Dysfunctional Families

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Dysfunctional families are common to both the world of Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens and The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams. A family is a basic social unit consisting of more than one human being. Functional families co-operate with one another to sustain a happy and nurturing home life that is comforting and a pleasure to be in. Members of a functional family genuinely care for one another’s safety and wellbeing. A dysfunctional family is the opposite of a functional family. In Great Expectations there are two dysfunctional families, Joe Gardgery’s family - including Miss Joe, Pip and Joe himself; and Miss Havershams family, which consists of her and her adopted daughter, Estella. Technically, the escaped convict, known as Magwitch, his wife and daughter could be considered as dysfunctional too. Their family is not as predominant as the other two families. In The Glass Menagerie, Tom, Laura, Amanda and Amanda’s absent husband are also a dysfunctional family. Family is important to the main characters in each of these texts, as it is the source of their values, morals and beliefs.

Tom Wingfield, from The Glass Menagerie, is a young man who wants to explore the world and go on breathtaking adventures. His father left his mother, Amanda, for this reason when Tom was a young boy. Tom has been the man of the house ever since. The Glass Menagerie is set in St Louis, USA, in a time where women did not have much power in men’s business. Amanda has a job selling magazines over the phone, which does not earn her enough money for the family to live off. Tom, therefore, works in a shoe factory, which is not the most exciting job in the world, and this is the main source of income for the family. Laura Wingfield is Tom’s older sister - she is 26, crippled and lives in her own world full of tiny fragile glass animals, along with an old victrola. Laura is the main source of conflict for the family because she aimlessly wanders through life with no purpose.

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