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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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