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Glass Menagerie

By nadiapaputnikava May 18, 2013 1665 Words
The role of the family in the shaping of the lives of the character’s in "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams.
Families are a compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter."(Brad Henry)
Probably the strongest influence on our lives is our family. Our birth order, the personalities of our parent(s), the way we were treated by siblings, the family socioeconomic status, their education, the place where we live - all of these shape us greatly at the time when we are most vulnerable to being formed- our childhoods.

  Tennessee William's play "The Glass Menagerie" is considered by many critiques to be “an autobiographical play about William’s life, the characters and story mimicking his own more closely than any of his other works” (Wikipedia.org). As in his own life, family played an important role in the shaping of the character’s lives in his play. In the following paper I will present some arguments in support of this opinion.   The main characters of the play are: Amanda Wingfield, Laura Wingfield and Tom Wngfield.  We don’t know much about Mr. Wingfield. His life was not a factor in the play. However, he left his family and this certainly had an impact on it. His wife, Amanda, regrets that she married a man who worked for a telephone company.  Throughout the play one can see that in her opinion this marriage eliminated the chance of a good life she could have had by not marrying him. Among her gallants were “some of the most prominent young planters of the Mississippi Delta - planters and sons of planters”(Tennessee, 754). Instead of marrying one of them she married a telephone company worker and because of that, in her opinion, neither she nor her children managed to be successful in the modern world.

 Mrs. Wingfield's daughter, Laura Wingfield, is presented in the play as being ultimately shy and “to some extend unsociable” (Hubpages.com).  One of the reasons for this shyness was her crippled leg. The other reason is that her mother put herself before her daughter. This can could be seen in the beginning of the Scene Six:       "Well, in the South we had so many servants. Gone, gone, gone. All vestige of gracious living! Gone completely! I wasn’t prepared for what the future brought me. All of my gentlemen callers were sons of planters and so of course I assumed that I would be married to one and raise my family on a large piece of land with plenty of servants. But man proposes—and woman accepts the proposal! To vary that old, old saying a bit—I married no planter! I married a man who worked for the telephone company! A telephone man who—fell in love with long-distance." (Tennessee 754).

Instead of creating a favorable atmosphere for Laura, she prefers to always put herself at the center of attention even in front of a supposed gentleman caller on her daughter. This can be seen as a proof of Mrs. Wingfield considering herself as being more important than her daughter. Moreover, this contributes to Laura’s feeling of shyness. Compounding this, Mrs. Wingfield uses the contrast between herself and her daughter to emphasize the glamour of her own youth. Moreover, she says she would be glad if Laura could have had the same opportunities as she did. That would she thinks have boosted her feeling of confidence and contributed to the decrease of her shyness.  However, Amanda did not fail completely. Shy people usually do not have the courage to contradict the decisions of others. Nevertheless, there are some details in the play that show Laura being not that desperate after all. For example, Laura spending days walking the streets instead of going to typing class could be the result of this unfavorable contrast between mother and daughter. Through this example we can see that Laura has actually developed a will of her own however secret, which is not really acknowledged throughout the play.  

In the play, it isn't that Mrs. Wingfield doesn't love Laure. She does, but always goes about showing it throughout her own self- pity and narcissism. Her twisted love towards Laura is perfectly. illustrated in the scene where she agreed to sell magazine subscriptions in order to earn extra money. These were “…logical steps in the planned direction. Late that winter and in the early spring - realizing that extra money would be needed to properly feather the nest and plume the bird… “(Tennessee 758). In her mother's opinion, this was a spiteful and disrespectful act. However, she does believe that this money could attract suitor sand sold subscriptions without any complaints.   The third central character in the play is Tom Wingfield. "He did not like his life, his mindless job and the fact that he had to support his family” (writework.com). One can clearly see it in the beginning of Scene Four when Tom tells Laura about the magician who managed to escape from the coffin. He associates his life with this coffin and wants to escape as well:

  "But the wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without removing one nail. . . . There is a trick that would come in handy for me—get me out of this two-by-four situation! . . . You know it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?" (Tennessee 760).

Tom Wingfield wanted to have an adventurous life-which he finally managed to do by spending the money meant to pay his family’s electric bill. He used this money to enroll in the Merchant Marine Service and abandoned his loved ones. However, he never escaped them in his memories:   "I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space. . . . I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something. . . . I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow. Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be." (Tennessee 784).

From this excerpt one can see another impact family had into the shaping of Tom’s life. He escaped his previous life physically but the memories about his sister were as real as they were in the Wingfield apartment back in the time. It also hints that Tom may have had an unhealthy physical attraction towards his sister. Throughout the entire play, though he never once behave in a kindly or loving manner with regard to Laura. Based on this, we may suspect that Tom’s behavior indicates an incestuous intention towards his sister and his shame over those taboo desires. It also could very well be another reason for his desire to escape from his family.          In my case, I grew up in a strong and healthy family that was always there for me. I did get into a lot of fights with my siblings, but now that I am in college and beginning my own life, I realize how much I really care for and love them. Thinking back on my childhood, my parents told me to be the best person I could possibly be. They showed me how to pursue a good work ethic, and how to treat others the way I want to be treated. From my mother I learnt how to be a good housewife, how to cook, clean, organize everything in the house. My father taught me how to choose friends, how to be honest and faithful; also he taught me how to defend myself, which I think is very important for a girl. All of these good lessons shaped up my personality and gave me an opportunity after I left my family and stepped into a bigger life here in America with confidence. My family is what made me who I am today.    The Wingfields family however all became crippled, not just Laura. Children are almost always their parents' lead. May be here, it is also the case. In the play It started with Amanda’s dreams of a different life and thoughts of what could have happened if she could have married a plantation owner and if the society would not have changed. It evolved in Tom’s hating his family life and looking it-in literature, alcohol, movies and finally leaving the family as his father did, before him. And, it continued on and on, with Laura trying so desperately to escape both her family and society around her that she creates her own world, "a glass managerie," because of her crippled leg and her mother’s domineering and crippling attitude towards her. As one can easily see, every major character in this play had an important role and has greatly contributed towards the shaping of the other character’s hearts, minds, and fates.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Work Cited

Hubpages.com "Escapism in The Glass Menagerie: How Tom Wingfield uses Poetry and the Movies."  American Literature, 06 April 2012. Web. 7 May 2013.  http://adamvera.hubpages.com/hub/Escapism-in-The-Glass-Menagerie  

Tennessee, Williams. The Glass Menagerie. 3d ed. 784. New York: New Directions, 1999. 754. Print.http://mattlally.com/fiction/the_glass_menagerie.pdf  
Wikipedia.org. "The Glass Menagerie." Wikipedia.org. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 22 February, 2013. Web. 7 May 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glass_Menagerie  
White Work contributions. “The Glass Menagerie – Character Analysis of Tom Wingfield.” WriteWork.com. WriteWork.com, 14 March, 2007. Web. 07 May.2013.http://www.writework.com/essay/glass-menagerie-character-analysis-tom-wingfield

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