The Illusive American Dream Deferred
The typical view of the American dream is illustrated by the various characters in the plays “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams and the play “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry. Each character has their perspective as to what the American dream means and how to attain it. The protagonists in each family have their own individual dreams as well as their own barriers in attaining that dream. Although the social, economic and educational barriers are similar, the underlying barriers are quite different in each case. The emasculation of Walter Lee and the strong family commitment of Tom Wingfield are their own personal barriers. The character Walter Lee of “A Raisin in the Sun” as well as Tom Wingfield of “The Glass Menagerie” are two individuals attempting to attain their deferred American dream.
In the play “The Glass Menagerie”, Tom feels trapped and submissive to his family’s wants and needs. His commitment to his family often gets in the way of him pursuing his personal goals. He is the breadwinner who hates his warehouse job and eventually gets fired. His dreams and aspirations of being a poet or joining the Merchant Marines and becoming a world traveler, are momentarily deferred for the sake and well-being of his family. So he escapes into his own world of poetry and movies, and dreams of better days. At one point he expresses his frustration by stating to his mother, “Look I’ve got nothing, no single thing”- “In my life here that I can call my own!” (284; 3). Tom also states – “I go to the movies because – I like adventure. Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies”. “I like a lot of adventure”. (301; 4) Statements of this nature help to illustrate the frustrations of his desire to change his current lifestyle. In this situation the needed family support and dependent relationships tend to be an enormous barrier for Tom in attaining his American dream....
Cited: Hansberry, Lorraine.”A Raisin in the Sun”. Exploring Literature. Ed. Frank Madden, 3rd ed. New York: Pearson, 2007. 350, 351, 361.
Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie”. Exploring Literature. Ed. Frank Madden, 3rd ed. New York: Pearson, 2007. 284,301.
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