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The Glass Menagerie - Term Paper Example

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Name Instructor Class November 24, 2012 Duty to Family versus the Self: Dichotomies in Williams’s The Glass Menagerie Society is the world’s fiercest and most unforgiving dictator. It defines the concept of duty, especially the duty of men and women because they are men and women…
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The Glass Menagerie
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"The Glass Menagerie"

Download file to see previous pages Tom wants to forsake his duty to his family but he seems to have difficulty in leaving Laura the most. In the play, responsibility becomes a choice between duty to one’s dreams and duty to one’s family, which is juxtaposed with gender and social class issues. The Glass Menagerie depicts that society insists that people forget their duty to their own dreams because they have to follow gender and social class norms and expectations. The concept of responsibility is a product of social conditioning, which is based on gender and social class customs. Society teaches gender norms that define the roles and responsibilities of men and women to each other. In Scene 2, Amanda expresses her disappointment with Laura after learning that the latter has dropped her classes at the business college. Amanda underscores the sacrifices made in sending Laura to school: “Fifty dollars’ tuition, all of our plans – my hopes and ambitions for you – just gone up the spout, just gone up the spout like that” (Williams ii. 369). During this time, working class women had limited educational and economic opportunities. For Amanda, Laura is throwing away the only opportunity she has to earn money and to help her brother support their family. Tom has the gravest responsibility of all because as a man, he is expected to provide for his mother and sister. Amanda constantly nags Tom of his duties to his family: “What right have you got to jeopardize your job? Jeopardize the security of us all? How do you think we’d manage if you were –” (Williams iii). Amanda cannot even say the unthinkable. She finds it unthinkable for a man to desert his family because a man’s most important duty is to his family. As a southern belle, she is a traditional woman and her conventions molded her thinking about the duties of men and women. Aside from gender division, society separates people into social classes, where the rich have more freedoms than the poor. Tom envies the life of the rich: “Across the alley from us was the Paradise Dance Hall. You could see [couples] kissing behind ash-pits... This was the compensation for lives that passed like mine, without any change or adventure” (Williams v. 381-82). He hates his life where duty to others is central. The play demonstrates uneven social and gender structures that affect people’s ability to be happy. Society asserts that men have the responsibility to take care of their families’ basic needs and wants. Tom has the duty to raise his family after their father left many years ago. He says: “House, house! Who pays rent on it, who makes a slave of himself to…” (Williams iii. 373). Society thinks it is natural for men to be breadwinners. They are the symbolic beams of the family. Tom thinks differently, however. He wants to follow his duty to himself, but for the longest time, he surrenders to social dictates. Aside from Tom, Jim has a duty to improve Laura’s self-confidence because he sees her as a little sister. He senses Laura’s strong insecurity because of her physical illness: “A little physical defect is what you have. Hardly noticeable even! Magnified thousands of times by imagination! You know what my strong advice to you is? Think of yourself as superior in some way!” (Williams vii. 402). In the article “Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie,” Ardolino argues that the Rubicam College stands for Julius ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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