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Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie Analysis - Essay Example

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The Glass Menagerie: Analysis The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams delves into the lives of Tom Wingfield and his mother and sister, Amanda and Laura. After his father abandoned his family, Tom took on the duties of ensuring that his mother and sister had everything they needed to get along in life by supporting them financially…
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Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie Analysis
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The Glass Menagerie: Analysis The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams delves into the lives of Tom Wingfield and his mother and sister, Amanda andLaura. After his father abandoned his family, Tom took on the duties of ensuring that his mother and sister had everything they needed to get along in life by supporting them financially. Tom also took on the responsibilities of tending to the well-being of his ill and painfully shy younger sister. However, Tom’s ignorance and selfishness gets the better of him, a behavior that had been building up until it reached a boiling point at the end of the play, resulting in Laura’s emotional distress. The characters, themes, and symbols in the final scenes of The Glass Menagerie reveal the significance of Tom’s behavior on the emotional welfare of his family, especially on Laura. As the primary caretaker of his family, it was up to Tom to provide for and take care of his mother and sister. However, his detached behavior throughout the course of the play suggests something other than love and kindness for his family. The intensity of his selfishness and lack of concern is made apparent toward the end of the play after Laura learns that Jim O’Connor, her high school crush, was engaged to be married, a major detail that Tom failed to mention when setting the two up for dinner. After the devastation of this scene, and despite the pain that he caused his sister, Tom left the house never to return. There was an ease in how he abandoned his family. His mother described his condition perfectly when she said, just moments before he walked out, “You live in a dream; you manufacture illusions!” (Williams). It was known that Tom was not always satisfied with his life, but the incident at the end of the play allowed him to get what he truly craved: boundless freedom. The greatest change was seen in Laura, who accepted the truth of reality when she was rejected by Jim and abandoned by Tom. Known for her shyness, or as Tom described her, “terribly shy and lives in a world of her own” (Williams), her reaction to Jim’s rejection is almost shocking. Though she takes his news of being in a committed relationship badly, she gave him the souvenier of the broken glass unicorn before he left. The glass menagerie was Laura’s pride and joy, as well as being a facet of who she was, and by surrendering one of her prized figurines, she was accepting that her reality was not in any material object. There is a strength present in Laura in this action that, while silently existing throughout the play, finally takes its mask off and reveals itself to the world. Tom’s abandonment may have been trying on Laura, who is not as emotionally fragile as others perceive, but it proved its use by allowing her to grasp the truth of her reality. She was no longer confined to her glass figurines. Themes of the impossibility of escape and the inability to accept reality abound in The Glass Menagerie, but come to fruition during the final scenes. While each character had the need to escape, the desire was strongest in Tom. He craved distance, while also fearing it (Bluefarb 515). He spent much of the play lost in books and music, losing himself in worlds far from his own, and regretting the dependency that his mother and sister had for him. Unfortunately, though their dependency was what kept him physically around, he had already emotionally and mentally left. By the end of the play, when he cracks under the pressure involved in keeping his fragile sister happy, and perhaps recognizing the strength in her as she responds to Jim’s rejection, Tom finally turns the impossibility of escape into a reality. He leaves, gaining the freedom that taking care of his family had deprived him. The theme of the inability to accept reality plagues Laura more than anyone else. From childhood, she was a different girl, sick with pleurosis and incredibly shy. Believing that she did not belong in reality, which is seen in how she abandoned or rejected her mother’s attempts at getting her socialized, Laura rejected reality and created one of her own. It was not a reality where she was better, healthier, or more outgoing, but one where she could not be touched by what took place in the real world. With Jim’s rejection, though, came Laura’s willingness to accept that the reality she had concocted for herself was not accurate, even though she was “unable to detach herself completely from the situation” (King 208). She had always known that she was different, but Jim, despite his devastating rejection, had made Laura feel beautiful, unique, and worthwhile - characteristics that she could never accept about herself. When Laura presented Jim with the damaged unicorn, saying, “now it’s just like all the other horses” (Williams), she was acknowledging that even she was no longer as different and set apart as she had believed, thus accepting reality. The unicorn is the most prominent symbol at the end of The Glass Menagerie. Like the rest of the figures in Laura’s collection, this piece symbolized how different Laura considered herself from other girls in the world. This was perhaps why Laura favored it more than her other figurines; she was able to relate to its oddities. The unicorn losing its horn, becoming like other horses, symbolized Laura’s transition into someone who was no longer too different for the world or misunderstood. Before this incident, Laura “recognized the truth about herself in that present” (Bluefarb 516), but after the unicorn was damaged, Laura accepted the truth about herself in general, no longer confining her identity to each moment. The Glass Menagerie is a story that tells of the downfalls of Tom and Amanda, and the liberation of Laura, all of which came about as a result of the selfish behavior of Tom. The significance of his behavior and its results are seen in the character development, themes, and the symbol of the unicorn in the closing scenes of the play. Tom’s actions may have pulled his family apart, showing his true colors in the sense that it was easy to neglect his family. However, it also allowed Laura to cease hiding from herself and believing that she did not belong in the world. For the first time in her life, she knew that she belonged regardless of her the characteristics that made her unique. Works Cited Bluefarb, Sam. "The Glass Menagerie: Three Visions of Time." College English 24.7 (1963): 513-18. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 May 2013. King, Thomas L. "Irony and Distance in "The Glass Menagerie"" Educational Theatre Journal 25.2 (1973): 207-14. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 May 2013. Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New York: New Directions, 1999. Print. Read More
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