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This is a play written by Tennessee Williams. It revolves around the life of a family consisting of a mother named Amanda, a father who ran away, a son named Tom, and a daughter named Laura. Laura is a cripple, while her mother is a charmer. The son Tom has thoughts of escaping from his mother leaving the image of Laura behind because it haunts him. Tom cannot make himself to run away because of his sister Laura. In the play, Laura is unable to continue with her classes and, as a result, the mother thinks that she should get married instead. She asks Tom to invite one of his co-workers so that he and Laura could meet. Laura seems to be caught up in her childhood life as she treats her collection of miniature animals as it is her greatest accomplishment. The gentleman turns out to be former school mate of Laura, but he is engaged and is going to get married. The play ends with Laura being left behind by his brother, who runs away from his mother because she keeps on scolding him. This report is an analysis of the play “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams with specials emphasis put on the message the author tries to communicate, how he does it, and how his writing was influenced by historical and biographical factors.
One of the themes that Williams tries to put across is the adversity of disability of a young woman. Laura Wingfield is presented as a physically and emotionally challenged woman (Cardullo, p. 1). Williams uses Laura to show the emotions of a young woman who is physically challenged and cannot succeed in her professional life, education and marital life. The title of the play comes from Laura’s only hobby and achievement in her life, a collection of miniature animals made of glass. Williams also brings out the theme of desires in the play. The name of Laura, for instance, blue roses signify her yearning for both the ideal and mystical beauty and romantic love (Cardullo, p. 77). However, like blue roses which do not exist in the nature naturally, she cannot make her desires come true. Williams shows how a person could be living yet dead with a help of Laura’s character. Despite her bad health, Laura takes the time to look pretty for Jim, the man she is about to meet. This shows that she yearns to live full life and to get married. Her will to live is supported and encouraged greatly by her brother Tom. When Jim comes into the play, he brings hope to Laura while mesmerizing about the times in high school and giving her various advices. However, Laura’s dream is destroyed when her brother Tom and Jim leave her life. For Tom the decision is hard and he wants to suppress the image of Laura, so that he can run away from his mother.
William uses great literary skills to convey his messages. The use of first person (play) is consistent in his work. It is for the purpose of bringing reality, that he used the style of play in this work. Further, the use of metaphors cannot be ignored in this work. Jim talks to Laura of his plans for the future when the lights go out, thus casting a huge shadow on the ceiling (Williams, line 122). This is metaphoric because his big dreams are like a doom to Laura. Jim’ engagement and future plans to marry someone else seals the fate of Laura to dying lonely and making her dreams of getting married to a gentleman never come true. It is also metaphoric that Laura, being a woman with so much desire to live and get married, refuses to complete her course in shorthand typing. Her desired world is a world without contest as she faints and withdraws from school after a speed-typing test (Ardolino, p.131). Williams also uses symbolism in his play to emphasize important parts of the play. Use of darkness in the play due to light being cut out is one such symbolism. Tom has been the source of light in Laura’s life and vise versa. The two held on to each other because their mother was pressuring her children to make her own dreams come true. Tom’s refusal to pay electricity bill plunges the house into darkness symbolizing that Laura’s and Amanda’s lives will be darkened with his departure. The presence of Jim during this moment of darkness also shows how he hammers in the last nail into the coffin of doom for Laura. There is also a cracking ominous sound from the sky with the mention of the name Betty who is engaged to be married to Jim. Other symbols used in the play include the blue roses and the glass animal miniatures.
Historical and Biological Influence
The play is based on memories from the true life of Williams when he was growing up. Williams was born in a family where the parents’ marriage was dysfunctional. His father, just like the father of Laura in the play, was always absent working. His sister Rose was ill and eventually died from an operation that at first left her emotionally challenged (Williams, 1). Williams wanted to get way from his family because of the depressing nature of their lives, and thus he left their home and went to stay with his grandparents in Tennessee, where he probably changed his name from Tom to Tennessee. Tom in the play is a character of Tennessee as a young man. When Williams moved to St. Louis, Tom (Tennessee) and Rose were each other’s friends and companions. The bringing of Rose’s things into the play shows that the character of Laura represents Rose. For example, when in St. Louis Rose used to play with her small glass animals. Their mother Edwina Williams never acknowledged her daughter’s challenges and always tried to force her to take secretarial courses and introduced her to prospective friends. This is brought into the play through the character of Amanda, who is Laura’s mother. The play is therefore influenced on a large scale by the life of Tennessee and the people he had close relationships with.
The “The Glass Menagerie” was one of the gentlest plays written by Tennessee regarding his personal life. It was not the last play that he wrote based on his memories. However, his subsequent works which are based on the memories about his family are very aggressive. The “The Glass Menagerie” is one of his most celebrated works and the one that brought him worldwide recognition.