Dysfunctional Families

Topics: Great Expectations, Family, Miss Havisham Pages: 6 (2473 words) Published: July 16, 2013
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. During Tom’s time at home, there are many conflicts between him and his mother. This affects Tom, as he works long hours in the warehouse doing the same thing everyday. He then comes home to a mother who is constantly telling him what to and what no to do, as well as a sister who isn’t pulling her own weight. Amanda often criticises Tom’s behaviour. In the first scene nearly everything Amanda says to Tom is a command – for example, such as “Don’t push with your fingers, chew chew! … Human beings are supposed to chew”, “You’re not excused from the table” and “You smoke too much”. These constant commands from Amanda’s point of view are caring, however, Tom only thinks of them as her trying to control his every move; he is at the end of his wick. In Scene Three, Tom lets Amanda know once and for all what he thinks of the situation. Amanda: “What right do you have to jeopardize your job? Jeopardize the security of us all? How do you think we’d manage if you were…”. Tom interrupts: “I’d rather somebody battered my brains out than go back (the warehouse) every morning … and you say self is all I think of. Why, listen, if self is what I thought of, Mother, I’d be where he is (points to father’s portrait) - GONE!” In the end it is all too much for Tom and he leaves his helpless sister and commanding mother. He ventures off into the world; like father like son! Belonging to a dysfunctional family has deeply affected Tom and has eventually made him leave.

Laura Wingfield, from The Glass Menagerie, is shy, unconfident, crippled and she often withdraws from reality. This is because she belongs to a dysfunctional family. Her mother has tried to help her by sending her to business school and finding her a gentlemen caller. Unfortunately, these are not Laura’s visions for herself, they’re Amanda’s. Although Amanda truly loves Laura, she cannot see that her bossy and overpowering personality is making Laura withdraw herself from reality even further. Laura stopped going to...
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