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The Glass Menagerie.

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Introduction

The Glass Menagerie Long Essay By Carina Uehr MISS PRISM: Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all carry about with us. CECILY: Yes, but it's usually chronicles of things that have never happened, and couldn't possibly have happened. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde C ecily's perception of memory may be little na�ve, but she certainly has a point. Memory distorts events that have happened in our past, colouring it with our own thoughts and impressions. Tennessee William's The Glass Menagerie is in essence a memory play, told from hindsight by one of its characters, Tom Wingfield. Although the play is fiction, it presents its audience with "...truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion." (Scene 1, p. 234) It tells the story of Tom's past through his memories, with him acting as the narrator of the play. The lighting, music and screen device are all used to create nostalgia and sadness, to speak to the heart, not the mind, "...for memory is seated predominantly in the heart." (Stage directions, p. 233) However, even though Tennessee Williams states that the Menagerie "...is not realistic" (Scene 1, p. 235), there are significant realistic elements on which the play is based. ...read more.

Middle

252) and Tennessee, who buried himself in the fantasy world of books. His father, Cornelius Coffin, was a traveling salesman for a shoe manufacturer and therefore often absent, as is Amanda's much bemoaned husband in the Menagerie. Like Amanda, his mother, Edwina Dakin came from a rich and prestigious southern family, and had to adapt from being a spoilt southern belle to being the submissive housewife to an increasingly abusive husband. She was very protective of her two children who she saw a sickly and in need of constant nurturing. She deeply loved and cared for her children, but her constant anxiety for them and her protective manner was also cause for many of the psychological problems they had to later in life. She, like Amanda, could be unwittingly cruel in her desire to do the best for her "precious children." (Scene 5, p. 266) Williams had two siblings, an older sister Rose, and a younger brother of whom is relatively little known. The influence of his sister however, can be felt dramatically in all of his plays. The sudden uprooting of the family from the Deep South to the urban environment of St. Louis, Missouri, where they lived in a small, dark and dreary apartment, had a dramatic effect on both all them. ...read more.

Conclusion

For a woman to ever climb higher than a secretary or factory overseer (for women only of course) would have been highly unlikely if not impossible. Work or housewife, those were the only two options open for women at that time. Otherwise they became "old maids... barely tolerated spinsters... eating the crust of humility all their lives." (Scene 2, p. 245) This is the social and historical background against the Glass Menagerie is set. It explains some of the actions (or inactions) taken by some of the characters such as Amanda and Tom, and also provides Williams with the opportunity to make some interesting comments about American society at the time. T ennessee William's the Glass Menagerie is indeed a memory play. Its use of a narrator, lighting and music, and the extensive symbolism are all products of memory rather than reality. They all conjure up a nostalgic feel that that speaks to the heart, rather than the mind. However, memory can not be created from nothing. It is the process or ability to recall a past incident, something that once was reality. Therefore the Glass Menagerie is indeed memory, but firmly set on the base of reality. Williams drew on his own family and childhood experiences for the characters and plot of the play, embodying not only his mother, father and sister as characters, but also himself. ...read more.

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