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The Glass Menagerie' by Tennessee Williams - Essay Example

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This essay will examine 'The Glass Menagerie' by Tennessee Williams (1936), by first summarizing the play, then analyzing the characters and themes, incorporating symbols and literary elements. In particular, the character studies will show how the messages and voice of the playwright emerge, in this powerful portrayal of loss of the American Dream, showing both personal and universal reflection on the human condition.
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The Glass Menagerie' by Tennessee Williams

Download file to see previous pages... Jim O'Connor, the gentleman caller, bears the same name as the young man who called on Rose Williams, before her descent into insanity. The action takes place in a small apartment in a poor district of the city, crowded outside and in, surrounded by many dark alleys and fire escapes, exploring the illusory lives of the three main characters as they attempt to achieve their dreams, only for it all to end in failure and disappointment.
It has been interpreted variously as a psychological drama portraying a dysfunctional family, the tragedy of a fragile psyche (Laura) edging into madness, and a socio-political statement, "his personal testament to the Great Depression" (p.20, Hale, 1998). It is all of these as becomes apparent as the action moves from the past to the present as Tom's recollection are recalled and
Character Analysis - Tom Wingfield: Tom is a poet, working in a boring low paid job in a shoe factory, the main economic support for his mother and sister. Despite his position as the main provider, an adult male, he is denied that status, simply by how his mother perceives things should be, rather than what they are, and by her demands on him to be that provider until another appears (a husband for Laura). He is complex, shy and intelligent, his creativity dismissed and ridiculed by his mother. He seeks escape through the illusions of the movies, but recognizes the reality of the times in which he seeks his dreams:
Tom: "Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in
America, while everybody in America sits in a darkened room and watches them have them!
Yes, until there's a war. That's when adventure becomes available to the masses!....Then the
people in the dark room come out of the dark room to have some adventure themselves-...."
(Williams, 1936, Scene Six, p. 282)
Some connection to socialist values appear when Tom paid his dues to the Union of Merchant Seamen, rather than the electric bill - thus highlighting a belief in the unions and socialism, as opposed to capitalism.
His relationship with his mother is volatile, as she is the nagging presence preventing his escape and fulfillment. He loves his shy, fragile sister and the most telling example Williams's lyrical language and symbolism which elicit poignant imagery and the emotion of guilt can be found as he reflects on his escape.

Tom: " I didn't go to the moon, I went much further - for time is the longest distance between two places...Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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