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Glass Menagerie Essay, Research Paper
The Concrete Cripples
In an interview , Tennessee Williams once said, “I have
always been more interested in creating a character that
contains something crippled… They have a certain
appearance of fragility, these neurotic people I write
about, but they are really strong.” In Tennessee Williams’
The Glass Menagerie, the strengths and weaknesses of the
characters in the play is a subject that cannot be
overlooked by the reader. There have been several critics
who have raised interesting points concerning this subject.
Critic Judith J. Thompson takes the stance that
Amanda’s “embodiment of ‘The Great Mother’” is blinded by
her weakness of an unrealistic world (p. 17). She states
that Amanda’s character is made up of “the Good Mother, the
Terrible Mother, the seductive young witch, and the innocent
virgin” (Thompson 17). She supports her theory with the
incident in which Amanda says that she had seventeen
gentlemen callers in one day. Thompson goes on to say that
the “exaggeration of the number of Amanda’s beaux recalls
fairy tale and legends of romance in which the princess is
beleaguered by suitors until the ideal knight or prince
returns” (17). Here, Thompson shows that Amanda’s weakness
is living in a sort of dream world which overwhelms her
intentions of being a “Great Mother” (Thompson 17).
A second critic, Joseph K. Davis, takes the stance that
Laura’s weakness overpowers her ability to be sensitive.
Davis divides the dramatic pattern of The Glass Menagerie
into two parts. Part of the pattern is “the dramatization
of men and women by a display of their fragmented, tortured
psychologies” (Davis 192). He states in his analysis of The
Glass Menagerie: “His [Tom’s] sister Laura tries to live in
the present, but her crippled body and grim prospects in the
secretarial school overcame her fragile sensibilities”
(194). Davis implies that, like Amanda, Laura’s weakness
consumes her ability to live in reality and her sensibility,
her one strength.
A third critic, Tom Scanlan takes the stance that Tom’s
weakness is overcome by his strength. Tom is easily
entrapped and persuaded into situations that he may or may
not want to be which weakens his character but his strength
is greater than this weakness. The critic states that “the
reappearance of Tom as narrator force the reader back to the
present” (Scanlan 99). He shows the reader that Tom’s
strength is the ability to keep in touch with reality.
Scanlan also shows the reader Tom’s weakness by citing the
example where Tom “is caught between a domineering mother
and a stultifying warehouse job” (99). Although this is an
apparent weakness in Tom, this critic’s view is that Tom
overcomes his weakness of entrapment through his strength.
In The Glass Menagerie, Amanda, Laura, and Tom are
characterized as having both strengths and weaknesses.
Amanda lets her weakness get the best of her while it
overpowers her strength. The physical weakness of Laura
does get the best of her, but her strength of sensibility
does shine through at the end of the play. Tom’s weakness
of entrapment seems to be beating him, but his enduring
strength prevails in the end. Though crippled physically or
non-physically, each of the characters possesses a different
strength which either helps or is overwhelmed by their
strength which either helps or is overwhelmed by their
Critic Judith Thompson argues that Amanda’s weakness is
too powerful and drowns out her strength. After considering
all the facts, Thompson’s theory proves to be a valid one.
Amanda is a very weak person. She pretends that Laura can
do everything she can do, as when she refers to the issues
of gentlemen callers. Amanda says that she must always be
ready because there is no telling when a gentlemen caller
may show up (2115). She also believer that Laura is able to
get a lot of gentlemen callers at anytime (2116), and she
denies that Laura is a cripple and does not allow that word
to be used in the house, although Laura does at the end of
the play (2113). These examples show how Amanda lets her
dream world mix with reality to create her weakness.
The argument that the sensibility of Laura is overtaken
by her imaginary world of glass and that her physical
handicap, for the most part, is all in her head is a valid
one. It is evident that she has made out her physical
handicap to be something more than it really is. Throughout
the play, no one actually tells her that is crippled except
for herself (2133). This supports Davis’ theory that she is
not sensible and that she does not have strength in her
sensibility. The problem with this is that she is sensible
because, if she were not, she would deny her problem just as
her mother does. She does recognize that does have a
disability even though it may not be as big of a problem as
she thinks it is. Laura also recognizes that she is not
like her mother and will not receive any gentlemen callers
(2116) which is a sensible thing to do. There is clearly a
case against Davis’ theory of Laura’s lack of sensibility.
Tom has an evident weakness but is overpowered by his
strength of reality. This is also argued by critic Tom
Scanlan. It is clear that Tom does have a weakness and that
weakness is his entrapment. He is bound to care for his
sister and mother because his father left them, and this
prevents Tom from living the action for himself and being in
the movies (2139). Amanda drives Tom crazy by over
criticizing him no matter what her does. One example of the
criticism occurs when Amanda tells Tom, “You smoke too much”
(2140). This must push Tom too far because he decides that
he is going to leave. When Tom leaves Laura and Amanda, he
shows that his strength has triumphed over his weakness.
From these criticisms, it is easy to see why this
subject is an important one. The characters’ weaknesses and
strengths are not the same, but they o either help or hinder
themselves. All three critics are in agreement with the
main idea of the subject. One has a slightly different view
than the rest but not everyone sees everything the same way.
The important thing is that they support the idea that
,though crippled physically or non-physically, each of the
characters possesses a different strength which either helps
or is overwhelmed by their strength which either helps or is
overwhelmed by their handicap.
1. Thompson, Judith J. Tennessee Williams’ Plays: Memory,
Myth, and Symbol. New York: Peter Land Publishing,
2. Davis, Joseph K. “Landscapes of the Dislocated Mind in
Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.” Tennessee Williams: A
Tribute. Ed. Jac Tharpe. Hattiesburg: Heritage
Printers, Inc., 1977. 192-206.
3. Scanlan, Tom. “Family and Psyche in The Glass
Menagerie.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of The
Glass Menagerie. Ed. R.B. Parker. Englewood Cliffs:
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983. 96-108.
4. Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie.” Concise
Anthology of American Literature. Ed. George
McMichael. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company,
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