Two novels that were highly praised because of their depiction of the complications in a family setting; first, Henry James' Washington Square which talks about the complicated relationship of a father and his daughter. Second, Tennessee William's The Glass Menagerie which talks about the relationship of a son, his mother and his sister. A brief discussion of both novels will be needed to better understand the points that the writer wants to emphasize.
The Glass Menagerie is about a family that is trapped in a complicated situation. Each character has its own ordeal. Amanda, the mother, is a middle-aged woman who was abandoned by her husband. She takes care of her two children, Laura and Tom. She is trapped in her dreamy past, her gentleman callers, etc. At the present, she is dependent on Tom's job for her and Laura's future. Laura, on the other hand, is a very shy girl. She just spends her time enjoying watching her glass menagerie. She is too fragile to join the outside world.
She just spends her time in their apartment. Tom is an adventurer, but Amanda does not approve of that. She believes that there is more to life than being a worker or a poet. The pressures that Amanda gave him made him runaway like what their father did to them. But, he did not forget Laura wherever he went. Laura was always in his mind.
Washington Square is about a complicated situation of a dull but sweet daughter and his wonderful but domineering father. Catherine is considered as a disappointment by his father, Dr. Sloper, who is a brilliant doctor. After the death of his wife and son, he thought about Catherine as physically plain and mentally dull. Also, Morris Townsend who courted Catherine was perceived to be a not-so-bad guy, but actually, he is the actual villain in the story.
The points that I have found to be interesting is the unusual treatment of parents to their children. In The Glass Menagerie, Amanda restricted Tom from doing what he wants. She pressured him to be more than what he is now, without taking into considerations the things that he wanted for himself.
Thus, Tom was pressured to run away from them even if it costs leaving his poor sister with their delusional mother. On the other hand, in the Washington Square, a similar plot is portrayed; Catherine was treated by his father, Dr. Sloper, in the same way that Amanda treated Tom. Dr. Sloper thought of Catherine as a weakling. He does not approve of what she wants with his life - marrying Townsend. There is the same portrayal in both stories. The parents restrict their children to achieve their wants and dreams because they believe that what they want for their children is the best for them.
Exploring subjects such as love, past and psychological trauma for both of the stories; The Glass Menagerie portrays love in the relationship of Laura and Tom. It was argued that maybe Tom and Laura had a relationship that is not of brotherly love but that of the lovers. But it was also argued that Tom was only rocked by his conscience and guilt for leaving his beloved sister with his mother. Washington Square portrayed love in the relationship of Catherine and Townsend. This love is not true love, but it is a deceitful feeling that Catherine felt with Townsend. His father was right all along that Townsend was only interested on the wealth of their family. Another topic is in dealing with the past; The Glass Menagerie portrays the past as a trap. For Amanda, the past trapped her. That is why she spent her time daydreaming about what her past was, about her gentleman callers. She forgot her children's dreams. She was trapped in the illusion of the time that was way way past. In the Washington's Square, the past was portrayed in the mind of Catherine. After her father died, she had realized that Townsend trifled her affections. She became aware of what her situation really is. In the end, she had a clearer view of what had happened and a clearer view in the future.
Last topic that I would like to discuss is the psychological trauma. The Glass Menagerie portrayed psychological trauma in the character of Amanda. She was traumatized by the fact that her husband left them with only a hello and goodbye. This led to the madness inside of her personality. She was stuck in the past, she always thinks of the past. Not only thinks of the past, but lives in the past. On the other hand, Washington's Square portrays psychological trauma in the character of Dr. Sloper. He was traumatized by the fact that his wife and other child had died. His mind remained brilliant, but his heart died along with his wife and son.
The portrayal of family relationships is very realistic. I believe that it happens in real life today. That is why both works deserve the praise that they have received for the past decade.