The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

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Group Members:

Tanushree Bansal

Vanessa Canda

Kree McCants

Mikael Macalinao


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Character Descriptions:

Laura Wingfield
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Jess Weixler depicting Laura Wingfield

Basic description of the character:

She is crippled (one leg is short than the other, therefore she has to wear a brace). But despite her physical [[#|disability]], she has a unique beauty and a compassionate nature fore she worries about others (her brother for example) despite her own difficulties. There are times when she is self-conscious (even more than others). Also the fact that she only has a small amount of lines shows how she is not self-centered. Her personality is somewhat peculiar. For example, instead of going to the business school that her mother put her in, she ditches the classes and takes a walk in the park instead. She is also not very social therefore she rather spends her day going to the zoo, polishing her glass collection, or playing records which are not the typical persona of the ladies during that certain time period.

Significance to text:

Laura’s delicate features and her delicate nature reflect back to her glass collection because in a way, she also breaks for a slightest change could make her freak out. Her glass collection is beautiful yet fragile and so is Laura. And the name that Jim; a worker that her brother, Tom brought home, always referred to her as Blue Roses which also gives a sense of unusualness to Laura, fore blue roses are rare and peculiar.

Quote:

“Please, please, please, you go!”

“You’ll have to go to the door because I can’t.”

“I can’t go either!”

“Why?”

“I’m sick!” (Laura and Amanda)

This shows how she tries to make excuses (like how she uses her physical weakness for the weakness of her mind) so as not to get the door.

Strength and weakness:

Laura in a way shows that she has her own mind-set or a sense of will because she defies other people’s perceptions. For example, her mother tries to ignore her disabilities but Laura say’s it out loud to her anyway. Her selflessness toward others is another strength that she demonstrates. Her weakness would be her self-consciousness because it affects her interactions with other people and the way that she expresses herself resulting to her shy nature.


Amanda Wingfield
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Jessica Lange depicting Amanda Wingfield

Basic Description:

As the mother of Tom and Laura Wingfield, Amanda plays a major role in the [[#|play]]. Although she now lives up North with her children, it is very clear that she still values and encourages her Southern roots. As a true “Southern belle,” Amanda constantly reminisces about her [[#|younger]] years in the South where she grew up traditionally and had several gentlemen suitors every day. She struggles to cope with her change in both economic and social status and attempts to instead, live through her children. She pushes her son to be driven while she also projects her own desires upon her disabled daughter. One might say she is in denial of her daughter’s disability as she constantly expresses her wishes to marry her daughter off even though Laura is introverted and very aware of her disability. Her confidence and willingness to push her children for “greater” things in life reveal that she only wants what is best for her children and her actions are done out of love. However, she often comes off as selfish and forceful because it is clear that her children’s desires are very different from her own:

“Oh! I felt so weak I could barely keep on my feet! I had to sit down while they got me a glass of water! Fifty dollars’ [[#|tuition]], all of our plans- my hopes and ambitions for you- just gone up the spout, just gone up the spout like that.” (2.16)

This quote depicts Amanda’s character clearly as she is disappointed that her children do not desire the same lives she wants for them.

Significance to Text:

Amanda is the matriarch of the family and the leading woman in the play. Her influence has a huge impact on the other characters as she is Laura and Tom's mother and has a tendency to express her desires for her children.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Although Amanda expresses herself in forceful ways sometimes, it is clear that she deeply loves her children and only wants what is best for them. Her confidence also makes her a strong character. However, Amanda is also an aggressive character and often fails to grasp reality. Instead, she gets lost in her memories of her younger years.

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Tom Wingfield
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Josh Hutcherson depicting Tom Wingfield

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Basic Description:

Tom is the son of Mrs. Amanda Wingfield and the brother of Laura. He is a young man who works hard to take care of his family. His job at the warehouse provides for the household, so Tom is essentially the sole financial caregiver in the house. Yet, Tom is dissatisfied with his job. He seeks a life of adventure, and his mundane monotonous work at the warehouse does not bring him the rapture he seeks. In fact, Tom's desire to escape from his tedious, sorrow-filled everyday life is what makes him essential to the plot.

Tom's search for adventure defines a key theme of the play; the inability to accept reality. Because he cannot bear the sorrows that haunt his family, Tom spends many late nights away from his apartment, visiting the local movie theater where he can escape from his own life for a couple of hours. Through movies, Tom can stand in another person's shoes and leave his own worries behind. But every morning when he comes home, Tom is faced with the same old worries. This shows how Tom, although he attempts to escape from reality, can never truly get away from it. Tom's behavior carries the underlying theme Tennessee Williams is trying to relay, and thus he is an indispensable part of the plot.

“Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”- Tom Wingfield

This quote defines Tom's personality because it refers back to the theme that his character carries. Tom is telling us the story of the Glass Menagerie. He claims he is giving us the truth of the story with aspects of "illusion" to it. This reference to "illusion" once again supports Tom's longing to escape the real truth- reality.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Tom is an intriguing character that readers can relate to. Readers may admire his fortitude; despite being dissatisfied with his life, Tom stays behind and takes a job he doesn't like to support his family. They also may admire his obvious concern for his sister, because even when he ultimately leaves his family behind at the end of the novel, thoughts of his sister still haunt him. Yet Tom's weaknesses are apparent in the fact that he has a hard time coping with his problems. Instead of facing reality and conquering his problems by taking action (for example, by listening to his mother's suggestion and taking night school classes to improve his education and his career), Tom finds emotional ways of coping through drinking and binge movie watching. Tom's fortitude is a strength, but his emotional instability a definite weakness.

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Jim O’Connor
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Zac Efron depicting Jim O'Connor

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Basic Description:

Jim O’Connor is the high school hero who turned out to be less successful than everyone expected him to be. He was a popular athlete who everyone knew in high school including, Tom and Laura. Now however, he works as a shipping clerk in a warehouse, a job unexpected for a prominent man that he was. Nevertheless, he is described as a man who is pursuing a brighter future. He goes to night school to study engineering and public speaking which shows his drive for self improvement. It shows that he is unhappy about his life and how it turned out to be.

“You think of yourself as having the only problems, as being the only one who is disappointed. But just look around you and you will see lots of people as disappointed as you are.”-Jim to Laura

Jim’s importance to the text was displayed through his interactions with Laura. In high school, he paid no attention to her disabilities and even gave her the nickname “Blue Roses”. Even after high school, he sees the beauty in Laura and encourages her, saying that she should not put herself down. Jim acts as a symbol of hope for Laura as he brings her back to reality and reminds her that her disability is not a curse.


Identification of significant themes or concepts with quote support:


Theme: Duty

There is a conflict between one’s obligation and one’s real desire to pursue their own hopes and dreams within the characters. But where their sense of duty lies to also results in abandonment. For example, in the play, Tom eventually left his family to pursue his own dream for a sense of adventure. But in doing so, he abandons both his mother and his sister. The sense of duty is also based upon gender. Because of the time period this play was depicted on, it shows how society expected certain people to act. For example, it is considered not normal for a girl to be crippled or socially awkward.


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Theme: The Difficulty of Accepting Reality

In the play, each member of the Wingfield family struggles to accept the reality of their lives. Instead, Laura, Tom, and Amanda find comfort in escaping to the false realities they have created for themselves. Laura escapes to her world with her glass animals, Tom prefers to find escape through literature, film, and alcohol while Amanda retreats to her memory of her past; her traditional, privileged youth.

In a conversation between Tom and Amanda, Tom refers to Laura as “crippled” and upsets Amanda because she cannot accept the reality that her daughter is disabled.

“Laura seems all those things to you and me because she’s ours and we love her. We don’t even notice she’s crippled any more.”

“Don’t say crippled! You know I never allow that word to be used!” (pg. 47)

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Theme: The Inability to Escape

- Tom attempts to escape his sorrowful life by going off to “adventures” at the movie theaters but he is always brought back to his troubles when he comes home in the morning

- Even when Tom leaves his family behind at the end of the play, thoughts of his sister continue to haunt him, “Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me but I am more faithful than I intended to be!”- Tom, page 97

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Important Vocabulary:


Pages: 50-75

1. unobtrusive (pg 51)- inconspicuous or unassertive.

2. momentary (pg 51)- lasting but a moment; very brief; fleeting

3. poise (pg 59)- a dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure; self-possession

4. interior (pg 60)- being within; inside of anything; internal

5. acquainted (pg 62)- having personal knowledge as a result of study, experience, etc

6. paragon (pg 63)- someone of exceptional merit

7. domestic (pg 64)- devoted to home life or household affairs.

8. negligence (pg 69)- the quality or result of being negligent; neglect

9. lonesome (pg 69)- depressed or sad because of the lack of friends, companionship, etc

10. kitchenette (pg 68)- a very small, compact kitchen

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Pages: 25-50

1. motley (pg. 26)- exhibiting great diversity of elements

2.grotesquely (pg.30)- odd or unnatural in shape, appearance, or character

3. scalding (pg. 30)- to burn or affect painfully with or as if with hot liquid or steam

4. querulous (pg. 33)- full of complaints

5. martyr (pg.37)- a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause.

6. laundered (pg. 42)- to wash (linen, clothes, etc.)

7. chintz (pg. 43)- a printed cotton fabric, glazed or unglazed, used especially for draperies

8. supercilious (pg. 45)- haughtily disdainful or contemptuous, as a person of facial expression

9. vitality (pg. 48)- exuberant physical strength or mental vigor

10. peculiar (pg. 48)- strange; odd

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Pages: 1-25

1. menagerie (page 10)- a collection of wild or unusual animals, especially for exhibition

2. portieres (page 6)- a curtain hung in the doorway, either to replace the door or for decoration

3. mastication (page 6)- to chew or reduce to pulp by crushing or kneading

4. spinsters (page 16)- a woman still unmarried beyond the usual age of marrying

5. pluerosis (page 17)- inflammation of the pleura (outer membrane of the lungs)

6. archetype (page 19)- the original pattern or model from which all things of the same type are copied, or according to Jungian philosophy, a collectively inherited unconscious idea universally present in individual psyches

7. precipitated (page 22)- hasten the occurrence of, bring about prematurely

8. celotex (page 23)- a band of board made of cane fiber, used for insulation or as a vapor barrier, siding, or layer under a roof

9. pinioned (page 24)- to bind, disable, or restrain

10. roulette (page 24)- a game of chance played at a table marked off with numbers from 1 to 36, one or two zeros, and several other sections affording the players a variety of betting opportunities, and having in the center a revolving, dishlike device (roulette wheel) into which a small ball is spun to come to rest finally in one of the 37 or 38 compartments, indicating the winning number and its characteristics, as odd or even, red or black, and between 1 and 18 or 19 and 36.

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Pages: 75-End

1. beleaguered (pg, 78)- (verb) to surround or beset, as with troubles.

2. aptitude (pg. 81)- (noun) capability; ability; innate or acquired capacity for something; talent.

3. tumultuously (pg. 88)- (adv) full of tumult or riotousness; marked by disturbance and uproar

4. decorously (pg. 89)- (adj) characterized by dignified propriety in conduct, manners, appearance, character, etc.

5. perturbation (pg. 89)- (noun) the act of disturbing or disquieting greatly in mind; agitation. .

6. stumblejohn (pg. 90)- (noun) blunderer, someone awkward

7. jalopy (pg. 94)- (noun) an old, decrepit, or unpretentious automobile.

8. peal (pg. 88)- (noun) a loud, prolonged ringing of bells.

9. Indolently (pg. 79)- (adv) having or showing a disposition to avoid exertion; slothful.

10. reverently (pg. 77)- (adv) feeling, exhibiting, or characterized by reverence; deeply respectful.




SCENES:

Amanda and Tom Argue-
Tom gets upset with his mother because she threw away his book. Amanda believes the book was diseasing his mind. The two start insulting each other. From Amanda’s viewpoint, Tom goes out to the movies every night and returns very late into the next morning. She believes he is shirking his responsibilities. On the other hand, Tom feels underappreciated because he thinks that his mother does not realize how much he sacrifices to bring money in for the family. Through this argument, the readers learn much about Tom as a character. They discover his role in the family as the caregiver, and how because he is upset with the condition of his life, he attempts to escape reality by reading books and watching movies, but he still suffers through his life so that he can provide for his family.
Dinner Warning
The day before Mr. O'Connor is expected to join the Wingfields for dinner, Amanda is busy with excitement as she tries to prepare both the meal she will cook and her children for the dinner. Tom then decides to let Amanda know that Jim does not know of Laura yet. Amanda remains excited and boasts about how thrilled he'll be once he sees how beautiful Laura is. Tom tries to tell Amanda that she shouldn't expect too much from Jim and Laura because he will be undoubtedly aware of her crippled state. This greatly upset Amanda as she continued to deny her daughter's disability. The scene is significant because it highlights Amanda's refusal to accept this aspect of Laura. Tom tries to help her see from an outsider's perspective and explain that they'll always se Laura perfect out of love because she's their daughter and sister.
Jim and Laura’s Dance
After Laura offers Jim her glass unicorn, he invites her to waltz with him. While they dance, they accidentally knock over the figurine, causing the horn to break off. Immediately after the scene, Jim confesses his love for a girl named Betty. This scene is significant because the glass unicorn represents Jim’s overcoming his illusions. Just like how a unicorn is mythical, Jim’s memories of his high school life was something that he cannot live again. The unicorn breaking off introduces the notion that Jim is no longer captive in his illusion and was now subject to reality. He realizes that he is a changed man and that his life in the past should not interfere with his hopes and dreams.


Laura Gets Ready to Meet Tom:
Amanda is getting her daughter, Laura, dressed before they meet Tom’s co worker, Jim. She even goes as far as trying to stuff her daughter’s bra with “gay deceivers”. After she was done dressing Laura up, she goes and gets herself ready as well. Amanda reminisces so much on the past that she even pulls out her old dress that she used to to compete in the catwalks with and even entertained gentlemen callers with that same dress.



QUOTES:

"I go to the movies because—I like adventure. Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies." - Tom Wingfield (pg.33)
The quote depicts Tom deep desire for adventure and joy in his life. Much like people in today's society, when there is something missing in our lives, we fill the void by seeking different outlets to escapes. In Tom's case, he prefers film, poetry, alcohol to find his adventure and true happiness.


“You are the only young man that I know of that ignores the fact that the future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it!”- Amanda to Tom on page 45

This quote represents a key theme of the novel; reality. The future, the present, and the past are all different versions of reality. Amanda criticizes Tom for not preparing for this reality. This supports the fact that Tom constantly attempts to escape reality because he is not satisfied with it.

No, Laura, I can’t. As I was just explaining, I’ve got strings on me. Laura, I’ve been going steady! I go out all the time with a girl named Betty.
-Jim to Laura (pg 89)
This quote depicts Jim’s rejection of Laura. In context however, it has a more significant meaning. It shows Jim’s growth and that he is willing to let his high school memories fade away. He faces reality and demonstrates that he is not the man that he used to be. During the scene, he avoids letting his past and his emotions get the best of him and eventually lets Laura go, showing that he was a new man who will not cling to his glorious past.

“All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.”-Amanda Wingfield (pg 52)
Gender roles are a big part of the play. Also, since this quote is coming from the mother, Amanda, it shows how she is also discussing what women should do and what men should do. Because of the time period of the setting in the play, gender roles dictate how men and women were treated. For some reason, Amanda always tries to point out the importance of staying “young” and “beautiful” fore she believes that a woman's job is to look pretty.


SOCIAL ISSUES:

Destruction of the family unit:
The Wingfield family is clearly dysfunctional. First, Mr. Wingfield abandoned the family. Without him, there was no one to provide for the family. Tom was left to bring in income. Additionally, the mother is a bit abnormal. She is disillusioned by the gloom of Northern industrial life and clings desperately onto her personality as a Southern belle. She tries to instill these values into her daughter, and she refuses to see that she cannot vicariously live through her daughter because her daughter does not have the extroverted, lively personality that Amanda had when she was a young woman. Amanda is unhappy with Tom for shirking his responsibilities by escaping to the movies every night, Tom is unhappy with Amanda for constantly nagging him and for not understanding how much he has sacrificed for the family, and Amanda is unhappy with Laura for not having any gentlemen callers. Everyone in the family has issues with each other, showing how the family unit has become dysfunctional. This issue represents America because American families have historically grown smaller as women have moved in to the workforce and have less children and divorce is a more common occurrence. This shows how America has a more work oriented and less family oriented society.

Gender Roles:
In the play, the concept of gender roles are predominately enforced by Amanda Wingfield. She scolds her son when spends too much time indulging in movies and poetry. Instead, she encourages Tom to be more motivated and ambitious towards becoming a successful businessman. Due to her upbringing, she values a traditional man who is hardworking and is able to provide for a family. She also believes that woman should behave properly and always be conscious of their appearance as to attract potential husbands. Marriage is important to her and she believes that it should be important to everyone else. This topic is always relevant not only in America but globally because society is always struggling to break the tradition of confining people to a particular way of life because of their gender.


Alcoholism:
Tom is accused of being drunk. Alcohol inhibits your senses and keeps you from mulling over your problems too much. It’s another way of escaping reality, and thus Tom’s drunkenness is consistent with his efforts to escape reality. Alcoholism has been a long standing social issue in this country. Middle age adults stereotypically get drunk to escape emotional responses to relationship and financial problems. Recently, American teens have moved more towards alcohol in their search for individuality and resistance of authority.



Unemployment:
The issue of unemployment mostly revolves around Laura. She dropped out of business school and spends most of her time playing with her glass collection. Laura shuns herself because she is ashamed of her disability. Amanda on the other hand, thinks otherwise and encourages her daughter to find suitors that will take care of her in the future. Laura escapes this reality and gets absorbed in her glass collection in order to avoid her responsibilities as an adult. This issue is relevant to America because women are expected to either be housewives with a man supporting them or have a job supporting either themselves or their families.