The Glass Menagerie - Tennessee Williams
Nishu Parikh, Monica Nadolna, Kishan Patel, Chao Li Zhang

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Character Descriptions/Analysis:

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Tom Wingfield - Tom serves as both the narrator for the telling of the play as well as a main character within the play itself. Throughout the play, Tom interjects small monologues to provide background information and insight into the plot by addressing the audience directly. Tom as a person is imprisoned and confined by his dependent mother and “crippled” sister. He loves to read and write ,although usually punished for it, including being fired. He seems to display a relaxed, composed nature on the exterior, while inside he yearns for independence and adventure. As a laborer in a warehouse for the Continental Shoemakers’ Factory, Tom’s life is uninteresting and dull. He secretly reads literature and writes poetry, being referred to as “Shakespeare” by his coworker and friend Jim O’ Connor. He cares for his mother, Amanda, and his sister, Laura, however he wants to explore life independently, similar to his father. He fleets to the “movies” every night to escape the confinement he feels at home and to experience the adventure he desires. By the end of the novel, Tom evolves as a character, and says that to experience adventure one cannot go to the “movies” but “move” themselves. He develops his rebellious nature and disobeys his mother whenever she reprimands him. Tom’s strengths lie in his independent and creative side that is usually hidden to the rest of the world, but his weaknesses are his relaxed and somewhat aloof nature, and his acquiescence to the demands of his family.
Amanda: -presence! Have you gone out of your senses?
Tom: I have, that’s true, driven out! (Scene three, pg. 21)


Amanda Wingfield- Amanda, Toms mother, lives in a world that is all in her mind. Many times she is stuck in the past. She refuses to accept most of the realistic things in her life. For example, the fact that Tom will leave in search of something more, just as her husband did. She also does not acknowledge that her daughter is crippled. Though she always wants what is best for her children, she does not truly know what they need. Even with these faults, she has some positive attributes. Many women would not have been able to go through what Amanda went through. Her husband having left her with raising 2 children alone is hard enough, but the time period also degraded women and it was unheard of for a woman to prosper. She has drive and courage. In scene 2 Amanda says to daughter; "Why you're not crippled, you just have a little defect - hardly noticeable, even! When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to make up for it - develop charm - and vivacity - and - charm!” This quote completely exemplifies Amandas illusions. She is manipulating due to how much she wants what she believes is true.
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Laura Wingfield
Laura Wingfield is the daughter of Amanda Wingfield and the sister of Tom Wingfield. She is primarily a shy and timid character who is marked by her emotional and physical shortcomings. She hides behind her glass menagerie and is just as fragile and delicate as her coveted collection; she often shirks away social gatherings and runs away; “a terribly shy little girl who dropped out of school after only a few days’ attendance.” In one scene it is clear that Laura prefers to be by herself “seated in [a] delicate ivory chair at the small clawfoot table. She wears a dress of soft violet material for a kimono – her hair is tied back from her forehead with a ribbon. She is washing and polishing her collection of glass.” Laura also has a slightly crippled leg; one leg is slightly shorter than the other. However, she is the kindest and most compassionate character in the play. She is often a mediator between her mother and Tom, often trying to explain to her mother Tom’s desire to be free. Laura represents some of the most significant symbols in the play—the glass unicorn and the blue rose, which are as delicate and rare as she is. external image 7Wya5xFhxxwB8N2WsW0xYkFsML3hJD6zakTiMFCy61oVe6hRTEpsvuZvdJ3nH5RMwEs4DpqrZysJhY23uRM-LUD2DvZ52x9ZvujNimhP2FhNbgHGEfV2S8NDPUqBJu3kCQ





Jim O’Connor: Upon his first introduction into the play he is described as an almost dull and ordinary person by Tennessee Williams. However, as the plot progresses it becomes apparent that he is anything but ordinary. His point of view gets told through a bias due to Tom telling the story. He has plans to be a public speaker which he discusses with Tom while on the fire escape. Jim was the first person to be able to sincerely get through to Laura despite her lack of wanting any social/romantic attachments. Jim is in a conundrum because although he is to be married to a girl named Betty, it doesn’t seem like he wants that at all. He describes the beauty of laura and they way she makes him feel that is so different from the rest of the girls suggesting his desire to be with her romantically.



Themes Present (just the theme + quote that describes the theme)


Themes:
Duty-
AMANDA
“They need how to entertain their gentleman callers. It wasn’t enough for a girl to be possessed of a pretty face and a graceful figure - although I wasn’t slighted in either respect. She also needed to have a nimble wit and a tongue to meet all occasions.” (Scene 1, pg.8)


Abandonment-
TOM
“There is a fifth character in the play who doesn't appear except in this larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel. This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances; he gave up his job with the telephone company and skipped the light fantastic out of town… The last we heard of him was a picture postcard from Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, containing a message of two words: "Hello - Goodbye!" and no address.” (Scene 1 pg. 5)


Jealousy -
LAURA
“I didn’t care for the girl that he went out with. Emily Meisenbach. EMily was the best dressed girl at Soldan. She never struck me though as being sincere...It says in the personal section -they’re engaged. That’s - six years ago! They must be married by now.” (Scene 2 pg. 17)


INDEPENDANCE/IMPRISONMENT-


There is a strong contrast between the independence and imprisonment of all the characters in the play that can serve as a theme throughout the entire book. Tom feels imprisoned in several ways; he lives in a small area with his mother and sister, his lifeless job leading him nowhere. His life can be looked at as gray and dull. He does not go on any adventures when he knows that one day that is what he wants to do. What good does that do? Tom will never stop feeling imprisoned until he gains that independence that he needs. "Look! I’ve got nothing, no single thing in my life that I can call my OWN!” This quote in scene 3 shows Toms frustration due to his confinement.



Vocabulary:
  • conglomerations (pg. 3)- a cohering mass; cluster.
  • warty (pg. 3)- having warts; covered with or as with warts.
  • symptomatic (pg. 3)- pertaining to a symptom or symptoms
  • ineluctably (pg. 4)- incapable of being evaded; inescapable
  • portieres (pg. 6)- a curtain hung in a doorway, either to replace the door or for decoration.
  • mastication (pg. 6)-to chew.
  • beaux (pg. 9)- a frequent and attentive male companion.
  • flounces (pg. 10)- to go with impatient or impetuous, exaggerated movements
  • brassiere (pg. 14)- a woman's undergarment for supporting the breasts.
  • menagerie (pg. 16)- a collection of wild or unusual animals, especially for exhibition
  • luminous (pg 67) - full of or shedding light; bright or shining, especially in the dark
  • negligence (pg 69)- failure to take proper care in doing something
  • candelabrum (pg 69)- a large branched candlestick or holder for several candles or lamps
  • baritone (pg 77)- an adult male singing voice between tenor and bass
  • relish (pg 78)-great enjoyment
  • beleaguered (pg 78)- lay siege to
  • indolent (pg 79)-having or showing a disposition to avoid exertion
  • tumultuous (pg 88)- making a loud, confused noise; marked by tumult
  • decorous (pg 84)- in keeping with good taste and propriety; polite and restrained
  • perturbation (pg 89)- anxiety; mental uneasiness
  • Legend(pg38)- A setting word or phrase that lets viewers know what is going on
  • emulate(pg38)- To imitate often due to looking up to that thing
  • sensibly(pg44)- with sense
  • eloquent(pg47)- with prose and efficiency. To be able to speak lightly and fluently
  • preposterous(pg57)- absurd
  • poise(pg59)- graceful and elegant bearing
  • vessel(pg60)- a ship usually used for people
  • glamorous(pg61)- lavish
  • incredulously(pg61)- incredibly absurd
  • billow(pg65)- to blow out in a cascading manner
  • etruscan(pg19)-pertaining to Etruria, its inhabitants,art, civilization, or language.
  • martyr(pg20)-a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.
  • portieres(pg22)-a curtain hung in a doorway, either to replace the door or for decoration.
  • gesticulating(pg22)-to make or use gestures, especially in an animated or excited manner with or instead of speech.
  • motley(pg26)-exhibiting great diversity of elements.
  • beseechingly(pg28)- to implore urgently
  • listlessly(pg29)-having or showing little or no interest in anything
  • travelogue(pg26)-a lecture, slide show, or motion picture describing travels.
  • endowments(pg31)-to provide with a permanent fund or source of income.
  • celotex(pg23)-a brand of board made of cane fiber, used for insulation or as a vapor barrier, siding, or layer under a roof.



Scene Analysis:

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In scene VII Jim and Laura are in her living room after all the lights have gone out. As they start talking they become immensely comfortable with each other while reminiscing about high school. After some time has elapsed, the pair hear music playing outside and Jim asks an initially resistant Laura to dance with him. As they dance Jim accidentally knocks over the glass unicorn, that Laura had introduced him to a few moments earlier, and the horn breaks off. She does not lament at the lose of the unicorn’s horn, instead she embraces it because now “it can be normal.” This scene is important because the breaking of the horn off the unicorn is symbolic of Laura herself breaking free from the insecurity that had often made her recluse; it can be interpreted as “a blessing in disguise.” (pg 86)



In scene II, the mother, Amanda, and the daughter, Laura, begin a long conversation of Laura’s attendance at the Rubicam Business School that her mother had paid for Lau
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“Laura, where have you been going when you’ve been gone out pretending you were going to business college?” (Amanda, scene 2, pg. 14)
“I’ve just been out walking...All sorts of places--mostly in the park.” (Laura, scene 2, pg. 14)




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In scene 3, Tom goes “off to the movies” to avoid his family at home. Though he pays all the bills, his mother still treats him like a child.There is much anger inside him, his house it not a home it is similar to a prison. In scene 3 line 34 Tom says; "Listen! You think I’m crazy about the warehouse? [He bends fiercely toward her slight figure.] You think I’m in love with Continental Shoemakers? You think that I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that – celotex interior! with—fluorescent—tubes! Look! I’d rather somebody packed up a crowbar and battered out my brains—than go back mornings! I go! 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 thought of, Mother, I’d be where he is—GONE! [He points to his father’s picture.] As far as the system of transportation reaches!" What he says portrays how much he had to go through in his life because of his inability to be free.external image 2GAApQkR0rJbNKhmtSuZhph0hrSwjNyKDC2O87_bl2qxzEGn5VKIm8MxtR7SgTU-VeTpkjQ9DKbOFKaiFZDF7sS9_c79uKPAqC38xfuHOTlt2HhD5ydzAWjsCI227azVTA


Scene 5: This scene starts out with Amanda telling tom to be like his father in the aspect that his father always looked tidy. She then criticizes him for smoking so much and tells him that if he didn’t spend so much money on cigarettes he could do so on night school. Tom replies, “I’d rather smoke” and Amanda retorts ,”That is the tragedy of it.” The discussion then slides off to Laura having gentlemen callers where Tom mentions that he has called a friend over to dinner the following day. Amanda starts to make a fuss about it and Tom tells her to basically quit it or else he will tell his friend not to come. There is a sense of dramatic irony because the audience knows who Jim O’Connor is but Tom and Amanda don’t exactly know his significance. The discussion veers off to whether or not Mr. O’connor has any bad habits, namely drinking which was what Amanda’s husband was cursed with. This scene is important mainly because it serves as a transition and increases suspense through the use of dramatic irony






Significant Quotes:


TOM: “I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two places...I descended on 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...OH, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I speak to the nearest stranger—anything that can blow your candles out!” (pgs. 96-97)


Similar to his father Tom has chosen to abandon his mother and sister to travel and wander. Yet, based on the diction in his final words Tom seems to be aware that deserting his family was a cruel and moraless thing to do. This quote is significant because it shows that although Tom has found a source of relief in leaving the apartment he is still trapped; thoughts of Laura cause him to lament his actions because he is unable to fully leave her behind. He attempts to quell his guilt by drowning himself in anything that has the potential to “blow [her] candles out.” It shows that Laura’s hold on him was much stronger than he had ever anticipated it could be.


AMANDA: “ The only way to find out about those [Drinking} is to make discreet inquiries at the proper moment. When i was a girl in Blue mountain and it was suspected that a young man drank, the girl whose attentions he had been receiving, if any girl was, would sometimes speak to the minister of his church, or rather her father would is her father was living, and sort of feel him out on the young man’s character. That is the way such things are discreetly handled to keep a young woman from making a tragic mistake.” (pgs 45-46)


The mistakes of Tom’s father seem to be an underlying motif and directly and indirectly related to all the conflicts experienced by the family. This quote is significant because Amanda is trying to make sure her daughter is not stuck with a alcoholic like she was. Her insistince on making sure that Mr. O’connor is good for her daughter depicts her motherly feelings and her wish for her children to have a better future. She also wants to make sure that Laura is abandoned either. She says that, “An old maid is still better than a drunkard's wife.”


JIM:Aw, aw, aw. Is it broken?
LAURA:Now it is just like all the other horses.
JIM:It’s lost its—
LAURA:Horn! It doesn’t matter. . . . [smiling] I’ll just imagine he had an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less—freakish!


This conversation took place in scene seven, when Jim was teaching Laura some basic dance moves. Laura, hesitant to dance, is persuaded eventually by Jim’s engaging and charismatic way with words. Prior to the dance, Laura told Jim about her glass menagerie collection, which he found peculiar. Though Laura cautioned him, Jim still was too clumsy and wound up breaking one of the glass unicorns by making its horn fall off. The breaking of the horn is symbolic of Laura’s hopes being shattered. It foreshadows the immediate future when Jim informs Amanda and Laura that he is in love with another woman, Betty. Just like that, Laura’s hopes of a potential partner were shattered, just like the other glass unicorns.


"So what are we going to do the rest of our lives? Stay home and watch the parades go by? Amuse ourselves with the glass menagerie, darling? Eternally play those worn-out phonograph records your father left as a painful reminder of him? We won’t have a business career – we’ve given that up because it gave us nervous indigestion! [She laughs wearily.] What is there left but dependency all our lives? I know so well what becomes of unmarried woman who aren’t prepared to occupy a position. I’ve seen such pitiful cases in the South – barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister’s husband or brother’s wife! – stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room – encouraged by one in-law to visit another – little birdlike women without any nest – eating the crust of humility all their life!” -Scene 2 Beginning at line 34


Amanda tells Laura that she needs to get married because that is the only way she will have a future. She makes her daughter face the cold hearted reality that we are dependant on a man. Unmarried women will not get to places married women are, life will be much simpler if she were to find a husband. Amanda truly cares about her daughter and even though the truth hurts, she spares no mercy in telling her daughter how the real world will be.


Social Concerns:


Family Dysfunction: The Lack of Unity
The play as a whole highlights the how the Wingfield family is a dysfunctional unit that is a microcosm of the American family. This can be seen through Laura’s terrible relationship with her mother Amanda who attempts to vicariously live through her daughter. In addition, the lack of unity is displayed through Tom’s struggle with his feelings of confinement that are continuously burdening him; he struggles between the urge to be free and the notion of what family should be. In scene three you can see how easily the family turns a simple conflicts into a full-blown fiasco that is filled with resentment and bitterness. It is evident that a repercussion from the lack of unity is the inability to effectively use healthy methods to resolve conflicts. Tennessee Williams use of family dysfunction is still a popular idea because it still affects several families in the United States. The inability to work out problems through compromise and conversations results in broken families made up of divorces and sloppy affairs.



Economy/Financial Struggles - The Glass Menagerie was set in St.Louis in 1937, which is in the middle of the country’s worst economic failures in all of history, the Great Depression. The Great Depression led to thousands of bank failures and the poverty rate skyrocketed to a rate higher than any previously seen. Millions of people were forced to foreclose their homes and farms, forced to take up any job that was available no matter how little the pay, and work over a hundred hours a week to provide food for the family. It was a drastic upheaval that had a profound impact on American society. The hardships of the Great Depression are seen in this play, where Tom is the sole provider for his family. Tom has to work a manual labor job to allow his family to barely stay stable. His mother does not work, nor does his “crippled” sister. Amanda wants Laura to find a partner soon, because financial stability and family stability will become a problem in the immediate future.


Alcoholism: This play was set only a decade and a half after prohibition. Alcohol was in flux and wanderlust was brewing among young men as they tried to travel and see the world. Amanda’s husband( Tom and Laura’s father) was a drunkard. A large reason as to why he left is due to his drinking problem. The influence of drinking was prevalent then and is so today. Amanda tries to make sure Laura isn't stuck with an alcoholic which shows when she repeatedly pesters Tom on whether or not his friend, Mr. O’Connor, drinks. Him being irish makes it a little more suspicious.


Gender- The play depicts how vital gender is in determining one's future. Tom has to do business because he is a ‘man’, Laura needs to get married because she is a ‘woman’. That was strictly the way society was at the time, and there was no way it was going to be chagned. Throughout the play Amanda talks about what women SHOULD and SHOULDN’T do, as if everything and everyone is the same kind of person. Women and men were judged differently, and unfairly. It was not an ideal society to live in.