Glass Menagerie Tennessee Williams Could Not Help Term Paper

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Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams could not help but to embed elements of his personal life into one of his most memorable plays the Glass Menagerie. Themes of mental illness, paternal abandonment, and the breakdown of traditional Southern social norms pervade the play. Using rich symbolism and metaphor, Williams crafts a semi-autobiographical "memory play," (Durham p. 61). Told through the eyes of narrator Tom, the story of the Wingfields remarkably resembles Williams' own life. Tennessee Williams was born with the name Thomas, like the play's narrator. Moreover, Tennessee's sister Rose suffered from a debilitating illness: schizophrenia. Laura Wingfield's severe detachment from reality parallels Rose's and in fact, Jim called Laura a Blue Rose. Tennessee's father escaped through alcohol. His emotional detachment and abandonment of his family emerges in the character of Mr. Wingfield, whose absence pervades the play. Although the Glass Menagerie remains semi-autobiographical, Williams succeeds in offering broader social commentary.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Term Paper on Glass Menagerie Tennessee Williams Could Not Help Assignment

For example, Williams evokes a feminist critique of modern American culture through Amanda's confidence in her daughter's ability to be self-sufficient; even before she looks for Laura's suitor Amanda hopes to find her a job. Amanda's approach conflicts with her Southern genteel mentality, and Amanda envisions herself as being among the privileged classes. She boasts of her many suitors and exudes an aura of refined self-confidence. At the same time, she views marriage as a last resort for Laura and initially favored the idea that Laura would earn her own financial security through work. Williams' willingness to explore alternate roles for women in the Glass Menagerie also indicates a criticism of traditional Southern social norms. Watson claims that "Williams pronounces an end to the good manners and hospitality associated with the Old South," (p. 77). The transformation of old social norms into modern ones has both desirable and undesirable consequences. On the one hand, Williams reveals that old social norms include an emotionally distant father figure who abandons his family. Similarly, Amanda's strength and her interest in her daughter's self-sufficiency also indicate that emerging social norms may elevate the status of women and enable women to be less dependent on men. Durham notes that because of its exploration of shifting values and norms in America, the Glass Menagerie remains "peculiarly relevant to our own time," (p. 60).

Still, in his "memory play" Williams reminisces about Southern gentility and manners. Jim's character embodies the positive elements of the Old South including his gentlemanly nature, his kindness toward Amanda, Laura, and Tom, and his mode of speaking. In addition to symbolizing the ideal elements of the Old South, Jim also symbolizes psychological normalcy in the Glass Menagerie. Unlike Amanda, Tom, or Laura, Jim does not appear troubled or perturbed; he does not indicate a need to escape from his marriage. He genuinely likes Laura in spite of, and even because of, her awkwardness.

Jim thus serves as the optimal catalyst for Laura's transformation. Dancing with Laura leads to one of the most optimistic moments in the Glass Menagerie: the transformation of a unicorn into a regular horse in scene 7. A unicorn is a fantasy animal and being carved into glass makes the unicorn both unreal and fragile the glass unicorn therefore completely characterizes Laura because she is both detached from the real world and she is emotionally fragile. Jim immediately likes both Laura and the unicorn figurine. When he picks it up Jim notes, "he must feel sort of lonesome," indicating also that Laura also suffers from social isolation but that her loneliness proves that she is special (p. 83). Like the unicorn, Laura's uniqueness renders her particularly vulnerable to attack but Jim, more than any other character in the play, sympathizes with Laura and perceives her uniqueness and fragility as attractive features.

When the unicorn falls and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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