reader by the introduction of Arnold Friend. After Connie refuses to go to her aunt’s party with her mother, she is left on her own at her house when she hears a car arriving, who is later revealed to be driven by Arnold Friend. Throughout their interaction, Arnold persistently tries to get Connie to go away with him, stating that “it’s all over for you here [her home and family]” (Oates 504).
Nicole Holmen, in her psychoanalysis, theorizes that Connie didn’t really want to go away with Arnold, but was “just gullible enough to believe that it really is ‘all over for [her] here’. ” However, Connie notices, and overlooks, key signs that Arnold is not who he appears to be. Arnold is portrayed as a mysterious character who is used as a symbol for the devil himself. He makes this evident by doing a number of things. For example, when Connie threatens him with her father’s impending arrival, he simply brushes it off and tells Connie that he knows her father is at a her Aunt Tillie’s party.
Connie ignores the fact that Arnold knows precisely where her family is, and that Arnold is able to accurately describe the scene that is taking place in town. While it is not obvious to her that this man is the devil, she still does not come to the realization that Arnold has been stalking her and knows a lot about her, despite Connie never telling him these things. So once the character’s flaws have been established, important questions may arise: What is the significance of these flaws? How do they impact the story’s ending?
Both Oates and Williams develop their characters in such a way that they are left in bad situations at the end of their respective stories as a result of their character flaws. For Laura in The Glass Menagerie, her dependency on her brother Tom, who has become weary of carrying the burden of supporting the family, forces him to abandon Laura and Amanda for his search of adventure and happiness. However, because of Laura’s lack of self-esteem, she felt forced to drop out of her business course at the college.
This greatly affects her because now she has no way to support her and her mother, leaving them with no other option than to, as the stage directions say, “blow out the candles” (Oates Sc 7 1208). All hope of her family progressing has come to an abrupt and chilling halt as neither Amanda, who is driven emotionally incapable of grasping reality with her constant reminiscing of her times in Blue Mountain, nor Laura, whose inferiority complex keeps her from trying anything new, is able to find a way to support themselves.
As for Connie in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ”, her inability to see Arnold as a dangerous person, and her lack of affection towards her family cause her to leave with Arnold. Despite clear signs that Arnold has been stalking her for a long time and that he is up to no good, she relents and climbs into the car. Arnold even goes as far as to tell her exactly what he plans to do, stating that, I’m nice at first, the first time. I’ll hold you so tight you won’t think you have to try to get away or pretend anything because you’ll know you can’t.
And I’ll come inside you where it’s all secret and you’ll give in to me and you’ll love me– (Oates 502). Here, Arnold is alluding to the fact that he plans on abusing Connie. Despite this alarming declaration, Connie continues to converse with Arnold, instead of doing as she had threatened and called the police. In doing so, she gives Arnold more time to convince her to come with him. He appeals to her frustrations at not being accepted by her mom as she would like, because she believes “nothing is keeping her, not her friends, her family, or any number of boys she’s met, so why should she stay? (Holmen).
Because of her difficulty creating the bonds she needs with her family, it leads to her making the wrong decision, and to the ambiguous ending we can only assume to be what Arnold had previously described. Both Williams and Oates have created characters that are similar in that their own demise is caused by flaws that are developed throughout their respective stories. Through dialogue and actions performed by each character, each author paints a character that a reader can relate with, in the hopes that the reader learns from the mistakes of their characters.