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'The Glass Menagerie' by Tennessee Williams.

By mariek04 Jul 26, 2003 940 Words
Generally, the title of a work of literature exposes the principal concept that the author is trying to convey. Other compositions reveal the significance of their appellation only gradually. In "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams, the intent of the play's label is shown through the writer's use of contrast, repetition, allusion, and point of view.

First, Williams illustrates the polarity between Laura's relationship with her delicate animal collection and the real world. Laura Wingfield, one of the main characters of the literary drama, is an unconfident and extremely timid individual who lives in a society where financial and emotional stability is a rare commodity. While everyone else is trying to make some sort of difference to better their life or career, Laura stays safely out of the grasp of reality. When enrolled in a business class, she drops out because she becomes physically sick in having to confront others. The twenty-three year old girl withdraws from the changing environment and people around her because she believes they will exhibit animosity towards her due to a physical defect. Instead, she sits at home, lovingly taking care of her assortment of miniature statues to pass the day. Tom Wingfield, her brother, says of her, "She lives in a world of her own, a world of glass ornaments...".

Next, a great deal of repetition concerning emotion and daily routine is apparent in "The Glass Menagerie". Amanda Wingfield, Laura and Tom's mother, reverently reminisces about the days of her youth in the south. She recollects memories of her abundant servants, extravagant home, lavish clothes, and numerous gentleman callers. She speaks in an almost wistful tone that tells of her yearning for the days of yore. She mentions her years of juvenility so often that it is as if she is not really living the indignant life that her husband left her. The play also repeatedly cited that Tom attended movies to escape the rhetoric of warehouse employment. When Amanda inquires into why he goes to the theater so often, he answers, "I go to the movies because...I like adventure. Adventure is something I don't have much at work, so I go to the movies". The last Wingfield, the uncertain Laura, spends her hours polishing and cleaning the glass creatures she is so devoted to. Throughout the play, Laura does this an infinite number of times.

Williams also used references to history, art, and music to suggest relevant details in the story. In the play's opening scene, Tom addresses the audience. He compares Guernica, a town in Spain that was devastated by the Spanish Civil War, to peaceful American cities; like Chicago, Cleveland, and St. Louis. He informs them that, like Guernica, there is shouting, confusion, and violent disturbances of labor. This allusion lays out the social background of the play. Later, the French phrase Ou sont les neiges d'antan is projected onto a screen. This means "where are the snows of yesteryear?" and is a reference to a poem by Francois Villon. This excerpt shows how all of the Wingfields are longing for a purer future or in Amanda's case, a magnificent past. When Amanda waits pensively for Tom to apologize for running out of the house during a previous argument, Williams wrote that the light reflecting on her "...aged but childish features is cruelly sharp, satirical as a Daumier print." Honore Daumier was a French artist in the mid nineteenth century. This comparison between Daumier's artwork and Amanda's face presents the thought that Amanda's expressions are as evident as those on Laura's glass companions. These and many other allusions are strategically placed throughout the entire drama.

Finally, the perspective in which the story was told helped develop the significance of the title "The Glass Menagerie". The Wingfields were a low middle class family living in the time period between World War I and World War II. The mother, Amanda, had been raised in the south. Being used to old fashioned values and southern charm, she tries vehemently to have the same for her children. When she tries to arrange a relationship between Laura and Jim O'Connor, a fellow warehouse worker of Tom's, she grooms and 'polishes' her until she was like "...a piece of translucent glass touched by light, given a momentary radiance, not actual, not lasting." Because her beloved daughter could not make it in school, the traditional Amanda believes the only hope for both of them is for Laura to marry. Her son, Tom, believes that there is much more for him beyond the fire escape of their extremely modest apartment. The reoccurring nagging of his mother, the dead end job he is employed at, and the lack of opportunities in his environment paint a bleak viewpoint for Tom. Laura, on the other hand, never experiences the real world and falls into a never ending pattern of being afraid of making an impression on others and cleaning her glass animals. Her point of view is, unlike the other Wingfields, not one of sadness or boredom, but one of 'what ifs'.

In conclusion, the title of Tennessee Williams' play was crucially developed through the use of contrast, repetition, allusion, and point of view. In the end, Laura suffers from a broken heart and while Amanda tries in vain to comfort her, Tom abandons them much like his father. The lives of the Wingfields are much like that of Laura's glass menagerie. They wait in statuesque fashion for something to effect their lives and their futures. Their existence, as beautiful and yet as fragile as glass balances upon a shelf of their fantasies, a shelf so high that not even the grasp of reality can reach them.

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