Story on the Glass Menagerie Thesis

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¶ … American Dream

Depicted in the Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams' play, the Glass Menagerie is an insightful American tale that brings attention to emotionally and economically weakened individuals that attempt to survive in a world that proves to be too much for them. Tom, Laura, and Amanda are people that face certain difficulties surviving in the real world. They share a meager existence that is peppered with dashing hopes and dreams. The Wingfield's share a common hope in Jim, a pivotal character that represents all the hope in the world as well as all of the despair for the Wingfields. Through symbolism and imagery, Williams successfully paints a portrait of a struggling American family attempting to get by on fleeting hopes and dreams because that appears to be all that they have in a cold, dark world. Lighting plays an important part of allowing the audience to see the hopelessness of the family. Roses, rainbows, and magical creatures become important elements of Williams' story. The Glass Menagerie tells a tragic American tale through imagery and symbolism.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Thesis on Story on the Glass Menagerie Assignment

Imagery is an important technique Williams employs in the play. When discussing imagery, we must consider lighting. Williams used lighting as a significant factor in the play, emphasizing elements of the story and thematic details. Light is an image of hope for the Wingfields since they are searching for a way out of their tedious lives. Amanda is looking for hope through her daughter and son and Tom is looking for an escape. Laura is looking for light in the sense that she simply wants to be herself and basically be left alone. They share the common thread of hope. Light allows us to see and we can see the characters better through the stage lighting. One powerful scene, which connects light with hope, is when Amanda tells Tom to wish on the light of the moon. Here we sense the kind of hope with which the family is dealing. It is a difficult hope because it is fleeting. This kind of hope that is tossed out into the night represents the hopelessness of the family's circumstances in that there is little else they can do to change things. Another scene that becomes more powerful through stage lighting actually occurs when there is very little light. The blackout is significant because it represents the lost future of the characters, especially Laura. The scene with Jim lighting the candles indicates how he is a ray of light and hope in the play but also that he is not of the Wingfield's darkened world. In addition, the flickering candlelight demonstrates the flickering flame of hope. In this sense, the light is a symbol of hope and yet it is close to being snuffed out. The darkness does come, however, and when Laura's hopes are extinguished. It is important to note that Tom is the one that tells Laura to put out the candles, as he is at least realistic enough to admit that there is no chance for things in the household to change.

Other interesting lighting effect in the play contributes to the family's sense of loss. For example, when the family realizes that Jim cannot fulfill Laura's wishes, all hopes are dimmed. The image of light flickers on a shattered facade, alluding to the transient moments of life. Just like the hope that surrounded Jim, many of life's moments of joy are but a flicker in time. The family sitting in the dimly lit living room is emphasized by the dark world that looms outside. Roger Boxill states,

The picture of the absent father with smiling doughboy face is intermittently illuminated, while outside, beyond the dark alleyways and murky canyons of tangled clotheslines, garbage cans, and neighbouring fire escapes, the running lights of movie marquees blink and beckon in the distance. (Boxill)

The family's world is lost and fearful when compared to the ugly world that sits just outside their window. In comparison to the dark monster of reality, their world is fragile and only lit by a small candle that will soon expire. This lighting technique allows us to grasp the urgency of the Wingfield's desperation.

Bert Cardullo comments on the lighting in the play, noting:

At the end of the play Laura herself blows out the candles that Jim has brought to their encounter, and she does this in recognition not only of her brother Tom's departure from her life but also of the Gentleman Caller's. The implication is that no gentleman caller will ever enter her life again, will ever be gentle enough in a society so crassly materialistic to perceive her inner beauty. (Cardullo)

Here Cardullo integrates the Williams utilizes symbolism in the Glass Menagerie to emphasize each character's plight. Milly Barranger maintains that the characters in the play become "powerful images of human alienation and despair" (Barranger 315). They are a "blend of self-absorbing needs and desperate courage. His 'menagerie' is comprised of the oppressed, the fragile, and the needful" (Barranger 316). Amanda is the image of pride and disappointment, says Barranger (316); she typifies the experience of all of those living in her household. Jim, on the other hand, represents the outside world. Laura represents the delicate, yet handicapped creatures of the world. Jim is the catalyst that changes everything and everyone. The image of the world that he introduces into the Wingfield family is one that cannot be undone or forgotten.

Laura's collection becomes a symbol for the withdrawn and the disadvantaged. She is very connected to her figurines, which are interesting symbols in themselves. The menagerie is perhaps the most significant symbol in the play in that it represents the fragility of life. In addition, glass is generally beautiful in its artistic forms. Laura's glass friends reflect and, subsequently deflect, light, an indicator of a happy world that is place full of hopes and dreams. Outside the apartment, a dark, cold world awaits. The glass figurines are very delicate, like Laura. Tom understands Laura's need and tells Amanda that she exists in a "world of her own -- a world of -- little glass ornaments" (Williams 995). She understands their delicate nature and cares for them like a little girl might care for her baby dolls. Her collection is just as fragile as she is but they necessary in that they bring out a sense of nurturing in Laura. She feels the need to care for them in a way for which she longs to be cared. She tells Jim, "Glass is something you have to take good care of" (1015) and she takes the responsibility very seriously. She considers their feelings and will move them about the apartment in order that they do not become bored. While the treatment of her figurines is juvenile, it represents something about Laura and that is her need to feel a deep connection to something in this world. At this point, it does not matter if they are not real. Her figurines are also representative of how fragile the Wingfield's actually are. They are as delicate as the glass pieces and can be broken just as easily. It is also worth noting that the Wingfield's are also like the figurines because they are not quite a part of the real world. Tom comes the closest but he does his best to escape that world at every opportunity. Amanda and Laura have practically disconnected themselves from the outside world and they live like the figurines in the dank apartment.

Along with light, color is another element that serves as a symbol in the play. The most significant of these is the nickname, "Blue Roses,' Jim has for Laura. Roses are delicate and beautiful creations. The reference to Laura's delicate and beautiful nature is clear. However, the reference to the blue rose is interesting, considering the fact that blue roses do not occur naturally. Williams is indicating that Laura is like the blue rose in that she is not from this world and does not necessarily belong to it. The image of a blue rose is certainly lovely but we must also look at the reality of such a creation. The blue rose serves a foreshadowing technique Williams utilizes in regard to Laura's future with Jim. He cannot be the thing that the Wingfield's want him to be - just like a blue rose cannot bloom from the earth.

A powerful symbol in the play is the action involved with the breaking of the unicorn's horn. When her favorite figurine is broken, it serves as a symbol of freedom for Laura from her separatist behavior. Williams leads up to her recognition of self away when Jim tells her that unicorns are not part of our modern world. In telling her this, Jim also encapsulates the Wingfield's position in the world, pointing to the fact that their dreams unrealistic in the modern world much like the unicorn. After the unicorn's horn is broken, Laura makes an astonishing statement when she says… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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