The Glass Menagerie Essay
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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.
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.