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    The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

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    The Glass Menagerie’ was originally named ‘Portrait of a girl in glass’. Tennessee Williams wrote the play. The play is very convincing because Williams uses many symbols, which represent many different things. Many of the symbols used in the play symbolize some form of escape or difference between reality and illusion. The play is written in the point of view of the character Tom. Tennessee Williams was born as Thomas Lamier Williams in 1911. Tom is a symbol of Williams in his early life. The play is clearly autobiographical; it reflects the life of Tennessee Williams.

    Tom Wingfield lives with his Pressurising mother who is trapped in the past, which effects both Tom and Laura. Amanda reflects Williams’ mother ‘Miss Edwina’ and Laura reflects Williams’ sister ‘Rose’. Tom, Laura and Amanda live on there own in a house, which symbolises a trap. Its trapping all of them especially Tom. Tom and Laura’s father deserted the family and went away to another place. The audience may feel that the father moving away from the family was more of an escape. The only image the audience has of Tom’s father is a picture hanging on the wall in the living room.

    The picture takes up a large amount of space. This symbolises that he still is a large part of the family’s life. Williams’ father did not desert the family as he did in the play however he deserted the family emotionally. The only man in the house is Tom. He is pressured a lot by his mother to go to work and earn money for the family. The play is set in the twentieth century in the 1930s. The gender roles at this time were the husband would go out to work to earn money for the family and the women would stay at home and act as a housewife.

    The daughter of the family would be looking for a husband to settle down with. Tom also plays the role of the narrator. He introduces his character. Tom recounts how he lives and re-lives the story in his memory. Tom acting as a character and narrator allows us to enter into Tom’s mind and his inner world and thoughts. Tom as the narrator tells the audience that the most realistic character in the play is Jim, who is the gentleman caller for Laura but only appears in the last scenes. Tom describes him as “emissary from a world of reality that we somehow set apart from”.

    Tom as the narrator also describes Jim as a hero. The audience can see this when he says, “In high school Jim was a hero. ” Tom says Jim was like Chinaware. He says, “He had the tremendous Irish good nature and vitality with the scrubbed and polished look of white chinaware. ” Tom treats Jim as a friend. He only tells Jim that he is planning to move away from his family. Tom talks about Jim better than the way he talks about his father. The audience can see how Tom feels about his father in different parts throughout the play. Tom at one point was talking to Jim about going away from the family.

    Jim says to Tom “what about your mother? ” Tom replies with “I’m like my father. The bastard son of a bastard! ” From this the audience can see that Tom is angry with his father. The audience assume its because he left them and moved away. Tom feels that his father is selfish. The audience can see this when Tom is arguing with Amanda and says “Why, listen, if self is what I thought of, Mother I’d be where he is – Gone! (Pointing to fathers picture)” The audience never see how Tom treats his father. The only evidence of how he feels is the way he speaks about him both as a character and as a narrator.

    Tom is like the father of the family and has the roles of a father. Amanda puts him under a lot of pressure. The audience can clearly see Tom’s relationship with Amanda. As he is the only man in the house he is the one the family depends on. They depend on him to bring money, and look after them. Amanda says to Tom “What right have you got to jeopardize your job? Jeopardize the security of us all? How do you think we’d manage if you were -” this shows how much pressure Amanda is putting on Tom. This suggests Tom is trapped in his job and the audience at this point may feel sympathy for Tom.

    Amanda and Tom argue a lot. The audience can see how Tom feels about Amanda by the way he speaks to her. In scene three during an argument between Tom and Amanda Tom says to Amanda “You’ll go up, up on a broomstick, over Blue Mountain with seventeen gentlemen callers! You ugly – babbling old – witch.. ” This shows the audience what Tom thinks about Amanda however Tom is angry at this point therefore he might not mean what he says. Tom the as the narrator says, “Mother was a woman of action as well as words. ” Tom feels that Amanda is obsessed with finding Laura a gentlemen caller.

    The audience can see this at the beginning of scene three when Tom says “the idea of getting a gentlemen caller for Laura began to play a more and more important part in mother’s calculations. It became an obsession”. The audience can see how Tom feels about the idea of a gentleman caller when he says, “the image of the gentleman caller haunted our small apartment.. ” Laura feels pressured like Tom by Amanda. The audience can see that she feels pressured into receiving a gentleman caller. Tom loves Laura very much. The audience can see this throughout different parts of the play. Tom says to Amanda that Laura is a home girl.

    The audience can see this when Tom says to Amanda, “I guess she’s the type that people call home girls” One night Tom came home late and Laura was awake. She asked him where he had been, He told her he was at the movies. He told her about the stage show. Malvolio the magician gave him a shimmering rainbow- coloured scarf. Tom gave it to Laura. The audience can see this when Tom says to Laura “He gave me this. This is his magic scarf. You can have it Laura. ” This shows the audience that Tom loves Laura enough to give her something that was given to him. This shows Toms Generosity. Tom is a dreamer.

    He has a dream in which he wishes to follow. Tom has dreams of being a writer but he has a job that he isn’t too keen on. The audience can see this when Tom says “sixty-five dollars a month I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever! ” Williams builds this up to make the audience sympathise for Tom. Williams uses different means to create sympathy for Tom as an individual. Tom’s destiny is not at the Wingfield household. Tom finally escapes to follow his dream. Unlike the other characters in the play, Tom’s fate isn’t affected by the twists in the plot. Tom always wanted to be away from the Wingfield household.

    The audience can see that the Wingfield household is a trap for Tom and when he moves away it’s an escape. Tom wasn’t happy at home and the audience could see this because he tells his mother he is going out to the movies every night and comes back in the early hours of the morning. Amanda tells Tom that he spends too much time at the movies. This is in scene four when Amanda says, “But, Tom, you go to the movies entirely too much! ” Tom finds adventure in the movies and not much adventure at work. That’s why he goes there most nights. The audience can see this when Tom says to Amanda, “I go to the movies because – I like adventure.

    Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies. ” The audience know that Tom doesn’t spend all his time at the movies because he usually comes home drunk after an argument with Amanda. The audience know that Tom is drunk because at the beginning of the scene Williams writes, “This and the unsteadiness of his advance make it evident that he has been drinking. ” People usually drink when they are depressed or feel bad about something. In Tom’s case he is drinking alcohol because he feels trapped and drinking would be like a temporary exit to his problems. Tom also Smokes.

    Tom smokes and smoking is a sign of weakness. The audience know that Tom smokes right at the beginning of the play because he says in scene one, “I’m getting a cigarette. ” Tom’s job in the warehouse is also trapping him. He doesn’t like his Job and he feels that it is not adventurous. The audience can see this when Tom says, “Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse” Tom is simply trying to say that he doesn’t get a mans natural instincts from working at the warehouse. The audience can feel a sense of Tom’s jealousy at one stage of the play.

    He says “All of those glamorous people – having adventures – hogging it all, gobbling the whole thing up! ” Tom eventually becomes bored of the movies and decides that its time to make something of his life and escape like his father did. Tom shows this to the audience when he says to Jim, “I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move! ” he also says “People go to the movies instead of moving! ” Overall everything in Tom’s life is a trap looking for an escape. And by the end of it all He finds a way out to follow his dream. The other characters in the play influence Tom but the ways they act towards him do not change his fate.

    Amanda treats Tom as if he is the father of the house. Amanda tells Tom he is free to go and do what he wants when Laura has someone to take care of her and is married. Tom is treated as if it is his duty to look after Laura and act as a father. The audience can see this when Amanda says to Tom, “I mean as soon as Laura has got somebody to take care of her, married, a home of her own, independent – why, then you’ll be free to go wherever you please, on land, on sea, which ever way the wind blows you! ” Amanda relies on Tom not only to bring money into the family until Laura is married but also to bring home Laura a gentleman.

    The audience can see this when Amanda says, “Down at the warehouse, aren’t there some – nice young men? ” Tom replies bluntly with, “No! ” Amanda insists that Tom brings home a gentleman for Laura. The audience can see this when Amanda says, “Will you? Will you, dear? ” Amanda tells Tom that she would like him to emulate his Father in only one way. The audience know this because Amanda says, “There is only one respect in which I would like you to emulate your father. ” Tom asks in what respect that is and Amanda says in the way he looks. She says, “The care he always took of his appearance.

    He never allowed himself to look untidy. ” Amanda and Tom argue a lot throughout the play. They both argue as if they are husband and wife. The audience might see Tom as a slave to his mother. Amanda tells Tom she is proud of him and Laura. She says this in scene three, “Both of my children – they’re unusual children! Don’t you think I know it? I’m so proud! ” Amanda doesn’t want Tom to become an alcoholic, she says, “Promise, son, you’ll – never be a drunkard! ” At one stage Amanda calls Tom selfish. She says, Overcome selfishness! Self, self, self is all that you ever think of! After Amanda called Tom selfish she started to ask him a favour.

    The audience might think that Amanda called Tom selfish to make him feel guilty and then he would say yes to her favour. She asked him about bringing a gentleman caller home for Laura. Laura treats Tom in a much more different way than her mother. Laura once cried for Tom. The audience know this because Amanda says to Tom, “A few days ago I came in and she was crying” Tom asks what she was crying about. Amanda replies “You. ” This shows the audience that Laura cares for Tom and worries about him.

    The glass menagerie is the most timeless theme in the play. In Williams’ early life him and his sister kept a glass collection. This symbolised the love and nostalgia for a happier past. Laura is the only person who would know how Tom feels because she knew how it felt for her father to leave her family. The Audience never knew how Tom’s father treated Tom because the audience never saw what they were like when they were living together. The imagery used of Toms father is a Portrait of him on the wall in the living room. The picture takes up a large amount of space. In the photograph their father is grinning.

    Tom refers to his fathers grin while he is talking to Jim. He says, “See how he grins? And he’s been absent going on sixteen years! ” The photograph of Tom and Laura’s father is the most effective image used in the play because it is always referred to. Tom feels closer to Jim than he feels to his father. Jim treats Tom as a friend. The audience may feel a friendly connection between Tom and Jim because Tom confides in Jim and tells him that he is planning to leave the Wingfield household. Jim asks Tom where he is planning to go and Williams uses sound to answer the question.

    He uses theme three music. Tom tells Jim that he didn’t pay the electricity bill. The audience know this because Tom says; “I paid my dues this month, instead of the light bill. ” Jim has a fianci?? and when Amanda finds this out she blames it all on Tom and tells him that brought Jim on purpose to embarrass them. The audience know this because Amanda says, “That’s right, you the you’ve had us make fools of ourselves. ” Tom’s practical circumstances affect him a lot. His father has moved away which leaves Tom in the position of having to play his role as the father.

    Amanda puts a lot of the pressure onto Tom, which makes the audience think that is one of the main reasons why Tom feels trapped. Tom’s eager to escape builds up a lot of sympathy to his character. Tom’s family have a big effect on his fate. Tom’s family influences Tom to escape. This biggest influence comes from Toms father. If their father didn’t leave them from the start Tom would be under less pressure and would have to go out and earn money for the family. The audience might get the impression that Tom had the confidence to run away because his father did it. Tom may have thought that if his father could get away then so could he.

    Tom’s father is a symbol of sympathy. Even though it may seem to the audience that he helped Tom in a way to escape, him leaving the family built up a lot of sympathy for Tom as an individual. Williams uses the father a symbol of compassion. Williams not only used symbols of understanding but he built up points of tension in the plot, which created suspense, which had an effect on the evocation of sympathy for Tom. The biggest creation of suspense was when the audience started to feel that Tom was selfish because he didn’t pay off the light bill however Tom’s reasons understood by the audience.

    Williams use of lighting helps to create suspense. Tom says, “I’ll rise – but I won’t shine. ” The light increases after that. Williams’ use of language helps to understand the way that Tom feels and creates tension between Tom and the characters in the play. When Tom is arguing with Amanda he often uses a lot of Exclamation marks. This could suggest that Tom Bluntly means what he says. Williams also uses different grammar techniques, which show how Tom and Amanda are constantly interrupting each other.

    An example of this is shown when Amanda and Tom are arguing in scene three and Tom says, “What in Christ’s name am I -” Tom is then interrupted by Amanda. Williams’s use of captions builds up tension in the play. Overall Tom has a very big effect on Amanda and Laura. Williams used other characters in the play to create a lot of understanding and compassion for Tom. Tom moves away from the Wingfield household. The audience do not feel angry with Tom or feel that he is selfish for deserting the family like his father because of the sympathy Williams built up for him throughout the play.

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    The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. (2017, Oct 09). Retrieved from

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