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Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie

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Introduction

Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie1 features three characters, Amanda, Laura and Tom Wingfield, all misfits in the society in which they find themselves. In order to cope with their problems, the Wingfields each create a unique illusory world to help them escape from their reality. In doing so, each character makes flawed decisions about themselves and their family, ultimately causing irreparable damage: Amanda living vicariously through the past; Laura lives in an imaginary world of glass and fantasy, hiding from the world and Tom's desire for greater things and escaping the present through movies and alcohol. ` The extent of the role illusion features in The Glass Menagerie is clearly demonstrated by Amanda, who clings to a deluded re-interpretation of her youth and hope for the future even under the most trying of circumstances. Amanda is the archetypal southern belle, one of Williams' signature characters2. Amanda was born into a life of comfort however she falls victim to an irresponsible husband and Amanda is left to raise the children in St. Louis during the Depression era. Not at all suited to her new surroundings and the changing nature of society Amanda attempts to evade contemporary society, and thus chooses to re-live her past and constantly remind those around her of the better days. This is exemplified when Amanda relates to Jim, the gentleman caller Well in the South we had so many servants. ...read more.

Middle

Laura's physical defect, albeit minor, has a serious impact on her life. It leaves her reclusive, socially inept and perpetually nervous. In order to convey how different Laura is, Williams uses symbolism to good effect. Laura's favourite animal, the unicorn, proves a symbol of unique she is, its difference to the other animals is a reflexion of her own social ineptitude. Laura uses escapism primarily to avoid the world which she does not fit into; attempts by her mother to put her through business college result in abysmal failure. Laura is a recluse, who lives in, A world of her own -- a world of glass ornaments5 a world which mimics her troubles with her inner-self. Worlds are delicate, Laura and her menagerie appear to be transparent in normal light, however under the right circumstance they can both shine like rainbows6. This is exemplified by Laura's character becoming increasingly attractive when Jim, begins to take an interest in her towards the end of the play, and is signified by Laura's explanation of her glass collection, Here's an example of one, if you'd like to see it!... Oh, be careful-if you breathe, it breaks! ... There now-you're holding him gently! Hold him over the light, he loves the light7 However her moment of normality is fleeting, and Jim's withdrawal is accompanied by a retreat into her world of fantasy. ...read more.

Conclusion

Tom's frequent trips to the movies and descent into alcohol induced stupor have negative effects on his family; they are both the source of much argument and friction between Tom and Amanda, and place pressure on Tom's sister Laura. Tom's desire to escape is guilt-ridden as his natural loyalty and his family's reliance upon him. However his ultimate disappearance proves nowhere nearly as seamless as the magician's11. Tom's escapism is without equivocation the most impacting in the play. Illusion and escapism are themes central to Tennessee Williams' play, The Glass Menagerie. All members of the Wingfield family have a marked difficulty accepting the harsh realities of the world outside their apartment, and each family member withdraws into a world of illusion where they live under the semblance of hope and evade the truth. The escapism partaken in by Tom, Laura and Amanda, can seen to manifest as, living in the past, the creation of another world and unrealistic aspiration. 1 Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie and Other Plays, Penguin Publishing, Ringwood Victoria, 1972 2 J. Lichtenstein, Notes on The Glass Menagerie, Friedman/Fairfax Publishing, California, 2000 3 T. Williams op. cit., p. 258 4T. Williams , op. cit., p. 276 5T. Williams, op. cit., p. 48 6 G. Ehrenhaft, Chairman, English Department Mamaroneck (N.Y.) High School, Barron's Educational Series, Barron Publishing, 1985 7 Ibid., p. 300 8T. Williams op. cit., p. 259 9 J. Lichtenstein, op. cit. 10 T. Williams op. cit., p. 300 11 G. Ehrenhaft, op. cit ...read more.

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