The Glass Menagerieby Tennessee Williams
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Green: Christina A.

Blue: Melissa A.

Purple: Brittany T.

Burgundy: Ariella M.

Pink: Juliet A.


CHARACTER DESCRIPTION/COMMENTARY


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Tom Wingfield: Tom Wingfield is the son of Amanda Wingfield, he's the main male figure in the house as well as throughout the book. He spends a lot of time at the "movies" which gets him into arguments with his mother because she thinks otherwise. Tom knows the importance of his presence at home, how he is needed to help his mother take care of the house and his sister Laura, although he doesn't want that responsibility and longs to leave like his father did. He has a hard time accepting his family's situation but accepts it more than his mother does but he does make it clear that he doesn't want to work at his mundane job with shoes and dreams of bigger things. His temper is definitely one of his major weaknesses and we see it when he gets into verbal fights with his mother, often saying verbally abusive things he doesn't mean. "Every time you come in yelling that Goddamn "Rise and Shine! Rise and Shine!" I say to myself, "How lucky dead people are!" But I get up. I go! For sixty-five dollars a month I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever! And you say self - self's all I ever think of. Why, listen, if self is what I though of, Mother, I'd be where he is GONE!". We constantly see examples of how Tom longs for a way out of his house but its suppressed by his reality.


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Amanda Wingfield: Amanda Wingfield is a loving mother who fully supports the traditional concept (at the time) of women. She seems in many cases ignorant to the idea that her daughter -Laura- is not receiving callers because of her crippled state and her lack of interaction with society. Amanda tells her children of the many wealthy and elite callers she had when she was young, wanting the same for her daughter. She is very stubborn in the way she thinks, ultimately resulting in very heated arguments with her son, Tom. During these heated arguments she treats Tom like a child by saying, "You're going to listen, and no more insolence from you! I'm at the end of my patience." Amanda is very strict with her children, but she truly loves them and want what is best for them. When Tom informed his mother that a gentleman caller would come, Amanda's energy boosted and she anxiously prepared for the arrival of the caller. She desperately longs to relive her youth and go back to the time when she was Laura's age. In the end, her harsh attitude and constant denial cause Tom to leave the house and Laura to have a very emotional letdown.


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Laura Wingfield: Laura Wingfield is the daughter of Mr. and Amanda Wingfield and the sister of Tom. Laura is physically crippled due to the fact that one of her legs is longer than the other. Along with being physically crippled, Laura is also emotionally crippled. She often tries to avoid social events by playing with her glass menagerie. She uses the glass menagerie to escape from the harsh reality around her. In most cases it seems to bring her comfort. Jim uses this to help get Laura to open up to him, "Little articles of it they’re ornaments mostly! Most of them are little animals made out of glass, the tiniest little animals in the world. Mother calls them a glass menagerie!" Throughout the book Laura proves that she is the glass menagerie. She is delicate and extremely fragile just as the glass is. Her fragile state is most likely part of the reason that Tom loves her so much and doesn't want to leave her behind. Laura represents a unique and fragile glass menagerie.


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Jim O’ Connor: Jim O’ Connor is the gentleman caller from the warehouse that Tom is asked to connect with his sister, Laura. However, he happens to be the guy that Laura has had a crush on in high school before she dropped out. He is not extremely good looking in the eyes of Tom; however he is a desirable man in the eyes of Laura as well as other students in Laura’s high school. He has freckles that accent his face and give a sense of innocence. Laura is supposed to get to know Jim to form a close relationship leading to marriage which causes Laura’s mother, Amanda, to go through a lot to fix up the house for his arrival for dinner. He and Laura seem to get off on the right foot, but Jim has a fiancée which he reveals to her later on. Jim O’ Connor comes off as a confident, humorous, friendly, polite, respectful, and considerate guy. However, it is awful how he leads Laura on when he knows he has a fiancée. He could have told Laura from the beginning before they began dancing and then kissing. He charms her with the words, “In all respects- believe me! Your eyes-your hair-are pretty! Your hands are pretty!”
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Mr. Wingfield: Mr. Wingfield was the husband of Amanda and the father of Laura and Tom. In the story, Mr. Wingfield was never physically present. However, his abandonment of his family played a vital role in moving the plot along. The text described him as a magician. For example, when Tom was discussing a magic program that he saw, he said, "You know it don't take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who the hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?" In response to this, the picture of Mr. Wingfield lit up, suggesting that he was a man who had performed the impossible by escaping his family without their knowledge. Furthermore, it was because of Mr. Wingfield's departure that Amanda and Tom began to live within their illusions. He was a very clever man, but his selfishness tore his family apart.

THEMES


Being Out of Touch With Reality: All of the Wingfields were more in tune with their illusions (or fantasy worlds) than with actual reality. For example, Laura lived in the world of her glass menagerie. She treated her glass as if it was a real, living thing. This was evident when she was telling Jim about whether her glass unicorn felt lonely, saying, "Well, if he does, he doesn't complain about it. He stays on a shelf with some horses that don't have horns and all of them seem to get along nicely together." However, it wasn't just Laura who was out of touch with reality; Tom and Amanda were, too. Tom lived vicariously through the movies, and Amanda kept trying to relive her life as a Southern belle through Laura. To escape their problems and inner turmoil, the Wingfields chose to live within their illusions. Reality, in the case of The Glass Menagerie, was the element of the story that was the least realistic in the lives of the characters. The real world was a cruel and harsh place, so through the use of the Wingfields, Tennessee Williams hoped to capture how people were losing touch with reality during the 1930s.

Pursuing Desire Under Any Circumstances: The characters in The Glass Menagerie, have a tendency to pursue their desires no matter who does not agree. Amanda, Laura’s mother pursues the desire of marrying off her daughter to a man that would treat her better than the father treated her. She proceeds to do this even though her daughter is completely against it and even wishes on the moon for, “Success and happiness for” her “precious children!” Laura pursues her desire of spending her time caring after her glass menagerie, although her mother wants her to be more independent and responsible. She explains to Jim that her “glass collection takes up a good deal of time.” Then at the end of the play, Tom eventually takes after his father and pursues the desire of abandoning his family to travel around the country and to other places to explore. He says, “I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space. I traveled around a great deal.”

Abandonment: We are introduced to this idea of abandonment from the beginning of the novel, and slowly spreads through the characters as the story progresses. The first character to execute this is Toms father leaving Amanda (his wife) and his family. He left them with little words as to his whereabouts, leaving the family in a very unstable condition. Later we see how Jim (the -engaged- gentleman caller) calls on Laura and kisses her, only to leave her later on because of his commitment to another women. Laura has been left by two men in her life by now, and in the end we make a complete circle with Tom's leave. As Tom leaves he brings us to realize the connection of abandonment by saying " I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father's footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space." We see that abandonment as a form of leaving troubles behind, business unfinished and left hanging.

Gender Roles: In The Glass Menagerie, Amanda set certain standards that she wanted her children to follow. Even though she wanted both of her children to succeed, the things that they had to do to succeed were very different. This is due to the gender stereotypes that were present during this time. Women were supposed to be beautiful and they had to have perfect appearances to get husbands. On the other hand, the males were supposed to get good jobs so they can support their families. This is the case in The Glass Menagerie. Multiple times throughout the play Amanda tells Laura to "stay fresh and pretty" for her gentlemen callers. It is obvious throughout the book how different the standards are for women. While Amanda encourages Tom to study business she tells Amanda that "Girls that aren't cut out for business careers usually wind up married to some nice man.” She is hoping that Tom will become a successful businessman while preparing Laura to just settle as a housewife.

Memory: The Glass Menagerie has been referred to as a "memory play" by Tom. We see memory brought up thematically through Amanda but we also see it takes a great part in the plays presentation being that the entire play is written through Tom's recollection . The play was made because of the importance it played in the narrators mind, his memory, the fact that it exist at all is just a demonstration of what a strong hold memory's can have on you. Amanda lives stuck in her past, constantly trying to bring it up or live it vicariously through Laura and, though it prompted Tom to write the play, memory is also what is holding our characters back. They cannot be happy because they are plagued with a constant nostalgia and can't live in the present.

"The play is memory. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic. In memory everything seems to happen to music. That explains the fiddle in the wings." (1.1, Tom).

"The scene is memory and therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart. The interior is therefore rather dim and poetic."

Tom explains how he, being an unreliable narrator, understands the toll memory takes on people. How after events happen we alter them in our mind to appear like the best possible version of themselves. We make a realistic situation become fictional through our reencounter of how they happened.




IMPORTANT VOCABULARY

automatism (pg. 1): the quality or state of being automatic

proscenium (pg. 4): the part of the stage that is in front of the curtain

matriculate (pg. 5): to enroll in a school, particularly in a college or university

mastication (pg. 6): the act of chewing food

scrim (pg. 6): strong, coarse fabric that is used as a backdrop

vulgar (pg. 8): not having or showing good manners, good taste, or politeness

menagerie (pg. 16): a collection of animals kept especially to be shown to the public

spinster (pg. 16): an unmarried woman who is past the usual age for marrying and is considered unlikely to marry

fiasco (pg. 19): a complete failure

plume (pg. 19): (v) to provide or deck with feathers

martyr (pg. 20) -a person who is killed or who suffers greatly for a religion, cause, etc.

gesticulate (pg. 22)- to move your arms and hands especially when speaking in an angry or emotional way

relic (pg. 22) - something that is from a past time, place, culture, etc.

insolence (pg. 22) - the quality or state of being rude or impolite

portieres (pg. 22) - a curtain hanging across a doorway

jeopardize (pg. 23) - to put (something or someone) in danger

vice (pg. 24) - bad or immoral behavior or habits

stupefied (pg. 25)- to cause (someone) to become confused or unable to think clearly

motley (pg. 26)- a mixture especially of incongruous elements

inquisition (pg.33)- a harsh and unfair investigation or series of questions

querulous (pg. 33)- complaining in an annoyed way

supercilious (pg. 45) – haughtily disdainful or contemptuous

vitality (pg.50) - energy, spirit

unobtrusive (pg. 51) – inconspicuous, unassertive, or reticent

chintz (pg. 51) – a printed cotton fabric glazed or unglazed usually for draperies

translucent (pg. 51) – permitting light to come through but make making it so that its difficult for other objects to be seen on the other side.

voile (pg. 53) – a lightweight semi sheer of wool, silk, rayon or cotton

jonquil (pg. 53) – having long, narrow rush like leaves, or fragrant white or yellow flowers

preposterous (pg. 57) – contrary to nature, reason, or sense

rendition (pg. 57) – an interpretation or translation

marquees (pg. 60) – a tall roof like projection over a movie theater

vivacity (pg. 62) - lively; animated; gay

paragon (pg. 63) - someone of exceptional merit

tribulation (pg. 64) - grievous troubles; severe trial or suffering

despairingly (pg. 65) - without hope

rhapsodic (pg. 69) - extravagant, enthusiastic, ecstatic

Episcopalians (pg. 70) - pertaining to or adhering to the Episcopal Church of America

portieres (pg. 70) - a curtain hung in a doorway, either to replace a door or for decoration

gallantry (pg. 71) - dashing courage, heroic bravery, noble-minded behavior

musingly (pg. 72) - absorbed in thought, meditative

beleaguered (pg. 78) - to surround with military force

kraut-head (pg. 79)- offensive person of German decent


stumble-john (pg. 88)- a blunderer, someone awkward


tumultuously (pg.88)- riotousness; marked by disturbance and uproar



decorously (pg. 89)- correct and polite in a particular situation




enrapt (pg.90)- wholly absorbed with rapture

rejuvenated (pg.92)- make (someone or something) look or feel younger, fresher, or more lively.

ominous (pg.93)- giving the impression that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen; threatening; inauspicious.

jalopy (pg. 94)- an old car in a dilapidated condition.


perturbation (pg. 89)- anxiety; mental uneasiness.


gingerly (pg. 89)- in a careful or cautious manner.

abashed (pg 89)- cause to feel embarrassed, disconcerted, or ashamed.

SCENE ANALYSIS/DESCRIPTION

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Opening Scene (pgs. 6-10): The scene begins with Tom going to the dinner table and Amanda reprimanding him for not chewing his food. Amanda then goes on to talk about her life as a Southern belle, bragging to her children, "One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain--your mother received--seventeen!--gentlemen callers! Why, sometimes there weren't chairs enough to accommodate them all. We had to send a nigger over to bring in folding chairs from the parish house." Tom and Laura feign enthusiasm and interest as Amanda tells her story, and the scene ends with Amanda expecting gentlemen callers for Laura. This part of the play is extremely significant because it gives readers a feel for each of the Wingfields' personalities, particularly Amanda. In just four pages, readers learn that Tom doesn't have the best relationship with his mother, that Laura is a timid individual with little confidence, and that Amanda isn't necessarily down-to-earth. The scene also reinforced Tom's prior narration of the play when he explained how the Wingfields lived in their own little world, one set apart from reality. This scene introduced the characters and gave readers a small bit of insight on how Tom's, Laura's, and Amanda's conflicting personalities would affect the plot later on in the play.

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Confrontation Scene (pgs. 20-25): This is the scene where one of Amanda’s and Tom’s arguments lead to her confronting him about what he does when he says that he is going to the movies. The scene starts with Amanda and Tom arguing about the books that Amanda confiscated. Tom decides that if his mom is going to control his life, that he at least wants to have one thing that he can call his own. After his move continuously berates him, Tom decides that he is once again going to escape the house by going to the movies. This makes Amanda even angrier because she doesn’t believe that Tom is actually going to the movies. She thinks that Tom acts the way that he does towards her because he has “been doing things that [he’s] ashamed of.” Amanda claims that Tom is jeopardizing the security of the family, but Tom has had enough and he begins to speak to his mother in a way that he never has before. This scene is significant because Tom finally tells his mother how he feels. He doesn’t sit back and take all the criticizing that she does. He is finally able to say all of the things that he has always felt about his mother and in a way it brings him a newfound feeling of achievement.

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Fire Escape and Moon Scene (pgs. 40-41): During the fire escape and the moon scene a pivotal part of the play is reached because Amanda has a discussion with Tom. She wishes on the moon for success and happiness for her children. After this, Tom admits that he has considered her plea for a gentleman caller and has succeeded in finding one. Since Tom reveals this aspect, then it leads to the preparations made by Amanda. Eventually after the gentleman caller visits for dinner, Laura finds out how life is supposed to be for her and this is basically be committed to her glass menagerie.
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Remembering Scene (pgs.70-80): This scene is when Jim is sent by Amanda into the living room to sit with Laura and keep her company. Jim greets her and shares that he likes to sit on the floor (he asks for Laura to pass him a pillow). He invites Laura to sit on the floor beside him, she does as he says. Since Tom neglected to pay the electricity bill the room is dimly lit by a candelabra. Jim flirts by saying it is unfair for her to be able to see him and he not to, Laura moves her pillow closer to him. Laura mentions to Jim about how lovely he used to sing. She explains to him how they were classmates in high schools and he used to call her "Blue Roses". They reminisce on their high school memories and discuss how Laura was very shy then. This scene is significant because it shows a growing connection between the two as they easily talk to each other. This scene provides the reader a chance to understand Laura and how her shyness keeps her from showing the world how great her personality is. Jim slowly pulled the veil above Laura, he gave her advice by saying " People are not so dreadful when you know them. And everybody has problems, not just you, practically everybody has got some problems."

Toms Departure (Majority of Scene 7): This is ultimately the falling action of the play. We witness Laura being lead on by Jim, whom kisses her and leads her on regardless of the fact that he had a fiancé. Though he didn't do this out of spite, Jim definitely let his emotions get the best of him. Laura reminded him of high school, where he obviously peaked, and that must have provided a comfort for him. This is also the scene where Tom has his much anticipated leave and recites his infamous speech. All the characters in the play had a way of escape, whether it be through glass menageries, their dreams, recollections of their youth, but Tom never had a fixed escape from his reality. He tried finding comfort in his movies or descending from the fire escape but it was never enough. His departure was his literal escape, his production of the play was how he mentally escaped all that had happened and how he was able to remember it poetically. This scene was significant because it brought closure and provided us with a chance to see all the characters find their escape, their personal glass menageries, or lack thereof.


SIGNIFICANT QUOTES


"Nonsense! Laura, I've told you never, never to use that word. Why, you're not crippled, you just have a little defect--hardly noticeable, even!"


Amanda said this to Laura on page 17 when Laura stated that no one would marry her because she was crippled. This quote played a significant part in the composition of Amanda's character because it showed just how out of touch with reality she was. Laura was definitely crippled (one of her legs was significantly longer than the other); however, Amanda refused to believe that she had any physical disabilities. This quote revealed how Amanda could not accept reality. Amanda was still stuck within the illusion that Laura was a normal, young lady with many gentlemen callers. However, Laura was actually just a timid and socially awkward girl. By trying to ignore Laura's "little defect," Amanda only made Laura more self-conscious of her disability. Instead of encouraging Laura to accept herself, Amanda forced her to bury her insecurities deep inside of her. This, rather than helping Laura, added to her emotional and social distress.

“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.” (pg. 33)
Tom says this in scene four after his mother asked him why he always went to the movies. Whenever Tom needed to escape from his home life, he would go to the movies. This quote finally explains the reasoning behind his actions. Tom goes to the movies to escape the harsh reality of his life. He drinks coffee in the morning, goes to work at the warehouse and then comes home. Going to the movies is Tom’s only way to escape the monotony of his life. Many people say that reading or watching movies helps them escape to anywhere in the world and this is the case for Tom. He escapes reality and pursues the adventure that he lacks in his life, by going to the movies.

“You are the only young man that I know of who 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!” (pg. 45)


Amanda says this to Tom and she means that he is a generally careless person. He does not care about the consequences that follow his actions. Readers of the play can see that he does not care about consequences because he constantly goes out to the movies and drinking, not caring that he has a chance of losing his job which will put his family at stake. Aside from being careless he is pretty much a laid back person when it comes to life because he never really wants to stress out about anything. Amanda says this when preparing for Jim O’ Connor to come to dinner.



"I'm like my father, The bastard son of a bastard! Did you notice how he's Grinning in his picture in there? And he's been absent going on sixteen years!"

Tom says these words to Jim when he says that he paid his dues for the union of merchant seamen rather than paying the light bill on page 62. Jim tell him that he will regret not paying the bill and tom retorts by saying he won't be present when that occurs. Jim went on to ask him what about his mother (asking what would be of his mother if he left), Tom responds by saying the above words. Tom's words lets the reader know of his plans to leave the house, much like his father did 16 years prior. He tries to say that he is driven by what he wants and he recognizes that in many cases his want to leave is not seen as the best decision. He does not want to be "the bastard son of a bastard", but does not deny that he has the same mentality as his father had, to be free. The reason why Tom points out that he is grinning in his picture is because that is all they have left of him, a foolish grin from the man who abandoned his family. Tom has not announced his plans on leaving therefore when his mother makes her way towards them Tom tell Jim to shush, ending the conversation.

" I know your ambitions do not lie in the warehouse, that like everybody in the whole wide world - you've had to — make sacrifices, but — Tom — Tom — life's not easy, it calls for — Spartan endurance!"

Amanda says this to Tom in Scene 4 expressing her distaste for his constant sulking and disappearing. She really shows her true colors and we even see a bit of desperation in her tone and voice, almost as if she's saying some of this to herself. Life definitely hasn't been easy for their family but she seems to be screaming that if she got through it so can he, that they need to stick together and endure the hardships because one can not simply do it alone. Though she means to steer him in the right direction, pushing Tom is only hurting their relationship.

ISSUES OF SOCIAL CONCERN


The Struggle of Being Different: Laura, being crippled, faced a lot of hardships throughout her life. She represented the unicorn from her glass menagerie, a unique animal that was supposed to be extinct in the modern world. Laura loathed being physically different from the people around her. This was most prominently shown when she was talking to Jim about the loudness of her clump, saying, "To me it sounded like--thunder!" Because she was different, Laura became very self-conscious, timid, and socially awkward. She tried to be unnoticeable in school, and she was hesitant to form relationships with people outside of her family. Laura's struggle of being different greatly impacted the way she lived her life, and in some ways, it hindered her success with finding gentlemen callers. Most of all, Laura wanted to be "normal" like everyone else, and this was shown when Jim broke the horn of her glass unicorn.
Tennessee Williams used Laura to represent the mindset of society during that time. People during the 1930s felt that it was necessary to assimilate with the social norms society imposed upon its inhabitants. Those who were different, or weren't able to follow the status quo, felt insecure and vulnerable to harsh judgement. Americans, at that time, were perceived as "conformists" by foreigners. There was a need to be part of the group, a desire to fit in with the crowd. The sad part is that this is true even today. Many people still conform with the values that society deems "good" or "acceptable." Americans still try to attain the visions of happiness that society dictates, which include being self-sufficient, having a stable job, getting married, having kids, etc. Thus, Williams used Laura to show how Americans were compelled to live the lives America wanted them to live, not the lives they chose on their own.

Economic Hardships: Economic hardships have plagued America throughout many different periods of time. In The Glass Menagerie many of the conflicts that occur between the family members are due to economic hardships. Amanda and Tom have problems because Amanda wants Tom to do things a certain way and he doesn’t want to do what his mother wants him to do. Amanda simply wants her children to do well so that they won’t have problems and will be financially secure. During times where there have been extreme cases of economic hardships, such as The Great Depression, people tend to become sad and the crime rates go up. People become desperate and do things that they would never have even considered before if they were financially stable. What is defined as an economic hardship has changed over time. It has ranged from not being able to support your family to not being able to afford a form of shelter. Regardless of what it has been defined as, economic hardships have been a struggle faced by many Americans throughout time.


The “American” Dream: The “American” dream has a significant role in The Glass Menagerie because it includes the pursuit of happiness. Amanda wants the “American” dream for her daughter which is the utmost success, especially with her husband being a gentleman caller. The unfortunate part of it is that Amanda overwhelms Laura and Tom in order to fulfill this “American” dream. She forces Laura to ignore her fear of Jim to answer the door and strongly suggests that Tom ask a co- worker to dinner for Laura. During the time period of the story it was less likely for women to be independent and educated which is why Laura’s future status depended on who her husband is going to be. The fact that Laura has the option of going to school for typewriting changes the perspective that men are more educated and more ambitious than women.


Family Conflicts: The Glass Menagerie is filled with family conflict, beginning with the depart of Laura's father, in between we have her strict mother (Amanda),
and ending with the abandonment of her family by her brother Tom. These three situations brings constant tension in the family, ultimately leaving them (as the broken glass in the end of the play) broken. The fact that both male figures in the family leave could give the impression that this action of abandonment is common in America. The perception of dreams being followed at any cost is seen with this as well. Tom constantly argues with his mother, when this occurs she always speaks to him like a small child. "You don't know things anywhere! You live in a dream; you malfunction illusions!" (pg. 95) is what Amanda says to Tom before he leaves their home for good. The way she belittles him is just fuel to his determination, showing that in America the fight to reach ones dreams is achieved by any means necessary.


Confinement: All the characters in The Glass Menagerie are bound to some sort of confinement that keeps them from being happy. Amanda is stuck in the past and insist on carrying out her dreams through her daughter even though her expectations are absurd. Laura is obviously confined because of her disability and that's something she'll never be able to get out of. Tom is in a labyrinth inside of his home that he so desperately tries to escape but feels unable to. These personal issues constantly cause our characters too clash heads but we all see that these problems are deep rooted into our characters personalities.