At the start of the play, we see narrow alleyways surrounding an old-fashioned tenement apartment. Tom Wingfield, the narrator, enters and addresses the audience. Tom explains about the memory play and that he is one of the characters. He also introduces the other characters in the play; that is his mother Amanda, his sister Laura, and a gentleman caller. Another character in the play that never appears is his father. His father had worked for a telephone company before he deserted his family some long years back. He fell in love with long distance.
After their father had abandoned the family, Tom became the sole breadwinner of the family. However, he feels so bad and unfair for him to sacrifice his youthful pleasures so as to fulfill his domestic responsibilities as a breadwinner of the family and he is constantly at an argument with his mother on this issue. Finally, after his failure in an attempt at getting '' a gentleman caller'' for her physically challenged sister, he just like his father runs away from home (Clark 19). On the other hand, Amanda is seen to be stressed throughout in the play; this is due to the abandonment by her husband. She does everything she can to keep Tom the only source of financial support under her control but doesn't succeed, and she is left in the darkness at the end of the play. On the other hand, Laura is physically challenged. She limbs and because of her disability she suffers from inferiority complex. His brother arranges for Jim 'a gentleman caller' to visit her and from this she feels loved and cared for, but eventually Jim doesn't marry her.
Each of the above characters played important roles in the play. Starting by Amanda Wingfield, she is seen to be living in the world that fluctuates between illusion and reality. When she is going through a lot of problems, she simply closes her eyes to the brutal, realistic world and uses various mechanisms to endure her present position on life and find the solutions. When life is in tenement world, she becomes unbearable, making her remember the days of her youth when she lived a blue mountain and had seventeen gentlemen callers in one Sunday afternoon (Moore 67). This story has been told many times until it is seen as no longer an illusion but reality. She likewise participates in playful games so as to escape the reality she is facing in life. We also see her refusing to accept the fact that Laura is crippled and instead refers to her as just having a small physical problem. She also refuses to accept that Tom is different from her and that he will one day leave in search of adventures. And to end with, Amanda lives perpetually in a different world of gentlemen callers who will appear one day to move in with her daughter Laura.
Amanda always wanted the best for her children, she devotes herself to her children and possesses strong attributes and determination. Many women could not have made it under the same conditions that Amanda went through. She devoted herself too much to her children and began to live through her children (Williams 20). As her result, she failed to understand her children's different personalities and ended up driving Tom away. This was because she was trying to relive her life. After her husband had left her, she found herself with an empty and meaningless life.
Thus, Amanda possessed one unique character that she lived alternatively in a world of fantasy and world of reality. This fluctuation in these two worlds is her defense against boredom and emptiness of living.
Secondly, Tom was a potentially creative character caught in a conventional and materialistic world he was a hardworking and a free spirit. He worked in a shoe warehouse but disliked his job. Unlike his mother, Tom had his independent world composed of things he considered to be important, that was his poetry, his dreams, his freedom, his adventure and his illusions. All this things were in opposite direction to his mother's world, but Tom's world was a conflict between his world and realistic world. He was so caring and realistic and was always willing to help her sister. He was more realistic and knew that his mother's dreams of gentlemen callers were false (Williams 38). He recognized that he had no future working in the warehouse, and he was determined and driven by achieving his dreams and goals; this made him act without pity or else be destroyed as a sensitive being (Clark 12). He was forced, then, to leave his family or be consumed by their world of fantasy, deception, and withdrawal.
Tom's abandonment of his family was not a selfish behavior. Instead, Tom recognized that he must escape his home to save himself and live a life he desired and dreamt of. He knew that if he stayed he will be destroyed as a man and as an artist and his creativity and dreams would go to waste (Moore 27). Furthermore, he knew if he didn't act, he would suffer and that he will never be happy and of all a complete deterioration of his natural creative abilities. And has a sensitive, loving and caring personality, he has never been able to forget his dreams of life and especially the delicate charm and loveliness of his sister.
Finally, Laura played a unique role in the play; Laura is represented as a shy and sensitive person. Her shyness is emphasized even more by contrasting with Amanda's forceful and almost brutal nature (Hall 67). She possesses a glass menagerie that she cares and for with great tenderness. Due to the influence of her mother she has withdrawn from the world of reality into the world of illusion and fantasy.
Laura is shown to be physically challenged; she limps, but she has magnified this limp until it has affected her entire personality. Due to her oversensitive nature, she thinks that everyone is watching her limp, and this has been a block to a normal living (Gross 45). Her inability to overcome this defect causes her to withdraw from the real world. Laura's inner nature is symbolized by the limp. As Tom said, 'it is not just crippled that makes her different, but she is just different.'
For the first time, Laura's inner charm is noted when the man caller arrives. We see her as fresh and pretty. She is even able to forget her physical handicap. I ironically, we see her leading Jim to her world (Clark 12).
Clark-Wehinger, Alice. 'A Long Way For A Short Story: The Filmic Narrative Mode Of The Glass Menagerie'. Journal of the Short Story in English. Les Cahiers de la nouvelle 59 (2012): n. pag. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.
Gross, Robert F. Tennessee Williams. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.
Moore, Lauren R. "English Seminar Capstone Research Papers." Ravaged by Time": The Effects of the Past and Future 15 march 2013: 1-29. print.
RoudaneI, Matthew Charles. The Cambridge Companion To Tennessee Williams. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New York: New Directions, 1999. Print.
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