The Author and His Times
Tennessee Williams was born as Thomas Lanier Williams, III in Columbus, Mississippi on March 26, 1911. Tennessee Williams wrote his first play “Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay!” When he was a teenager in 1935. After this Tennessee Williams and his family moved to St. Louis and they were in the great depression. This experience prompted Tennessee Williams to make one of his masterpieces the Glass Menagerie. Furthermore, Tennessee Williams became famous and died on February 25, 1983 at 71 years old.
Point of View
The narrator is an older Tom, some years after the scenes that are played out. Tom defines the way the play is presented as a “memory scene.” Not only does the narrator take us through the action with narration, but he also infuses the play with tone and memory-like appearance. Because we hear the story from the guy in the story, we know it has been altered and adjusted. The point of view, then, becomes very important when we consider that objectivity, and potentially accuracy as well, have been removed from this story.
Form, Structure, and Plot
The play is being told as a memory, its simple plot follows the traditional curve of dramatic action. The first scene is largely expository or introductory. For example, Tom reveals in his prologue that his father had run away from home sixteen years ago.The climax is reached in the last scene of the play, when Amanda learns the truth about Jim, that he is going to be married to someone else. As a result, her fantasies are crushed, and she must face reality. The falling action is very brief. Amanda turns Tom into the scapegoat, thus insuring that he will desert the family.
Tom Wingfield was a potentially creative character caught in a conventional and materialistic world. He was the free spirit who had to curb his wings by working at a dreaded and disliked job in a shoe warehouse. Tom had his own independent world composed of those things he considered important — his poetry, his dreams, his freedom, his adventure, and his illusions. All these things were in direct opposition to his mother’s world, but Tom’s conflict was between his world and the realistic world.
Laura is an extremely shy young lady because of a childhood illness that left her crippled with one leg slightly shorter than the other. She is controlled by her mother whom is living in the past and trying to live her dreams out through Laura. This play is bursting with symbols, from images projected on the screen throughout the play, music played in the background, and in the play itself. This leads to the question, what symbolizes Laura throughout “The Glass Menagerie”? After analyzing the material, Laura is symbolized by the blue roses, her glass menagerie, and the unicorn. In “The Glass Menagerie”, one way Laura is symbolized is through Jim calling her blue roses, which shows her uniqueness. When she returned to school after an attack of pleurosis, one of her classmates, Jim O’Connor thought she said she had blue roses so he called her that throughout school.
Amanda Wingfield was raised as an affluent, prominent Southern Belle, but her husband was an alcoholic and left her with no money. For Amanda, less money meant a decline in societal class. In “The Glass Menagerie”, Amanda found it extremely difficult to accept her new social class because she was raised to value social distinction. The world in which Amanda Wingfield lived fluctuated between reality and illusion, her past life with money and her new life with none. Amanda reminisced about the days of her youth, especially the seventeen callers in one afternoon. She told this story told many times to her children, Tom and Laura. Even though she had no money, she tried to portray herself as though she did. Amanda wore her best clothes from her past and wanted to keep her home immaculate when visitors came in order to make the best impression. Amanda wanted her past life, which included a better social status, money, and happiness.
Jim is the only character to break through into Laura’s secret world. That’s pretty impressive. But what makes him so special, anyway? Well he’s pretty much the most sincere person in the play. He’s very honest, friendly, chipper – the man has freckles, for heaven’s sake. He’s completely trustworthy and, as such, we the audience get to trust him. Which is cool because, since Tom is the one telling the story, everything he says is a little biased; after all, he’s probably trying to convince us he’s not a total jerk at the end of the play.
Tennessee Williams makes a big deal out of telling us all about the apartment. He wants us to know how the buildings are all stacked up like a beehive, so we get the sense of dehumanization and confinement to working roles. Because the action ONLY takes place at the apartment, we can sense Tom’s feelings of being trapped, the fact that he is contained in only one location along with his family. The fire escape, of course, is crucial, being a means of escape and all. It kind of hangs out there like a constant foreshadowing of Tom’s eventual escape. It’s also, fittingly, the place where narrator Tom does a good deal of his narrating. This makes sense – narrator Tom has already escaped, so he speaks to us from outside the apartment.
Themes: Freedom and Confinement
Tom feels confinement from being stuck in an uninspiring job, cramped into a small apartment with his family, and unable to see the world or have adventures. Amanda is similarly confined to her thoughts of the past, and Laura traps herself in a world of glass animals. Escape can mean two things here: escape from reality into an alternate world, or escape from a trap or confinement. This play hints at the moral ramifications of some kinds of escape, asking the question of who is left behind and what happens to them when you leave.
Weakness and Fragility
Weakness is linked to fragility, which comes to mean both beauty and breakability. While Laura’s shyness and fragility keep her in her own little world of equally fragile glass animals, they also infuse her with a mysterious individuality, something Jim picks up on with the nickname “Blue Roses” and finds incredibly attractive. Fragility also means dependence, as Laura needs Tom precisely because of her shy and delicate demeanor. We also see the relationship between physical and mental fragility, as it seems that Laura’s shyness arises from a physical defect: her crippled leg.
Dreams and Plans
Dreams of the future are the source of conflict, primarily when one character’s dream doesn’t match up with another’s. While Amanda wants her children to fulfill the classic American Dream of hard work and success, Tom has dreams of being a writer, and Laura is too shy to even leave the house. This also raises the issue of parents imposing their dreams on their children, rather than allowing them to figure out themselves just what it is that they want.
Amanda always talks in a figurative and poetical way. Her thoughts follow the pattern of continuity. Even Tom’s use of words is playfully metaphorical and uninterrupted. Tom announces, “He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion”. He also uses metaphors: “the middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind.” The language in which Tom narrates is alliterative: “fingers pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille . . .”Amanda’s language is no less poetical. Amanda not only speaks in the language of poetry. She seems to be continuous in the selection of her words. By showing cautiousness in her choice of words Amanda wants to impose her taste in words on her children. She rejects Tom’s books as “filth”. Thinking that the word cripple is offensive, she declined to permit Laura to use the word “Cripple”.
The language Tennessee Williams uses is very formal. He uses high level vocabulary and metaphors. For example, he used an allusion and he said “gone with the wind”. Additionally, he once used sexy diction to describe the magazines Amanda sells. Also, I feel like the diction was one of the main reasons this book is famous.
“Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” This phrase was the first thing we heard from Tom. Also This introduced us to Tom and shed some light on him. Furthermore, Tom was introduced as a narrator.
“Every time you come in yelling that God damn “Rise and Shine!” “Rise and Shine!” I say to myself, “How lucky dead people are!” Tom used this phrase when him and Amanda were arguing about his book. Tom thought that dead people were lucky because they didn’t have to deal with Amanda. Furthermore, at this point Tom was ready to leave the house. Additionally Tom used this phrase in a way where he wasn’t serious.
“All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.” This was when Amanda was planning for Jim to come to their home. Tom thought that what Amanda was doing was a trap. Furthermore, Amanda thinks that men expect women to be a trap. This shows that Laura is too shy to do anything on her own.
“Go, then! Go to the moon-you selfish dreamer!” At this in the story Amanda thought that Tom was a selfish person. She was mad because Tom didn’t know Jim was engaged. She yelled at Tom and then he went off to the merchant marines. This proved Amanda’s point that Tom was being selfish by wanting to leave.
I really enjoyed Glass Menagerie and I give it a perfect score. This book had high level vocabulary and used spectacular diction. I’m also wondering how much money this book made. I also wish the book was longer, it would have probably made me feel more interested. Also, I feel like this book will have lasting effects on me like never putting yourself in front of your family.