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Group Members: Alison, Jackie, Kaynat, Noreen





Characters:


Amanda Wingfield (the mother)


external image iXMy9Lu8gyfjIgAu1Ic8ZT-jcZSxoRED9Z8YQxpFKTfKqkwT2ft8ocohDC_7hFfUJJeqb0zTudZDs6PWy1yPl67iLx0-Kdqhg6S9KIsWQygOZMUxqa_VIZEvTHeKORZ0_QAfter her husband abandons his family, the playwright introduces Amanda as a mother desperately clinging on to her past, constantly reliving her glory days as a young woman. Raised in the South as the epitome of the Southern Belle, she endlessly puts on a charming show to the world while slowly losing herself to her fantasies. A constant worrier, Amanda throws herself into the arduous task of finding Laura a happier ending in the form of a “gentleman caller”. During a moment of authenticity, the audience is shown a glimpse into her true nature as she lectures Laura: “What is there left by dependency all our lives? I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren’t prepared to occupy a position. I’ve seen such pitiful cases in the South… eating the crust of humility all their life! Is that the future that we’ve mapped out for ourselves? I swear it’s the only alternative I can think of! It isn’t a very pleasant alternative, is it?” (Williams 16). Her refusal to face her own misguided notions, her obsessions with the past, and her need for security factor into most of her words and actions. However, underneath her overbearing nature lies a certain, enduring naivete and grace that subtly paves her entry into the hearts of the audience.





Laura Wingfield (her daughter)


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Laura is an anxious, shy young woman who finds happiness in playing with her glass menagerie. The play focuses on her mother, Amanda Wingfield, desperately attempting to find someone for her daughter, or what she calls a gentleman caller. Laura's anxious nature can be shown in the scene between her and her mother, where Laura’s teacher says that “No—I remember her perfectly now. Her hands shook so that she couldn’t hit the right keys! The first time we gave a speed-test, she broke down completely—was sick at the stomach and almost had to be carried into the washroom!” Laura is depicted with many more weaknesses such as her crippled leg, nervousness, and introverted nature. However, Laura is also sweet and cares for her family, which is shown when she desperately wants Tom to apologize to Amanda after seeing how upset she was after their fight.



Tom Wingfield (her son)


external image MM_FLAUNT_123_04.jpgTom Wingfield is a young man who yearns for something greater than his miserable existence as a factory worker. He seeks adventure and independence, but finds himself weighed down by his obligation to his overbearing mother, Amanda, and his "peculiar" younger sister, Laura. He does not seem to interact with anyone on any meaningful level outside of his family and even then, several of his interactions with them are either indifferent or openly hostile. A frequent moviegoer, Tom uses the shows he watches on the screen as a way to escape his family and the bleak reality he lives in. In spite of his feelings of imprisonment, Tom cares deeply for his family deeply, which is evidenced by the factory work he does to support them and their livelihood. Still, he still feels suffocated by them and this often brings him in conflict with his mother. Tom summarizes his internal conflict during an argument with his mother. He says, "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 thought of, Mother, I'd be where [father] is - GONE!" (Williams 23). Ultimately, Tom does leave his mother and sister, but not before his mother manages to call him a "selfish dreamer," which may be another valid interpretation of the character. Tom's responsibility is a strength of his, but in the end, it is his anger and impulsiveness that wins. He abandons his family in search of escape and leaves them his final gift of an unpaid electric bill.

Jim O'Conner (the gentleman caller)


jb.jpgJim is described in the beginning by Tennessee Williams as a “nice, ordinary, young man”, a description that Jim lives up to throughout the play. Although this introductory phrase gives us the first impression that Jim is not so significant within the play, his role begins to develop along with the plot. He is, in fact, as Williams said extremely sincere as a person. When he accidentally broke Laura’s glass unicorn, he constantly apologized for it. He also kept asking her, “Is it broken?” This shows that he really does care about how his action affect other people. This same concept is demonstrated when he kisses Laura, and then begins to reprimand himself in front of her. He says that he wished Laura was his sister, since he was wowed by her self-confidence. However, he develops a romantic interest for Laura, despite the fact that he is engaged to another woman. When he tries to talk about his fiance, he is never able to say much about her. His awkwardness in talking about his fiance illustrates his confusion between his fiance and Laura, as well as the fact that his love for his fiance is no where near as strong as his love for Laura, about whom he can talk forever. His significance in the story is also the fact that he misleads the reader. He makes the readers believe there will be a happy ending to the story and that Laura and Jim would end up together. However, the case is not so.



Themes:


Desire to Escape
Quote: “We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without removing one nail. There is a trick that would come in handy for me - get me out of this two-by-four situation!” - Tom Winfield; Scene 4, p. 27

False Hope
Quote: “Somebody needs to build your confidence up and make you proud instead of shy and turning away and -- blushing. Somebody -- ought to -- kiss you, Laura! … The only trouble is that in my case -- I’m not in a situation to -- do the right thing. I can’t take down your number and say I’ll phone. I can’t call up next week and -- ask for a date…. I’ve -- got strings on me. Laura, I’ve -- been going steady! I go out all the time with a girl named Betty. ”
- Jim O’Connor; Scene 7, p. 88-89

Self-esteem
Quote: “ You know what I judge to be the trouble with you?
Inferiority complex I Know what that is? That's what they call it when someone low-rates himself !I understand it because I had it, too. Although my caw was not so aggravated as yours seems to be. I had it until I took up public speaking...Yep - that's what I judge to be your principal trouble. A lack of amount of faith in yourself as a person. You don't have the proper amount of faith in yourself. - Jim O’Connor; Scene 7, p.80-81

Illusion vs. Reality
Quote: “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 Winfield; Scene 1, p.4





Vocabulary:


p. 1-25
1. conglomerations(p.3)- a heterogeneous combination; mass
2. symptomatic (p.3)- indicative of something
3. automatism (p.3)- mechanical or involuntary action
4. proscenium (p.4)- the arch that separates a stage from the auditorium
5. ineluctably (p.4)- incapable of being evaded; inescapable
6. matriculating (p. 5)- the enroll in a college or university as a candidate for a degree
7. mastication (p.6)- to reduce to pulp by crushing or kneading; to chew
8. elegiac (p.9)- expressing sorrow or lamentation
9. menagerie (p.10)- a collection of wild or unusual animals
10. gesticulating (p.22)- to make or use gestures, especially in an animated or excited manner with or instead of speak
11. pinioned (p.24)- to disable or restrain someone or something
12. portieres (p.25)- a curtain hung in a doorway, either to replace the door or for decoration

p. 26-50
1. motley (p.26) - to be made up of many different people or things
2. two-by-four (p.27) - to be small in size; boxed in or cramped
3. listlessly (p.29) - having or showing little or no interest
4. Daumier print (p.29) - a lithograph, drawing, painting or engraving created by Honore Daumier (French caricaturist, painter, and lithographer)
5. bower (p.30) - an attractive dwelling or retreat; a shelter of vines or branches
6. still water runs deep (p.32) - (Latin proverb) people with a quiet, placid nature often hide a passionate nature
7. monogrammed (p.42) - to be marked with a symbol that has the first letters of a person’s first, middle, and last names and that is put on towels, blankets, clothes, etc., as decoration or to show ownership
8. work like a Turk (p.43) - (derived from the Irish word torc -- a strong, temperamental man or a successful prizefighter) to work like a brawny laborer
9. supercilious (p.45) - having or showing the proud and unpleasant attitude of people who think that they are better or more important than other people; haughty; proud; arrogant
10. slack (p.50) - not busy; lacking the expected or desired activity

p. 51-75
1. unobtrusive (p.51)- not conspicuous or attracting attention
2. billow (p.51)- a large undulating mass of something, typically cloud, smoke, or steam
3. chintz (p.51) - printed multicolored cotton fabric with a glazed finish, used especially for curtains and upholstery
4. jonquil (p.54)- a widely cultivated narcissus with clusters of small fragrant yellow flowers and cylindrical leaves, native to southern Europe and northeastern Africa..
5. portieres (p.56)- a curtain hung over a door or doorway
6. incandescent (p.60)- emitting light as a result of being heated
7. coy (p.63)- (especially with reference to a woman) making a pretense of shyness or modesty that is intended to be alluring.
8. paragon (p.63)- a person or thing regarded as a perfect example of a particular quality
9. murmur (p.67)- a soft, indistinct sound made by a person or group of people speaking quietly or at a distance.
10. luminous (p.67)- full of or shedding light; bright or shining, especially in the dark.

p. 75 - end
1. baritone (p. 77) - a male voice or voice part intermediate between tenor and bass
2. operetta (p. 77) - a short opera, usually of a light and amusing character
3. beleaguer[ed] (p. 78) - to trouble persistently; harass
4. kraut head (p. 79) - an offensive term for a person of German descent
5. inferiority complex (p. 80) - lack of self-esteem ;feeling of inadequacy; lack of self-confidence
6. unicorn (p. 83) - a mythical creature resembling a horse, with a single horn in the center of its forehead: often symbolic of chastity or purity
7. blessing in disguise (p. 86) - an apparent misfortune that eventually has good results
8. stumblejohn (p. 88) - a mild exclamation used to show anger
9. souvenir (p. 91) - a usually small and relatively inexpensive article given, kept, or purchased as a reminder of a place visited, an occasion, etc.; a memory
10. gay (p. 92) - having or showing a merry, lively mood; brilliant, vivid, intense, lustrous; glittering, theatrical, flamboyant
11. tyranny (p. 94) - arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority
12. Victrola (p. 94) - Trademark. a brand of phonograph.




Important Scenes & Quotes:



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“Yes, movies! Look at them -- All of those glamorous people -- having adventures -- hogging it all, gobbling the whole thing up! You know what happens? People go to the movies instead of moving! Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them! Yes, until there’s a war. That’s when adventure becomes available to the masses! Everyone’s dish, not only Gable’s! Then the people in the dark room come out of the dark room to have some adventures themselves -- goody, goody! It’s our turn now, to go to the South Sea Island -- to make a safari -- to be exotic, far-off! But I’m not patient. I don’t want to wait till then. I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move!” -Tom Wingfield; Scene Six, p. 61

Tom has brought Laura’s unknowing “gentleman caller”, Jim O’Connor, home at his mother’s insistence. In her anxiousness, Laura has escaped to her glass menagerie and Amanda has entered the kitchen. It is during this moment of solitude that Tom shares with Jim his decision to leave his home. Unlike his sister and mother, he has finally come to the realization that his recent escapades at the movies cannot satisfy his need to escape any longer. He must leave his household or be doomed to living a life that he cannot stomach, a life where he cannot express his true self. This scene not only foreshadows but also confirms his abandonment of his family, a prophecy finally coming full-circle with him following his father’s footsteps in search of excitement.

Significant Quote:

“All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.” -Amanda Wingfield; Scene Six, p. 52

Amanda is in the processing of dressing up her crippled daughter, changing Laura into an ethereal, young woman in preparation for the arrival of Laura’s first gentleman caller. Laura educates her innocent daughter using the quote mentioned above, instructing her to use beauty as a means of attaining stability. If she successfully attracts the suitor and makes him fall in love with her, then Laura will be financially set for a life of security and possibly happiness unlike Amanda who fell in love with a man who left her. The emphasis on physical appearance reflects the culture of the times, when women were considered less capable than men and when glamour was held in higher regard than intelligence. Even today, this mentality still persists through all of the media’s portrayals of outer beauty as opposed to the inner beauty of personality.


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“People are not so dreadful when you know them. That's what you have to remember! And everybody has problems, not just you, but practically everybody has got some problems. 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 O’Connor; Scene 7, p.76


In this scene, Jim is attempting to reassure Laura that she should relax. Previously, Laura revealed to Jim how embarrassed she was to enter class late due to the loud clumping of her leg brace. She also admits that she has always been shy around people, and has never seemed to overcome it. In the quote above, Jim assures her that everyone has problems, or things that trouble them. Hers, for example, is her disability. Jim tells her not to allow her disability to make her shy and
keep her from making friends.


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Amanda: Sometimes [gentlemen callers] come when the are least expected! Why, I remember one Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain --

Tom: I know what’s coming!

Laura: Yes. But let her tell it.

Tom: Again?

Laura: She loves to tell it.

(Scene 1, p. 7)


The first scene of a play is typically an important one, as it sets up the main characters and the main conflict. After the opening narration by Tom Wingfield, who is both narrator and character, the audience finds themselves observing a typical dinner between the Wingfields: Amanda, Laura, and Tom. During the dinner, Amanda is shown to be controlling when instructing Tom on how to eat (“So chew your food and give your salivary glands a chance to function!”) and fixated on her past, as shown in the quote above. Tom is shown to be at odds with his mother (“Sickening -- spoils my appetite -- all this discussion of --animals’ secretion -- salivary glands --mastication!”), which is later depicted as a common occurrence in the Wingfield household. While Tom and Amanda often butt heads, Laura is the one who tries to mediate their conflicts or, at the very least, diffuse the tension. In this scene, the audience also sees Amanda reminisce about her gentlemen callers, which is implied (and later seen) to happen often. Tom is clearly exasperated with his mother’s stories and earlier, attempts to escape the dinner table. His sister, Laura, is more indulgent and allows their mother to tell her story, who seems lost in the past and borderline delusional with her preoccupation with Laura’s nonexistent gentlemen callers. And so, we meet each dysfunctional member of the Wingfield family. There is Amanda, lost in the past, Tom, angry and without direction, and Laura, kind but passive and shy.


Significant quote:

“No, I don’t have secrets. I’ll tell you what I wished for on the moon. Success and happiness for my precious children! I wish for that whenever there’s a moon, and when there isn’t a moon, I wish for it, too.” (Scene 5, p. 40)

Amanda was previously shown to be a bit smothering when it comes to her children. In Scene Three, she had confiscated Tom’s books because she refused to let “such filth” in her home and fought with him over how often he went to the movies. Throughout the play, she was insistent, almost obsessed, with getting Laura gentlemen callers and getting her married as soon as possible. However, this quote shows that, in spite of her domineering personality, Amanda does love her children. With this quote, Amanda’s motivations have to be reconsidered. Does she want Laura out of the house and married off to her nonexistent gentlemen callers because that is what happened to Amanda, or does Amanda just want what is best for her painfully shy daughter who has nervous breakdowns in any sort of social situation and cannot possibly hold down a job with her disposition? Is she controlling of Tom, or is she just trying to lead her directionless son towards the path that she thinks will bring him the most happiness and success? Such things may not be able to determined for sure, but Amanda Wingfield certainly loves her children.

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Jim: “Let yourself go, now, Laura, just let yourself go”
Laura: “I’m trying!”
J: “Come on! Not so stiff. Easy does it!”
L: “I know but I’m-”
J: “Loosen the backbone! There now, that’s a lot better.”
L: “Am I?”
J: “Lots, lots better!
L: “Oh my!”
J: “Ha ha!”
(They suddenly bump into the table, Jim stops.)
“What did we hit on?”
L: “Table.”
J: “Did something fall off it? I think- I hope that it wasn’t the little glass horse with the horn! Aw, aw, aw. Is it broken?”
L: “Now it is just like all the other horses.”
J: “It’s lost its-”
L: “Horn! It doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.
J: “You’ll never forgive me. I bet that that was your favorite piece of glass."
{Scene 7, pg. 85 - 86}

In this scene, Jim is spending time with Laura, and both of them are getting to know each other. Jim asks Laura to get up and dance with him, and despite her constant protest and excuses, he forces her to dance. They sway throughout the room while Jim teaches Laura the correct posture and form that a dancer should maintain. Engulfed in the moment, Jim hits the table on which Laura’s glass unicorn was set, knocking it to the floor and breaking its horn. Jim was sincerely sorry for the mistake he made, but Laura forgave him easily and just waved the issue away, saying that now the unicorn is “just like all the other horses”. She said she would pretend “he had an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less freakish. Now he will feel more at home with the other horses.” This shows the true and sincere nature of both Jim and Laura. This quality sets Jim and Laura apart from the rest.

Significant Quote:

“I wish that you were my sister. I’d teach you to have some confidence in yourself. The different people are not like other people, but being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Because other people are no such wonderful people. They’re one hundred times one thousand. You’re one times one! they walk all over the earth. You just stay here. They’re common as-weeds, but-you-well, you’re-Blue Roses!” {Jim, 86}

This quote is when Jim was talking Laura about her low self-esteem. This quote is important because this is the first real expression of affection by Jim. The weird part is that although Jim wishes, as shown in this quote, that Laura was his sister, he later kisses her. This is where we first begin to see Jim’s concern for Laura and his respect for her as a person.





Social Concerns:


Deterioration of the American Dream
The American Dream used to be quite simple: a good marriage, the perfect, well-paying job, a couple of kids, fulfilled dreams, and a happy home. However, this ideal began to disappear under the influence of the Great Depression when people lost the means to achieve such happiness. In the Wingfield household, the father has abandoned ship, the mother has taken on the role of caretaker and worrywart, the son has become the main financial provider, and the daughter has become the social recluse, mentally hampered by her physical deformity. Attaining monetary wealth and satisfying societal norms have become the crux around which the household functions. Individual dreams, such as Tom’s aspirations to become a real poet, have been suppressed for the good of the family. As Tom vents in frustration during his argument with his mother in Scene 3, “I’d rather somebody picked up a crowbar and battered out my brains-- than go back mornings! … But I get up. I go! For sixty-five dollars a month I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever!” (23). No longer is the United States viewed as such a promised land where dreams come true and the roads are paved with gold; indeed, it has become the land of the 99%, plagued by homelessness, poverty, high divorce rates, heart disease, and the empty husks of the unfulfilled American Dream.

Poverty
The Glass Menagerie takes place within the Great Depression. At this time, Americans were greatly affected,having to scavenge for money and do what they could to support their families. Many took whatever jobs they could find, and put their happiness aside. The American economy was at an extreme low, and would take a while to fully recover. In the play, Tom admits that he despises his job and says that he wishes he could just simply follow his dreams of adventuring. Poverty is also shown in the play when Laura’s clothing is described as, “inaccurately made-over the sleeves too short for [her].”(29), due to it originally belonging to Amanda. Amanda also tells Laura to get “Just butter. Tell them to charge it”(29) after asking her to take a trip to the store. Laura replies “Mother, they make such faces when I do that”(29) suggesting the family must do this often to receive necessities such as groceries, as they are unable to just simply pay for them.


The Changing Family Dynamic
The image of the ideal American family is this: a man, a woman, their two-point-five children, who love each other very much. However, with the shift of ideas in America, shifting from the collective to the individual, the typical family has changed. The Wingfields are one such family who do not fit the image of the ideal family. For starters, Mr. Wingfield only exists as a larger than life portrait hanging on the mantle and a ghost, an entity whose presence is acutely felt, even with its physical absence. Tom, the son, has stepped up to the responsibility as main financial provider, filling the role his father left behind and causing him to become bitter and angry with his situation. Laura, the daughter, lives her life in a glass menagerie and socially withdrawn. And Amanda, the mother, tries to do what she thinks is the best for her children, but seems to be doing more harm than good. They fight, they scream, and despite the fact that they have known each other for so long, they just don’t understand each other. They may love each other in their own ways, but not in ways that fit in with the image of the ideal family, and in the end, they leave.

The Changing Female Role

Prior to the post-Depression era in American history, a woman was expected to maintain certain feminine characteristics. She was expected to be demure and reserved, to follow all directions given to her, and to fulfill her duties as a loyal and dutiful daughter, wife, and mother. She had no role other than this, and she had no individual personality. She was shaped by her father prior to marriage, and afterwards, by her husband. And all her life, she was shaped by society. She could never just be herself. However, we see in this story a time in which women are beginning to resist just restrictions.

Take Amanda for example. Amanda constantly imposes gender roles on her kids, forcing Tom to take business classes because he is a male and forcing Laura to deck herself up all the time so that she may attract a suitor. Amanda says, “All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.” However, we see Laura constantly attempting to oppose her mother’s view, because she does not want to be bound by restrictions that her mother and all women in the generations before her were subject to.