In life it is believed that most of the personal characteristics are influenced by the environment in which the person lives in as well as the socio-economic status of the person. For instance those people who live in the inner cities have certain characteristics that reflect their lifestyle whereas those who live in the leafy suburbs also have their own unique characteristics. In the play "The Glass Menagerie", the author Tennessee Williams has used different themes, symbols and motifs to bring out the different characteristics of the characters in the play. Some of the main themes as expressed by the author through his main character Tom Wingfield are the difficulty of accepting reality, impossibility of true escape and finally the unrelenting power of memory.
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The play "Glass Menagerie" is narrated through the eyes of one of its main characters Tom Wingfield who is the younger brother of Laura and the son of Amanda. This young man is an aspiring talented poet but due his economic status and that of his family, he is depressed and frustrated and spends his free time in the theatre, watching movies or consuming alcohol. From the play is evident that he was not raised with all the pleasures of life but a life full of challenges and ups and downs, this affected his personal characters as he was growing up. Of all the characters in the play, it is only Tom's character that is different from the rest of the cast and this brings us to the key issue to be addressed in the paper. It will look at the Tom's character's relationship to the other characters in the play as well as the character's Inner struggle and what causes the Inner Struggle among other key issues. After analyzing the main points in the paper, a brief summary of the key points that were discussed in the paper will be mentioned.
Tom Wingfield's Character in "The Glass Menagerie"
Mr. Williams who is the playwright of the play "The Glass Menagerie" has used the character Tom in two ways; the first way in which he has used him is as a main character and narrator in the play. By this he has used Tom to bring out the different aspect of life and how the society treats people based on the social or economic status during the 1930's when the America was still reeling from the effect of WWI. The second way in which the playwright has used the character Tom is as to bring out his own autobiography. Mr. Williams was born as Thomas (Tom) and was brought up in an unstable environment of St. Louis; he (William's) was raised by a single mother, ever absent father and an elder sister. This is same picture that the playwright has painted of the setting in the play "The Glass Menagerie"
There are different personal characteristics of Tom in the play but all these have been wrapped up into one single fold; contradictory. To be able to understand this, it is important to analyze how has this characteristics helped in the developing of some of the key themes in the play. As indicated in the introductory part of this paper, one of the main themes is that of the difficulty in accepting the realities of life. According to Williams, the Wingfield family lived under very difficult conditions, each family member struggle to make ends meet and contribute to providing food for the family. It is because of this difficulty that most members of the family resolved to live their own life styles with the aim that they will find comfort and solace.
In the case of Tom, he is a talented poet and literature lover, he has dreams and ambitions of having a good life far away from the hardship he is going through, on the other had thou Tom is enslaved by his work at the shoe warehouse and he feels it hard to let it go and search for greener pastures. His dream for a dream life can be seen earlier in the play (Scene I) during dinner time when Amanda was trying to educate Tom on the eating etiquettes, the playwright writes that "Tom deliberately lays his imaginary fork down and pushes back the chair" (Williams, 65) The question therefore is how does his confused status affect his relationship with other members of the family?
Despite the fact that Tom has great love and affection towards his family, all along in the play he did not show any sign of respect towards them especially from the way he spoke to Amanda and Laura. He is portrayed as uncaring and unconcerned; for instance in the play Laura inner life is one that is surrounded by glass animals, this shows how delicate her inner life was; however when tom knocked down and broke one of her glass menagerie, he rarely shows any sign of remorse or sense of guilt. In addition to that, in most scenes in the play, the playwright has brought out areas where there the main characters (Tom, Amanda and Laura) engage in constant argument and disagreements despite the fact that they are a family.
Another theme that the author used in the play is that of impossibility of true escape. As indicated in the previous segment, one of the dreams and aspirations of this young man was to escape from his past life and embrace the life of his dreams but because of his character he does not have the courage to do this. The question is why? Another characteristic of Tom is that he is a very emotional person and this characteristic affects his personal life and also it plays a pivotal role in determining some of the decisions that he makes in life.
One of the notable things in the play is that Tom was not happy or even contented with his job at the warehouse and this made him be so emotional anytime he got in an argument either with his sister or mother. For instance in scene III, when he was arguing with his mother (Amanda) he scolded her by telling her: "Listen! You think am crazy about the ware house? You think am in love with continental shoe makers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that celotex interior! With fluorescent tubes! Look! I would rather somebody picked up a crowbar and battered out my brains-than go back mornings! I go! . . . as far as the system of transition reaches" (Williams 65-85).
Another scenario where the emotions of Tom are evident are in Scene IV where Tom emotionally narrates to his sister an section of the movie where a magician managed to free himself from a locked coffin, this explanation had a great symbolic meaning to the life of Tom. At this stage he is overcame by emotions because of the things he wishes to have in life but he cannot access them, it is also evident that despite the fact that he did not show any remorse or sympathy towards his family members this is one person who was suffering secretly. On a sad note thou he eventually managed to gain the courage and just like his father, he abandoned the family. In any family setting, the love from both parents is important in ensuring the emotional stability of the children; whoever in the case of Laura and Tom this was absent. As indicated in the paper they were raised literally by a single mother since the father was constantly absent and this greatly contributed to Tom's emotional instability. At first he could not gather enough courage to free himself from the family and start his own life because of the emotionally bondage that he and his sister and mother have especially after they were deserted by the father.
All sane human beings have memories of the past, either good or bad memories and in most cases they are a constant reminder of the life they had determines the kind of future life they will lead. If a person had a nasty past then he/she is most likely to put in extra effort to ensure that their future life is far much better and well organized than the past. The last notable characteristic of Tom is his sharp memory. He could easily recount his problematic past and this made him dream of having a better future life. It is also this characteristic that the playwright has used to tell the audience and the reader in general of his past. In the play, both Amanda and Tom are bound by the different past and it is this past that has greatly contributed to the current behavior in the play (Williams). As Marquiss has observed in the play "The Glass Menagerie" it is not Tom Wingfield who is the main character rather it is his sister Laura and her journey through life in search of a male caller; however it is Tom who's only impact is felt at the beginning and the end of the play that narrates the play to the audience to make them understand the sequence of events.
As indicated in the paper, the basic characteristics of Tom in the play are based on the themes found in the play. It is however important to note that there are other writing styles used by the playwright that have also brought out the character of Tom and how this character affects his relationship with the family. One of the motifs ought to be mentioned is that of abandonments, there are several abandonments in the play. Mr. Wingfield abandoned his family in pursue of his career, Tom also followed the footsteps of his father by abandoning his mother and sister in search for personal freedom. It is however important to note that it took years for Tom to gain strength to leave in family because he was greatly affected when his father abandoned them.
In summation, it is important to note some of the important points that have been analyzed in the paper. First and foremost it has given a glimpse of the main story line in the play, it has then looked at the different themes and how they have contributed to the character of Tom. It has then discussed how Tom's characteristics affect his personal life and his relationship with his family. The role of motifs in the development of Tom's character has also been mentioned in the paper.