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The Glass Menagerie Essay, Research Paper
Tennessee Williams? The Glass Menagerie
Tennessee Williams is one the major writers of the
mid-twentieth century. He has written plays like The Glass
Managerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. The common theme of
The Glass Menagerie is that hopeful aspirations are followed by
inevitable disappointments. This theme is common throughout all of
Williams? books and throughout his own life as well. It is shown
through the use of symbols and characters.
"I have only one major theme for my work, which is the
destructive impact of society on the sensitive non-conformist
individual (Williams Netscape)." Symbols help to show the dreams
and desires that the characters long for and also the restrictions
that keep them from fulfilling those dreams. In The Glass
Menagerie, the fire escape symbolizes the way for Amanda
Wingfield to bring a man into the house to save her and her
daughter. To Tom, the fire escape is a means of escape from the
house that traps him- a path to the outside world (Susquehanna.
"New Critical"). Rainbows in The Glass Menagerie symbolize hope
and are associated with hopeful situations (Susquehanna. "New
Critical.) When Tom Wingfield receives a rainbow-colored scarf at
the magic show, he is amazed at the fact it turned a bowl of
goldfish into flying canaries. Just like the canaries, Tom hopes to
fly away- fly away to escape his imprisonment (Susquehanna. "New
Critical"). At the end of the play when Tom looks at the "pieces of
colored glass, like bits of a shattered rainbow (Williams 137)", he
remembers that he has left his sister behind and prays that he will
be able to move on without her. Even though the rainbows appear
to be positive signs throughout the book, they eventually all end in
The fact that rainbows are not what they appear to be helps
to bring a sense of irony to Williams? work. "Irony is a device that
protects him (the artist) from the pain of his experience so that he
may use it objectively in his art(Susquehanna. "New Critical")." In
The Glass Menagerie, it is ironic how Tom speaks badly of his
father and his leaving home but in the end he leaves home just like
his father, the man "in love with long distances (Williams 30)??. The
fact that Amanda wants what is best for her children is ironic
because she worries so much over it that she doesn?t realize what is
best for them.
The characters that come alive in Williams? works represent
people from his life. Amanda Wingfield from The Glass Menagerie
holds strong resemblance to Tennessee?s mother Edwina Williams.
Williams described his mother as "a woman whose endurance and
once fine qualities continued to flourished alongside a narrowness of
perception and only the dimmest awareness of human feeling
(Susquehanna. "Biographical Criticism)." Amanda easily mirrors this
description of Edwina because of her selfishness concerning Laura?s
being unattached; Edwina was much like Amanda, getting numerous
gentlemen callers as a young woman. Laura Windfield in The Glass
Menagerie is very much like Williams? sister Rose Williams. Rose
was institutionalized for having schizophrenia and was not able to
interact with the outside world. Having pleurisy, Laura was also
kept from being a part of the world she longed for. By using
examples of people from his own life in his books Williams? provides
even more realism to his stories and more support to his themes as
"If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man
who wrote it (Inge)." This is especially true for Tennessee
Williams. Numerous people face the same problems that he has
faced. His writing come straight from his heart and mind which
gives his readers something they can relate to. His honesty
through his writings brings hope to people looking for it.
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