top-rated free essay

The Glass Menagerie

By jvd1425 Jan 14, 2014 1050 Words
The Glass Menagerie
Surrealism is an early 20th century art movement promoting the idea that the "real world" is within the inner consciousness of the human mind. It stated that art should be built from the full expression of this inner consciousness without any editing. Within this scene of The Glass Menagerie Tennessee Williams used dreams, memories, and surrealism in order to portray the complex relationship between the family members. Scene six involves Tom bringing Jim O'Connor over for dinner at his home.

Tom’s role in The Glass Menagerie—as a character whose memories the play documents and as a character who acts within those memories—underlines the play’s tension between objectively presented dramatic truth and memory’s distortion of truth. Unlike the other characters, Tom sometimes speaks to the audience directly, looking to provide a more detached explanation of what has been occurring onstage. But at the same time, he displays real and sometimes juvenile emotions as he takes part in the play’s action. It shows how the nature of recollection is itself problematic: memory often involves confronting a past in which one was less virtuous than one is now. Because The Glass Menagerie is somewhat autobiographical, and because Tom is a stand-in for the playwright himself (William's given name was Thomas, and he, like Tom, spent part of his youth in St. Louis with an unstable mother and sister, his father not present most of the time), we can apply this remark on the nature of memory to William's memories of his own youth. Tom is full of disagreement. On the one hand, he reads literature, writes poetry, and dreams of escape, adventure, and higher things. On the other, he seems connected to the dirty, petty world of the Wingfield household. All we learn is what he thinks about his mother, his sister, and his warehouse job—the things from which he wants to escape.

Tom’s attitude toward Amanda and Laura is perplexing. Even though he obviously cares for them, he is regularly indifferent and unkind with them. His speech at the end of the play exhibits his strong feelings for Laura. But he cruelly leaves her and Amanda, and not once in the course of the play does he act compassionately toward Laura.

Amanda is the play’s most extroverted and dramatic character, and one of modern American drama’s most popular female roles. Amanda’s continuous nagging of Tom and her refusal to see Laura for who she really is are certainly blameworthy, but Amanda also reveals a willingness to sacrifice for her loved ones that is in many ways incomparable in the play. She subjects herself to the embarrassing labor of subscription sales in order to enhance Laura’s marriage prospects, without ever complaining. The best conclusion to draw is that Amanda is not evil but is deeply blemished. In fact, her flaws are centrally to blame for the tragedy, comedy, and theatrical flair of her character. Like her children, Amanda withdraws from reality into fantasy. Unlike them, she is persuaded that she is not doing so and, consequently, is constantly making efforts to connect with people and the world outside her family. Amanda’s monologues to her children and to Jim all illustrate her moral and psychological failings, but they are also some of the most vivid and memorable words in the play. Amanda hides the broken and bare light bulbs with drapes just as she veils her view of the world with her own illusions. She dresses Laura up as a version of her own youthful self. She sees herself as the self that she fancies she once was, rather than the reality she occupies.

The use of surrealism here, heir of the realism approach, can be seen in a series of events and psychological defects that act simultaneously. Laura's physical dilemma placed in an environment missing a father figure and run by a south-dreaming mother clarifies her shyness and fascination with the glass menagerie. The physically and emotionally crippled Laura is the only character in the play that never does anything to hurt anyone else. Regardless of her own issues, she displays a pure kindness that contrasts the selfishness and resentful sacrifices that characterize the other Wingfields. Laura is as rare and peculiar as a blue rose or a unicorn, and she is as delicate as a glass figurine. Amanda uses the contrast between herself and Laura to emphasize the glamour of her own youth and to fuel her hope of re-creating that youth through Laura. Amanda is so deep into her own vision of the world that she cannot see how ridiculous she appears in her youthful clothing. She aggressively cloaks herself in the past and views the present from the vantage point of these illusions and memories .Tom and Jim both see Laura as a foreign creature, completely and rather quaintly foreign to the rest of the world.

This scene also features Amanda's speech about the jonquils. Like her first story about the 17 gentlemen callers, this story also concludes when Amanda meets her husband, making her marriage the symbolic end of her life. In the end, Amanda submerges under the burden of her own self-image. The straightforward, iron-willed Jim contrasts sharply with the elusive, delicate Laura. Jim is, as Tom says in Scene One, a representative from the “world of reality.” His entrance marks the first instance in the play that the audience comes into contact with the outside world from which the Wingfields, in their various ways, are hiding from.

Leading out of the Wingfields’ apartment is a fire escape, which represents exactly what its name implies: an escape from the fires of irritation and dysfunction that occur in the Wingfield's household. Tom regularly steps onto the landing to smoke, anticipating his ultimate escape. Jim’s supposed dreams present a nightmare vision of the impersonality of humanity—shallow, materialistic, and blindly, relentlessly upbeat. It seems possible that the outside world has not so much denied the Wingfields as they have denied it instead.

Each character is unique in specific ways and has their own intricate personality. In The Glass Menagerie, Williams uses the aspects of surrealism, dreams, and memory in order to illustrate the characters and their complex relationship that they hold with each other.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Glass Menagerie

    ...Glass Menagerie Outline 1 Summarizing Sentence: Amanda Wingfield is the most prominent and dynamic character in the play. I. Amanda begins the play with the first impression of being overprotective and critical of her children A.In the play she appears to be a constantly worried about her families future. 1. She comes up with foolish ways to...

    Read More
  • The Glass Menagerie

    ...The Glass Menagerie Tennessee Williams "Choose a play in which a central character behaves in an obsessive manner. Describe the nature of the character's obsessive behaviour and discuss the influence this behaviour has on your understanding of the character in the play as a whole." "The Glass Menagerie" is a play written by Tennessee Willi...

    Read More
  • The Glass Menagerie

    ...The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams Tom abandoned his family in order to pursue his own future. The play is centered around the theme of family starting with the father of Laura and Tom abandoning the family when they were just children and finally Tom’s selfish abandonment of his family who is entirely dependent on him. In The Glas...

    Read More
  • The Glass Menagerie

    ... 6 November 2013 “The Glass Menagerie” is a play by Tennessee Williams about the lives of a troubled family the Wingfield’s who are living together under one roof in 1944 Chicago. The family consists of the mother, Amanda Wingfield, and her son Tom and daughter Laura, both whom are grown up and in their twenties. Amanda’s husband ...

    Read More
  • Glass Menagerie

    ...Alena Nekrashevich Professor DiAngelo English 112/001 4 December 2012 An Escape from Confinement The Wingfield family in Tennessee Williams “The Glass Menagerie” is one that is held together by the bonds of illusion, dysfunction, and entrapment. Amanda Wingfield lives in a lower middle...

    Read More
  • Glass Menagerie

    ...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,...

    Read More
  • The Glass Menagerie

    ...Dalton Peeples Mr. Saine English 102 M-W 4:30 December 3, 2012 Happiness versus Responsibility The characters in The Glass Menagerie have a conflict that all people have to face at least once, a decision between their right to pursue happiness or their responsibility to others. The members of the Wingfield family face this internal conflic...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.