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In The Glass Menagerie, Tom Wingfield is perhaps the most prominent character. He is burdened with not only being a main character of the play but the narrator as well. He is given the unenviable task of being the voice of reason in the Wingfield house. Almost every action of his reveals an important detail about his personality and motivation.
Tom?s personality can be divided into two main parts. The first ?give(s)?truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion? and speaks in vague details while the other side speaks bluntly and leaves no room for misinterpretation. Both parts are vital to Tom as a character since they show that he is a true three-dimensional character rather than a simple representation of a single idea. His motivation appears to change throughout the play. At times he acts out of his feelings of love and responsibility to his family while at other times he is driven by his sense of adventure. Tom?s personality traits reveal a great deal about his motivation and reasoning for his actions.
The many traits of Tom?s personality are what drive him to his actions in the play. His sense of responsibility to Amanda and Laura are the sole reason he works at a job where he ?makes a slave of himself?for sixty-five dollars a month.? His desire for adventure in his everyday life is what compels him to go to the movies every night and join the merchant marines. His need for adventure is so great that he is willing to leave his family behind in order to pursue it. Another trait of Tom?s personality that is made clear in many of his conversations is his resentment of Amanda?s attempts to control his life. He yearns for the opportunity to live his life the way he sees fit, but he knows that will not happen in the same house his mother. Despite all of this, he still has a great deal of love for his family, Laura in particular. This is made obvious when, after accidentally knocking pieces of his sister?s glass menagerie to the ground he ?crosses to the shelf? and ?drops awdwardly to collect the fallen glass.? He knows how much the figuines meant to her and did whatever he could to repair the damage. At first glance, Tom may appear to be a simple character but after closer inspection he is revealed to be a much more complex character.
Tom?s character traits connect greatly to the overall themes and meaning of The Glass Menagerie. Tom betrays his family in more ways than one when he leaves to join the merchant marines. He not only takes their main source of income away but goes directly against Amanda?s belief that he should find adventure in his daily life, rather than seek it out elsewhere. Tom?s betrayal reveals a great deal about what he believes to be important in life.
Tom obviously believes that while family is important, personal dreams and desires should come first. This shows that he thinks that betrayal and heartbreak are just parts of life that should be overcome. But when he describes feeling his sister behind him, he is letting the audience know that perhaps he has made the wrong choice in leaving his family behind.
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