Glass Menagerie Is a Play by Tennessee Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1918 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

¶ … Glass Menagerie is a play by Tennessee Williams. It had its premiere in Chicago on December 26th, 1944, and in 1945 won the prestigious New York Drama Critics Circle Award. "The Glass Menagerie" was Williams's first highly successful play.

The plot revolves around the family of Tom Wingfield, and he appears in the beginning to explain how the play is structured and to introduce the other characters. "Tom Wingfield, the narrator as well as a main character, appears at the beginning to explain that this play is made up of memories, and as such, it will seem unrealistic in some respects. He introduces himself, his mother Amanda, his sister Laura, and the photograph of his long-absent father. He also tells that audience about the most realistic character, Jim, who will be Laura's gentleman caller." (

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All of the main characters of this play have some unhappiness and unfulfilled expectations about their lives. Tom has a job he dislikes and dreams of poetry and adventures, while his sister is too shy to have a regular relationship with someone other than her family and so finds comfort in her collection of glass animals. "Tom works in a shoe warehouse and is miserably unhappy with his life because he wants to find adventure and write poetry. His job at the warehouse certainly doesn't satisfy these desires. His mother, an aging Southern belle abandoned by her husband sixteen years ago, is constantly nagging Tom about ways to improve himself; he's so miserable with his life that her nagging only increases his irritation and drives him to the movies night after night to escape his pathetic life. Laura, who is too shy to interact with people outside her family, is a recluse with a slight handicap who is unable to have a life outside the apartment and her collection of glass animals." (idem)

Term Paper on Glass Menagerie Is a Play by Tennessee Assignment

Amanda considers the only alternative for her daughter is marriage, since Laura is unable to support herself financially after she dropped out of the typing class she sent her to. She arranges for Tom to bring someone for dinner to meet Laura. "Laura has dropped out of the typing class that Amanda insisted she take to prepare for supporting herself if necessary; Laura quit because she was embarrassed that she threw up in the classroom before the first timed test. Amanda, at her wit's end for how to procure a stable life for Laura, decides that marriage is the only other option, and she must seek a man to marry. Amanda convinces Tom to bring home someone from the warehouse to meet his sister. She tells Tom that he can go seek adventure only when Laura's future is certain, and he cooperates." (idem)

The guy Tom brings for dinner turns out to be the only one Laura had ever had feeling for since high school, but she is disappointed and heartbroken at finding out that he is actually engaged and everything was a sort of misunderstanding. "Tom brings home Jim O'Connor, a guy he knew vaguely in high school as the golden boy of high school. Tom knows that Laura knew Jim slightly, but he doesn't realize that Jim is the only man Laura's ever had feelings for. When Jim arrives, Laura is too overcome with anxiety to eat dinner with them, but circumstances (with a little help from Amanda) find Laura and Jim alone in the living room. When he finally remembers who she is, Laura begins to come out of her shell. The conversation wanders through high school to the present, and Jim, convinced that Laura needs someone to boost her confidence and a little overcome by the moment, kisses her. Only then does he realize his drastic mistake. He explains that he's engaged and can't be involved with her, and he leaves, breaking her fragile heart in the process." (idem)

The final scenes of the plot present a rupture in the family following which Tom goes off to find adventure, but he can never really escape his past. "Amanda, completely enraged and hopeless, believes that Tom set them up to look like fools. She and Tom have a huge fight that sends him out to the movies again. Shortly after that night, Tom is fired from the warehouse for writing a poem on a shoebox lid, and he goes off with the Merchant Marines to find the adventure he craves just as his father did. The only problem is that Tom can't forget about Laura no matter where he goes, and he hasn't completely escaped the life he led in St. Louis." (idem)

There are a number of symbols that repeat themselves throughout the play. Their understanding gives an insight into the world of the play and its meaning, and into the intricacies of the characters and their lives. The most obvious symbol is, of course, the glass menagerie itself, with its fragility and easily destroyable beauty. Another one is the fire escape, which becomes a sort of theme for the entire play, the idea of escaping their current situation being real and present for all the characters. "The play is replete with lyrical symbolism. The glass menagerie, in its fragility and delicate beauty, is a symbol for Laura. She is oddly beautiful and, like her glass pieces, easy to destroy. The fire escape is most closely linked to Tom's character and to the theme of escape. Laura stumbles on the escape, while Tom uses it to get out of the apartment and into the outside world. He goes down the fire escape one last time at the end of the play, and he stands on the landing during his monologues. His position there metaphorically illustrates his position between his family and the outside world, between his responsibility and the need to live his own life." ( / shortsumm.html The glass unicorn in itself is also a powerful symbol, because of its rarity and unusualness as an animal and also because of its relation to Laura. "The glass unicorn in Laura's collection -- significantly, her favourite figure -- represents her peculiarity. As Jim points out, unicorns are "extinct" in modern times and are lonesome as a result of being different from other horses. Laura too is unusual, lonely, and ill-adapted to existence in the world in which she lives. The fate of the unicorn is also a smaller-scale version of Laura's fate in Scene Seven. When Jim dances with and then kisses Laura, the unicorn's horn breaks off, and it becomes just another horse. Jim's advances endow Laura with a new normalcy, making her seem more like just another girl, but the violence with which this normalcy is thrust upon her means that Laura cannot become normal without somehow -shattering. Eventually, Laura gives Jim the unicorn as a "souvenir." Without its horn, the unicorn is more appropriate for him than for her, and the broken figurine represents all that he has taken from her and destroyed in her." (

There are other symbols as well that can be identified, like the one represented by light, or that of the escape provided by the movies' world. "Another important symbol repeated throughout the book is that of light. Tom's refusal to pay the light bill, his command for Laura to blow out her candle at the end of the play, Laura coming into the light during Jim's visit and the moonlight vigil, seem to suggest that it represents the characters' hopes and their relationships to each-other. Perhaps even another important symbol is Tom's obsession with film. His constant retreat from the house to the theatre is a way for him to literally and mentally escape his life. While watching a movie, Tom can escape from his world in the movie world. His final departure to the Marines seems almost theatrical in its un-uniqueness." (

Throughout the play there are a number of themes and motifs that speak about the characters, their thoughts and beliefs, their ideas about their own lifes. Such themes are the difficulty of accepting reality or the imposibility of true escape, or the motif of abandonment, that of the father first and then of the son. "Among the most prominent and urgent themes of "The Glass Menagerie" is the difficulty the characters have in accepting and relating to reality. Each member of the Wingfield family is unable to overcome this difficulty, and each, as a result, withdraws into a private world of illusion where he or she finds the comfort and meaning that the real world does not seem to offer. Of the three Wingfields, reality has by far the weakest grasp on Laura. The private world in which she lives is populated by glass animals -- objects that, like Laura's inner life, are incredibly fanciful and dangerously delicate"(...) "The play takes an ambiguous attitude toward the moral implications and even the effectiveness of Tom's escape. As an able-bodied young man, he is locked into his life not by exterior factors but by emotional ones… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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