The Glass Menagerie

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Steven E. Milburn Jr.

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Ingredients of a Tragic Drama and a Modern Tragic Heroine

Tennessee Williams wrote and created the play, "The Glass Menagerie," with the

concept of tragedy in mind. Random House's denotative meaning of the word tragedy is

as follows: a dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber

theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict

with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to down fall or destruction. The play

takes place within a small dingy apartment in St. Louis during the late 1930's, a time of

enjoying a waltz, listening to phonograph records, and experiencing social or economical

misfortune. The action of the play revolves around three characters that are all

Wingfields: Amanda (the mother,) Tom (the son,) and Laura (the daughter). Each

character endures some type of adversity throughout the play, which can possibly be

attributed to the fact that Mr. Wingfield (husband / father) abandoned them years earlier.

"The Glass Menagerie" contains several attributes relevant to a tragedy play such as the

serious struggle between Amanda (protagonist) and Tom (antagonist). In order for us to

justifiably label "The Glass Menagerie" as a tragic drama we must thoroughly examine

the play and prove that it contains the proper ingredients to make a tragic drama;

furthermore, we need to focus on how the character of Amanda fits the characteristics of

a modern tragic heroine.

"The Glass Menagerie" can be classified as a tragic drama by analyzing and revealing

the tragic events that happened in Amanda's life. Tragedy is foreshadowed from the

beginning: Tom opens up the play with tragic news of his absent father, a "fifth character

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in the play who doesn't appear except in this larger-than-life photograph over the mantel"

(643). To have a thoughtless husband abandon you during the years in which you needed

him the most is just absolutely dreadful, especially when you did not deserve it! Mr.

Wingfield's selfish and cruel actions result in the aging Amanda being charged with all

of the parental responsibilities: a task that can potentially drive a sane person mad.

Amanda is a faded tragic remnant of Southern gentility who once received seventeen

gentlemen callers of the most prominent type (644,) but tragically married a drunkard

who deserted her. Though her methods were ineffective and sometimes irritating, she

continually fights an uphill battle as she strives to give meaning to the lives of her

children. For example, Amanda wishes to increase Laura's chances of finding a husband

and strongly believes that a well kept, attractive apartment will help Laura catch a man.

Amanda subjects herself to monotonous rejection throughout her subscription sales in

order to boost Laura's chance of marriage without expressing one single word of


Ida Scott? This is Amanda Wingfield!—Well, this is a book that critics

compare to Gone with the Wind.—What—Burning?—Oh, honey, don't

let them burn—Heavens—I think she's hung up!

With the persistence of Amanda and the assistance of Tom, Laura is finally set up with a

gentleman caller named Jim; not only is this gentleman caller Tom's friend from work,

but Jim is also coincidentally Laura's high school crush. Amanda is so anxious to

entertain Jim that she works around-the-clock making preparations to include investing in

new clothes and furniture. When Amanda discovers that Laura's would-be husband is

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already engaged, she becomes infuriated and blames poor Tom for the tragic mishap:

That's right, now that you've had us make such fools of ourselves. The

efforts, the preparations, all the expense! The new floor lamp, the...
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