The Glass Menagerie and Aristotle's Poetics

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Madeline Caughey

4 April 2013

Professor Wivlagg

English 102

“The Relationship of Aristotle's Poetics to Modern Dramatic Tragedy as Exhibited in Tennessee

William's The Glass Menagerie”

Aristotle's poetics were created by Aristotle himself and they were a literary work of his dramatic

theory. “The Glass Menagerie” is a play written by, Tennessee Williams, that exemplifies Aristotle's

opinion of poetry being an imitation of life or a mythos. It is also a tragedy because it follows

Aristotle's poetic guidelines. Aristotle said in order for a plot to be a tragedy it must always involve

some sort of undone or done deed. An error must also occur on behalf of the hero in order to be a

tragedy. “The Glass Menagerie” is a tragedy because Laura's shyness led her to not being with the only

man she ever wanted to be with.

“The Glass Menagerie”, is a story based on the misfortunes of Tom, Amanda, and Laura. It is set in

St. Louis, during the year 1937. Amanda is the overbearing mother of Tom and Laura. Tom works in a

shoe warehouse, but longs for adventure and prefers to spend his time watching movies and reading

literature. Laura is her crippled and awkwardly shy daughter who needs a “suitor”. After her mother,

Amanda, discovered Laura had been skipping classes at college she decided it was time for Laura to

find herself a husband. Laura doubted ever finding a man because of her painful timidity and leg

brace. Tom then tells his mother of a man named, Jim O'Connor, who would suit his sister. Tom quickly

invites Jim over for dinner. Amanda went overboard with her ostentatious dress and outgoing spirit,

while Laura hid nearly the whole time. Due to a power outage, Laura and Jim were forced to spend

some time with each other. Their conversations started out awkward and quick, but Jim's warm and

gentle personality broke through Laura's shell, opening her up to Jim. Laura confesses her love she had

for him back in high school, but how she unfortunately never told him because she was to shy to even

have a conversation with him. Jim then proceeds to kiss her, but quickly draws back, with a haste

response of how he has a fiance. Laura understands and offers him the unicorn as a souvenir to cover

her disappointment. Jim then leaves, and Amanda reprimands Tom and comforts Laura. Tom finds that

not long after Jim's visit he is fired from the shoe warehouse and moves on with his life, but Laura still

haunts his feelings.

Aristotle's poetics retain the guidelines for what makes a piece of literature a tragedy. Aristotle splits

the important parts of tragedy into these: plot, characters, thought, diction, melody, and spectacle. In

order for a literature work to be a tragedy it must contain: plot unity, an intelligent use of the elements,

a hero going from happiness to misery, true character, misery due to the error or flaw of the hero, and a

tragic deed which can be left done or undone.

Character is an important part of tragedy, and Laura's character is the hero who makes the story a

tragedy. The hero, according to Aristotle, must go from happiness to misery. Laura, in the beginning of

the story, was satisfied with the way her life was going. She enjoyed skipping her classes and going to

the movies, the park, or the zoo. Laura did not have a care in the world and enjoyed her life, until Jim

came along and her ending became lonesome and miserable. Laura's life became miserable because of

her hamartia or “tragic flaw”. Shyness is why she ends up alone. If Laura had not been terribly quiet in

high school, she may have had a chance with Jim. Jim clearly has feelings for her when he visits her

house for dinner, but it was sadly too late because he was engaged. Laura's flaw was shyness, and

shyness is why she ends up miserable. Since Laura ends up alone and miserable is why “The Glass...
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