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The Glass Menagerie Analysis Essay - Broken Glass and Shattered Hearts

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Miranda Ramirez

Murray – 3rd Period

English IV

24 February 2016

Broken Glass and Shattered Hearts

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams was published in 1945 by the Random House and was debuted in 1944 at the Civic Theatre in Chicago; the play takes place in the winter and spring in the 1930s in the Wingfield apartment in St. Louis, Missouri. Williams drew many elements of his plays from his own life, for instance, his older sister Rose. Rose suffered from mental problems that caused her to eventually become recognized in the drama through the character Laura; Laura is a young girl who is mentally imprisoned and cannot seem to escape her fantasy world. Tom recollects scenes from his childhood during the height of the Depression, showing his mother as the character Amanda, as she’s trying to maintain a lost gentility in the midst of overwhelming poverty and persuading her children into her idea of happiness.

The production of the drama performs the scenes through the memory of the character Tom Wingfield, who is both the narrator and a character in the play. Thus meaning the separate scenes are to be viewed as part of Tom’s remembrance of an important time in his life, rather than just a story. Since Tom is both a narrator and a character, he must let the audience know he has previously been involved in the scenes at one point in time. Another method used to convey the idea that it is a memory play is the use of William’s stage directions. In many places, William recommends a projection of titles and images on the scene to carry out the impression of memory and to recollect certain events that take place sometime during the play.

The Glass Menagerie shows the internal importance of family, the everlasting presence of the past, and the desire to escape. Through the play the audience is able to see the characters’ incapability to accept life as it is. It demonstrations that reminiscing about the past does not improve the future, but instead might shatter it.

In the article it is stated “The human condition of an individual’s inability to escape a psychological loss of space no matter how much physical distance is attained, “(Janardanan 24) just as Tom was unable to completely escape the thoughts of his mother and sister, bringing them into a deeper connection with one another.

“I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two places… I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space… I would have stopped, but I pursued by something... Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I attended to be!” (Tennessee, 114)

Tom believed the further the distance between him and his family, the better-off he would become; not having to worry about two delicate women, but only about himself. As he proceeds through his journey, he realizes the further the distance, the more he thinks about his sister and his mother. Although he escaped physically, he may not ever be able to escape mentally.

Tennessee Williams uses a great deal of foreshadowing in the play to add dramatic tension and build the reader’s anticipation about what might happen next. For example, throughout the drama, Tom’s departure is foreshadowed by his frequent retreats to the fire escape, showing he wants to leave and escape his dysfunctional family; although his conscious keeps him to stay longer than expected. “You say there’s so much in your heart that you can’t describe to me. That’s true of me, too. There’s so much in my heart that I can’t describe to you! So let’s respect each other’s-” (Tennessee, 762). Another example of foreshadowing is Jim’s breaking of Laura’s unicorn, foreshadowing his breaking of her heart. “Laura struggles visibly with her storm.” (Tennessee, 782), meaning she is trying to contain her feelings when Jim explains to her that he is engaged.

Symbolism is another major literary device used in the play, showing that other objects have another meaning other than its literal meaning and the actions of a character that have a deeper meaning in the context of the whole story. The magic show Tom attends in scene four, where the magician managed to escape, is an example of symbolism. Tom perceives his family as a coffin, confined, asphyxiating, and depressed; as the magician was able to escape without bending a single nail from the coffin, Tom has human nails that will forever hold him captive to his family unless bent. The glass menagerie is the play’s dominant symbol, for it signifies a great deal of Laura’s character; like the glass animals Laura is delicate, whimsical, and somewhat antiquated. Also like Laura, the glass is crystal clear, unless shone in the light, where a whole rainbow of colors is then shown. Laura might be shy and quiet around unfamiliar people, but once someone takes the chance to pass through her oddness and shine the light on her, she becomes marvelous. For instance Jim never noticed Laura throughout high school, but now that he has gotten the chance to formally introduce himself and have an actual conversation with her, he becomes interested in her “one times one” self.(Tennessee, 781)   In the play, the fire escape represents the family’s eagerness to escape the frustration and rage brought constantly on a daily basis. As Laura slips on the fire escape, it demonstrations her lack of ability to escape her mind. Tom however, repeatedly steps out onto the fire escape, showing his readiness and desire to escape soon.

Throughout the entire play, the themes of escape and abandonment take a major role in the Wingfield family. Laura and Amanda find it difficult to face the real world, therefore finding alternative ways to help them avoid it.  Laura’s escape from the real world is to create her own, by playing with her glass collection and remaining enclosed in her mind .As an example, in scene four, she was incredibly anxious to be associated with anyone in Business College, that she became physically and mentally ill. Instead of continuing her education and facing reality, she has been walking in the park, the museum, the zoo, and the jewel box greenhouse, escaping into her own thoughts and into objects that are unknown and unpressured by social interactions. Amanda escapes her depressing lonely life by living in the past and future, constantly reminding Laura and Tom of her young days receiving seventeen gentlemen callers.” One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain – your mother received – seventeen! – Gentlemen callers! Why, sometimes there weren’t enough chairs to accommodate them all. We had to send the nigger over to bring in folding chairs from the parish house.” (Tennessee, 21). Amanda judges a woman’s value by how much attention she receives from males, therefore saddened because her “peculiar” daughter has not once received a gentleman caller (Tennessee, 35). On the other hand Tom tries to not only to escape emotionally but also physically, by going to the movies and getting drunk he can somewhat pursue this desire without hurting anyone.



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