The Glass Menagerie

.. his creative concentration. Home is more like a cage as oppressive as the warehouse by Amanda’s austere parental control and over-protectiveness (Ng). During meals, she insists that he listen to long sermons such as “Honey, don’t push with your fingers. If you have to push with something .

. .” (Williams ). As Tom reaches for a cigarette, she complains, “You smoke too much!” (Williams ). Unable to tolerate Amanda’s failure to understand his needs and her smothering affection, Tom ends up turning to movies, where he feels reprieve. The movies satisfy his vicarious gratification of adventure. In the cinema, he becomes a hero, which he can never be at home.

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On the other hand, the magic shows provide him an illusionary world he yearns for in his daily life. Sometimes his mother and his family’s financial hardships shatter his world. The movies serve as an anesthetic, along with bouts of heavy drinking. Hence, it is possible for him to temporarily forget the oppressive apartment. Nevertheless, his poetic aspirations end up in frustration and doom, which partly contributes to his nocturnal film-going behavior.

Finally, when he does leave the Wingfield apartment, he entraps himself with memories of Laura. He escapes one prison only to fall into another, that of his guilty conscience, his nostalgia of home, the glass menagerie and old fashioned melodies. He is unable to function in the present and wanders aimlessly thinking of his sister. Jim, though not as severely as the Wingfields, also reverts to his past as he looks through high school yearbooks with Laura and recalls the days of his heroism. The present does not satisfy himworking at the same warehouse as Tom, despite Tom’s prediction that he would “arrive at nothing short of the White House by the time he was thirty” (Williams, 190).

Tom realizes that he “was valuable to him [Jim] as someone who could remember his former glory” (Williams, 190). Jim reminisces about his lead in the operetta and Laura asks him to sign her program. He signs it “with a flourish” (Williams 218). Only as Jim enters the Wingfield’s illusory world, can he become this high school hero again. Subsequently, Jim regresses to his high school days of wooing women as he woos innocent Laura by dancing with her and kissing her. While this might as well be an illusion, the situation’s reality is that Jim is engaged.

Unlike the Wingfields, Jim can only live temporarily in the past. Thus, he leaves the dream world of the Wingfields. Amanda constantly lives in her past and generates devastating consequences for her children. The fate of Amanda’s children is her fault, crippling them psychologically and emotionally, seriously inhibiting their own quests for maturity and self-realization. Amanda lives in a fantasy world of dreamy recollections, and her children cannot escape from this illusory world either.

She suffers from a psychological impulse to withdraw into a fabricated “lost” time. The present exists for this family only to the degree that it can be verified by constant references to the past. This explains why none of the characters can succeed in their present situations. They exist through their past, but the problem is that the past no longer exists. While these characters stay the same, the outside world changes.

This explains the characters’ repeated failures in the present world outside them. Although Jim pulls himself into the Wingfield’s illusory world, he sustains his reality senses. This accounts for why Jim is such a “stumble john” in the Wingfield apartment. He is more realistic than the others and is clumsy in such a delicate world. Likewise, Laura’s fragility and hypersensitivity prevent her from participating in the outside world, a world that is harsh and brutal.

Just as Jim is clumsy in Laura’s world, Laura is clumsy in Jim’s world, as she slips and falls on the fire escape and in another instance, throws up on the floor at Business School. Laura’s irrational fear of the outside explains why she cannot successfully enter the outside world. The major characters in this play are so warped and their lives so distorted and perverted by fantasies that each is left with only broken fragments of what might have been. Accordingly, Judith Thompson, in Tennessee Williams: Memory, Myth, and Symbol, believes that memory is the avenue Williams uses to approach the collective unconscious. Through Tom’s recollections, Williams demonstrates how powerful memories revolve around characters whose actions reflect the inner turmoil of the person doing the remembering. Thompson states that Williams’ characters are representatives of a modern suffering humanity, victimized by their own conflicting drives and desires and existentially alienated from a world become a metaphysical ‘heap of broken images’ (11).

These representatives form the constituency of Tom’s consciousness; the suffering in each character reflects Tom’s pain. Along with this, Williams reveals that one’s inability to communicate functionally in meaningful ways with other human beings is one of the modern life’s most tragic situations. His interpretation of familial love, shattered hopes, frustration to the point of rage, entrapment, and ultimate guilt throughout The Glass Menagerie depicts each character’s gloom and futile dreams. Tom, Laura, and Amanda seem to believe that escape is possible. Inevitably, no character makes a clean break from the situation at hand. Perhaps Tennessee Williams conveys a message that running away is not a means to solving life’s problems. One’s only escape in life is to solve their problems, not to avoid them. Works Cited Gist, Richard.

The Glass Menagerie 5 April 1997. **. Ghiotto, Chubby. “The Glass Menagerie.” Alligator Online 5 March 1998. 15 March 1998 * alligator review.html*. Ng, Ben. “Dreams and the Notion of Escape in the Glass Menagerie.” Home page.

May 1999 **. Kapcsos, Kristal. “The Glass Menagerie.” Online posting. 13 Nov. 1997. The Glass Menagerie 21 Nov. 1997 * /dtimpson/1/forums/forum12/me ..

/26.html*. Rasky, Harry. Tennessee Williams: A Portrait in Laughter and Lamentation. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1986. Thompson, Judith J. Tennessee Williams’ Plays: Memory, Myth, and Symbol.

New York: Peter Lang, 1989. Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie.” The Theatre of Tennessee Williams. Vol. 1. New York: New Directions, 1990. Supernatural Issues.


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