Running Head: A Literary of the play ‘The Glass of Menagerie’
A Literary of the play ‘The Glass Menagerie’
This play was authored by Tennessee Williams, and is based on the decline of the South to address sensitive and nostalgic issues surrounding individuals who attempt to lead spiritual, imaginative worlds characterized by tenderness in a world dominated by passion, greed and animal instincts. This document therefore gives a general overview of the play, and discusses the different items incorporated thereby formulating a comprehensive review of its literature.
The first scene of the play sets off with the appearance of Tom Wingfield, a future poet who appears from the fire escape of his family’s St. Louis Apartment and informs the audience that the play is going to be about his family which includes his mother, Amanda Wingfield, his crippled sister, Laura Wingfield and his father, Mr. Wingfield, an employee with a telephone company who absconded his marital responsibility due to long distance travels and therefore only appears in a photograph as well as a gentle mans caller (Meyer & Downs, 2008)
The activities in this scene entail Tom entering the apartment where his mother and sister are having dinner with Mrs. Wingfield advising his daughter to remain ‘fresh and pretty’ for the purpose of securing gentlemen callers. This leads to Amanda’s memory of when she entertained gentlemen callers in her youth, a comment doubted by her son. Her nostalgia ends with the confirmation from her daughter that there would be no callers.
The developments in scene two create a continuous flow through to scene four. The scene begins with Laura polishing her glass figurines and suddenly hides them on hearing Amanda’s footsteps. This follows by her mother asking her why she does not attend school and gives the reason that she vomited due to nervousness while taking the school test. Her mother gets obsessed with the idea of finding Laura a husband to save her from poverty and loneliness as she realizes that her daughter would be unable to undertake any job. To do this, she knows that she has to find enough money and the only option available is to sell subscriptions to a local magazine. On the other hand, Tom struggles with job dissatisfaction and her mother’s questioning of his night escapades. This results in a heated exchange of words where he calls his mother an ‘ugly witch’ and accidentally knocks Laura’s figurines while exiting. At five in the morning, he gets back home and apologizes to his mother for his rude behavior, then he tells her of his desire to leave town in search of adventure. The mother requests him to find a husband for his sister before traveling. Despite being skeptical, Tom agrees to find a suitor from his workplace.
Tom, at the onset of scene five, narrates of a possible war that is about to provide an adventure for those who enjoy themselves at the Paradise Dance Hall located close to their apartment. He then informs his mother about a friendly visit by a Jim O’Connor during dinner. Both the Mother and the sister are overjoyed at the news and description of the visitor. To neutralize his mother’s enthusiasm, Tom notifies Amanda that Jim may not be attracted to Laura. The Mother ignores him and instead encourages Laura to ‘wish for Happiness and Good Fortune (Meyer & Downs, 2008)
In his narration in scene six, Tom describes the gentleman caller’s, previous life of being a former hero in basketball and the presidential post he held in senior class and the glee club. He also describes Jim’s current profile as being less successful after graduating and working with him in the same company. The arrival of Tom and Jim frightens Laura who dashes off after the introduction and leaves the three of them having dinner. Since Tom had used the funds for paying the electricity bill for his seaman’s card, he offers to help Amanda do the dishes while Jim serves Laura with a glass of wine. The two interact lengthily till they kiss. Jim then confesses of his engagement and leaves. Laura and Amanda are devastated on finding out about Jim’s attachment to another woman. Later, Tom narrates of his escape from St. Louis, traveling the world in search of adventure. However, he was still pursued by his sister’s eyes wherever he went.
Several themes can be drawn from the play ‘the glass menagerie. The first being the differences that lie between illusion and reality. The Wingfield’s family is immersed in deep illusion as a defense mechanism of shielding from the harsh realities of life. Williams portrays Laura as a character who escapes from the reality because of her shyness which encourages her to live in a world of glass artifacts. These separate her from the realistic world where she is expected to perform in education, business and romantic relationships. Her failed relationship with the gentleman caller draws her even further from engaging in any romantic relationships. Amanda on the other hand dreams of her glorious past at South Belle and plans for her daughter’s marriage to a gentleman caller who would rescue them from the poverty that creeps in the family. Tom is surrounded by situations of job dissatisfaction, late night drinking habits, becoming a future poet and engaging in adventures as avenues of shutting himself from the realities of the world. Jim however is a character who has reconciled with reality. The fact that he has a stable job, accepts that he is engaged and advises Laura to embrace confidence is evidence enough to support this claim. In fact, Tom refers to him as ‘an emissary from the world of reality’ (Meyer & Downs, 2008)
The Wingfield family, individually and collectively seeks freedom from the ensnares of life’s misgivings and illusion. The writer depicts from the play that the urge to be free comes with packages of disappointment, pain and separation from people with close ties. Tom looks for ways to free himself from his job and the responsibility of taking care of his family so as to enjoy writing and traveling. This causes him to eventually abandon his family just like his father. Amanda wants free herself from poverty hence she starts selling subscriptions and encourage her daughter to look for a husband, resulting in the tragic meeting between Laura and Jim. Laura seeks to free herself from her responsibilities and expectations causing her to fully withdraw from the outside world.
The use of symbols in plays is imperative for purposes of conveying messages beyond literacy. This has been well articulated in the play. The glass figurines in Laura’s collection symbolize her fragility and vulnerability. She is controlled with an illusional world that is prone to crumbling due to inadequate resilience from the effects of a realistic world. Her uniqueness is evidenced by the unicorn figurine; the loss of its horns symbolizes her becoming part of a realistic world like ‘other horses’ during her interaction with Jim. Her unpreparedness to tackle with the harsh realities of the world exposes her to destruction (Meyer & Downs, 2008).
Christian symbols were also an element of the author communication of his message. The gentleman caller is seen as a ‘savior’ by Amanda who would come to their rescue. In scene four, William uses the ‘Ave Maria’, a Virgin Mary song, when Amanda sobs after being called an ugly witch by Tom. Laura’s face is described as ‘lit with alter candles’ when she was kissed. The candle light is used by the Wingfield family when electricity is cut, a symbol of increasing darkness in their lives. Laura also blows out the candle at the end of the last scene which signifies the end of her dreams.
The play has employed a unique style structure. The author uses poetic language to capture speech by integrating repetition and emphasis to depict a more universal truth. The gentle man caller, used mostly in the play indicate the different hats he puts on, as a guest, a savior, or according to Tom’s description ‘ an archetype of the universal unconscious.’
The use of metaphors, similes and irony in the play create a unique blend in the interpretation of words and statements used. For the author to evoke the fragility and dreamy nature of Laura and Amanda, the metaphor Amanda had Laura’s wish on a ‘little silver slipper of a moon’ was illustrated. During dinner, Laura darts away like a frightened deer. This sentence signifies a portion of the similes used in the play (Meyer & Downs, 2008).
This seven scene drama introduces the conflict that exists within the Wingfield family and the fact that their problems cannot be solved solely by them but by an outer world. These problems however exist as a result of; the extremity between their illusioned world and the realistic world; and their rigidity to embrace efforts that reconcile the two worlds. The same play incorporates the gentleman caller as a unifying concept of the two worlds. The uniqueness of the play in terms mechanisms used to send the message home has been illustrated with the different concepts brought into play, from the style structure, the symbols, the themes, characters and the general plot of the play which includes the set up environment.
Meyer, M., & Downs, D. (2008). The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature
(8th ed.).Bedford: St. Martins.