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American Literature Unit 1 The Glass Menagerie
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The Glass Menagerie
1. What are the glass figurines on the cover of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie?
Ans: The question is very unclear with respect to the version or edition of Tennessee Williams’ 1945 play The Glass Menagerie. What follows, therefore, is an attempt at responding to the student’s question in a broader sense, but with reference to different program or “Playbill” covers that accompanied productions of the play from its infancy to the present.
Williams’ play deals with a troubled, somewhat dysfunctional family of three: Amanda Wingfield, her grown son Tom, and her daughter Laura. The latter is a physically-handicapped young woman whose sheltered, almost agoraphobic existence is characterised by her immersion in an imaginary world consisting of her collection of small glass figurines, all in the shape of animals. Laura’s collection of glass figurines, the “glass menagerie” of the title, represents her own delicate status. As Williams himself wrote in his production notes accompanying his play:
“A childhood illness has left her crippled, one leg slightly shorter than the other, and held in a brace. . .Stemming from this, Laura’s separation increases till she is like a piece of her own glass collection, too exquisitely fragile to move from the shelf.”
The aforementioned program covers, then, depict glass figurines in the shape of animals. One particular program cover, though, shows only a unicorn, a special addition to Laura’s glass menagerie that is accidentally broken during her one chance at emotional fulfilment when she dances with Jim O’Conner, the somewhat dull young man brought home by Tom in the hopes that Jim and Laura will spark a romance. Unicorns, of course, symbolise purity and innocence, which are two defining characteristics of Laura Wingfield. The accident that results in the glass unicorn’s horn being broken off symbolises the end of the Wingfield family’s hopes for a better future in which Laura is able to break free of the emotional restraints that confine her to the family’s apartment and lead a more normal life. The probable answer to the student’s question, then. is that the glass figurines are animals and/or a depiction,’ of a unicorn.
2. What are the plot, summary and conclusion of the drama The Glass Menagerie?
Ans: The plot of The Glass Menagerie is a three-fold conflict. The first involves Tom who is thrown into a job he doesn’t like because the family has been abandoned by the father and Tom was the only one who could support the family, which consists of the mother Amanda and his sister Laura, who has a brace on her leg. Tom has to decide between his mother and sister and his own life and aspirations. The second involves Amanda who is tragically always remembering her past happy life as proof to herself and her children that she was not deserving of having been abandoned by the one man, out of “seventeen gentleman callers,” to whom she gave her affection. She must find a way to make her son’s life and daughter’s life a successful ones when drunkenness, poverty, shyness, illness and disability weigh against it. The third involves Laura who is troubled by pathological shyness and feelings of unworthiness that stem from natural timidity, illness and the brace on her leg. She must decide whether or not to make a place for herself in the world.
Amanda tries to work with the few resources left to her to help mould a successful future for her two children. One of her resources is her son’s ability to work and earn money for the family, a role he bitterly resents. Laura has been sent to secretarial school but, in the fear of extreme shyness, has long ago dropped out. Amanda once again relies on her son to help the abandoned family by finding Laura a potential suitor from work. Tom does so and brings Jim home to a lavish dinner prepared at great expense by Amanda. Laura recoils from meeting Jim because they had known each other in high school and she had had a crush on him. Eventually, she is forced to converse with him just as the lights go out from an unpaid electric bill, the money for which Tom had diverted to the fees for joining the merchant marine in order to escape his life. Jim and Laura have sincere talks about her unrecognised charms and talents; he accidentally breaks the magical, fantasy unicorn while dancing with Laura; then kisses her. In guilty regret he confesses that he has wronged her because he has a fiancee.
In the end, the glass menagerie, Laura’s ideal symbolic of a happy life like the one in her mother’s stories, is damaged twice, first accidentally by Tom and second by Laura’s first “gentleman caller,” Jim, who turns out to be engaged. Laura’s reaction to the unicorn broken by Jim is that now it is just a regular horse. Tom abandons his mother and sister to an unpaid electric bill and goes in pursuit of his own happiness, though his happiness is never sufficient to be able to dispel the cloud of regret and guilt over Laura, nor is it sufficient to be able to allow him to understand his bitter foolishness or his mother’s struggles any better. Laura has an epiphany moment and becomes like her unicorn, just a regular girl. The mother, Amanda, can at least feel comfortable with her daughter’s prospects though they still don’t see eye-to-eye. Of the three, Amanda is the only one who moves into the tlaure with sorrow because her share in the broken glass menagerie is regret for the lost unicorn though her feelings of sorrow and regret are mixed with comfort for her children’s future well-being.
3. What is the significance of Laura’s glass menagerie, especially the symbolic unicorn, in Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie?
Ans: In addition to the glass menagerie, especially the glass unicorn, symbolising Laura’s fragility and feelings of freakishness, the glass further symbolises her hidden inner radiance. Her inner radiance is symbolised through the glass’s ability to radiate light, as she points out to Jim when she hands him the unicorn: “Hold him over the light, he loves the light! You see how the light shines through him?” (Scene VII). Little does she realise that she equally emits light due to her gentleness, goodness, and prettiness. The loss of the unicorn’s horn further symbolises Laura shedding her belief that she is “freakish,” a belief Jim helps her shed by commenting that he never noticed her brace and that he wished she had made more friends, and by conversing with her, dancing with her, calling her pretty, and kissing her.
Yet, one may argue against the interpretation that Laura giving him the broken unicorn after he announces he is engaged means that she is relinquishing her understanding that she isn’t freakish or of giving Jim the new feelings of normalcy he has inspired in her. Instead, one might argue that it symbolises that, despite the discouraging news, she now knows that she no longer needs to seek refuge in her menagerie, especially not in a figurine that she thinks represents her freakishness. Jim has not only made her realise that her perceptions of herself are all wrong, but also that she is actually very special–these are not revelations one can easily shrink from once gained.
One can reach a more positive interpretation of her giving Jim the broken unicorn when one takes a more careful look at the final stage directions. Though Tom abandons his mother and sister, the stage directions indicate that, though Laura’s hair is covering her face during Tom’s final speech, at the very end of his speech, Laura “lifts [her face] to smile at her mother.” The smile is not indicative of a completely tragic ending for Laura. Instead, it indicates that, by the end of the play, both Laura and her mother have learned to let go of their past torments and embrace a future in which they can survive on their own, without Tom, who only served as a crutch preventing them from fully healing because they relied on him so much for their survival.
4. What is the lesson of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams?
Ans: The moral lesson of The Glass Menagerie is that one can try to escape the pastail d one’s ties to family, but to no avail. The hold one’s family and past has on one is tenacious and strong. At the end of the play, Tom Wingfield leaves his mother and sister, Amanda and Laura, respectively though his mother believes that he will protect and care for them forever. Instead, the pressure they place on him drives him away, as it had driven away his father years before.
Tom believes that he has escaped his sister’s memory and her call for help, but wherever he goes, he sees her in his mind and thinks of her. He says at the end of the play, “Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!” The entire play is Tom’s recollection of his sister and mother, as he has never been able to forget about them, and they still have a psychological hold on him.
5. Discuss the character of Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.
Ans: I go to the movies—I like adventure. Adven-ture is something that I don’t have much of at work.
Tom Wingfield is the narrator and also a character in the play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. The entire play is a flashback; however, the author and Tom call it a memory scene. This is Tom’s memory of leaving his mother and sister to their own devices.
Everything is seen through the eyes of the narrator. Through his guilt, a much older Tom looks back at why he left home and never came back. Trapped—Tom felt that he had taken on the responsibility that his father left when he ran away. Although the play eventually centres on Laura, this is Tom’s drama. It is his memory. Point of view becomes very important in the play because it is Tom’s version of what happened
The reader learns that Tom has been haunted by his decision to leave his family and go out in search of adventure. He guides the readers and sets the tone of guilt, anxiety, and empathy that runs throughout the play.
Tom’s problem centres on resentment. He is unhappy because he has to help support the family. This is not his obligation. He resents his mother nagging about his job, his life, and his future. The bitterness that he feels runs over to the only thing that keeps him at home: his crippled sister Laura. Tom loves her and knows that she needs him, yet he is unable to help her and so he runs away.
Tom chooses his personal dreams over the reality of his family’s needs. His mundane job and life keep him unhappy and cynical. Despite trying to take classes at night, nothing really satisfies him. He wants to be a writer, believing that if he gets away from his terrible life that he will find adventure and be able to include that in his writing.
Lacking the qualities of a hero, Tom abandons his family and particularly his innocent, handicapped sister. This is why he is retelling the story—he cannot find peace until he is able to forgive himself.
What does the reader know about Tom?
: He despises his job at the shoe factory.
: He goes to the movies to live vicariously through the adventures.
: His mother drives his crazy because of her constant nagging.
: He loves his sister but cannot take responsibility for her life.
The only way for Tom to survive with his sanity is to run away. He has made efforts to do his duty. He has worked at the factory to support the family. His final attempt to help falls flat when he brings home the “gentleman caller” in the hope that she will attract him and find her own happiness.
When he leaves, wherever he goes he feels Laura touching his shoulder.
I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, I tried to leave you behind, but I am more faithful than I intended to be.
Tom’s self-loathing comes from his desertion of the only person that he really loved. Laura lived in a secret world which enabled her to survive: her glass menagerie allows her to lose reality and becomes her saving grace.
Escape means that a person is able to leave behind whatever has alienated him. Tom’s escape meant that he left behind two people who needed him.
6. How does Tom justify abandoning his family in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams?
Ans: Tom Wmgiield has a lot of reasons for wanting to leave home in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. His mother, Amanda, is annoying and is constantly nagging at him about how he eats and what he does with his free time and money. She even returns one of his books to the library because she thinks he should not be reading it and she does not want it in her house. He fmally explodes at her, reminding her that he is a virtual slave to his job, to this house, and to her.
It is true that Amanda works, but it is Tom’s salary which ensures that Amanda and Laura have a place to stay, and he has become resentful. He knows they need him there, but he has a wandering spirit (like his father) and wants to join the Merchant Marines so he can travel the world. In fact, his only escape is the movies, which is a poor substitute for actual travel. Amanda does not understand this need/desire (or perhaps she does and is afraid of it ), and that only frustrates Tom more.
And finally, Amanda wants Tom to find someone suitable for his sister to marry. While Tom loves Laura, this is just one more reason to hate his life. He wants to do everything , but he is stuck doing nothing– or at least nothing he wants to do. In an argument with his mother he says :
You think I’m crazy about the warehouse ? You think I’m in love with the Continental Shoemakers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that– celotex interior! with fluorescent tubes! Look! 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! And you say self–self is all I ever think of. Why, listen, if self is what I thought of, Mother, I’d be where he [his father] is–GONE! As far as the system of transportation reaches!
Again, Tom has plenty of reasons for wanting to leave. He is a grown man still forced to take orders from a nagging mother, he is working a job he despises and has to spend most of his money to help support his family, and he cannot pursue his own dreams because he is stuck being the sole support and comfort (of a sort) of his mother and sister. In the end, though, Tom does not justify his leaving with any of those excuses.
He tells Jim, his co-worker and Laura’s gentleman caller, that he is leaving because
I’m like my father. The bastard son of a bastard!
His father, Amanda’s husband, is an unseen charac-ter in this play, depicted only in a photograph hanging on the wall. Early in the play, Tom introduces him this way:
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 family received only one postcard from him after he left. It came from Mazatlan, and all it said was “hello” and “goodbye” and contained no forwarding address. We presume he had all the same reasons for leaving that. Tom had: a nagging Amanda, too many unwanted responsibilities, dissatisfaction at his job, and the desire to travel. It is not particularly surprising that Tom wants to leave and that he does so in roughly the same manner as his father—without telling anyone.
When Torn tells Jim he is like his father, he is admitting that he is being selfish and inconsiderate of his mother and sister, but he intends to go–and he does. He leaves his mother and sister literally in the dark and sails away.
7. Analyse the theme of consumerism in The Glass Menagerie.
Ans: The play is set during the Depression, as is explained in the introduction with the quote, “that quaint period, the thirties.” The author notes that the characters were facing “a dissolving economy.” From these phrases and the general description of Amanda, it is clear that the family once had money and occupied a higher socio-economic status than they do now. In fact, in discussing her suitors when she was a girl, Amanda even says that
There was young Champ Laughlin who later became vice-president of the Delta Planters Bank. Hadley Stevenson who was drowned in Moon Lake and left his widow one hundred and fifty thousand in Government bonds. There were the Cutrere brothers, Wesley and Bates. Bates[‘]… widow was also well provided for…
Amanda is not only yearning for her lost youth and beauty and the many boyfriends that she had; she is also musing about the money and comfort that could have been hers had she married a different man. Thus, the theme of money and its absence is presented throughout the play.
When Amanda worries about Laura’s future, she is not only concerned that Laura will be alone. She is also concerned that Laura will not have money with which to support herself. Amanda knows from firsthand experience how difficult it is to support oneself. For this reason, Amanda enrols Laura in a business school where she will learn basic office skills that will enable her to get a job. When Amanda learns that Laura has not attended classes but merely walked around in town during school hours, Amanda is extremely upset. She then tells Laura that some girls marry, implying that marriage is another way for Laura to secure her financial future.
The theme of money and its absence is also seen in the way Tom spends the funds that were intended to be used to pay the electricity bill. He uses this money in-stead to further his dream of registering in the navy, escaping his home and family, and seeing the world. When the lights go out, it as both a figurative and literal closure of one world, as Tom prepares to transition into a different one.
8. Analyse the concepts of strengths and weaknesses in The Glass Menagerie?
Ans: The concepts of strength and weakness inThe Glass Menagerietreated under the scope of how each of the characters’ strengths seem to be limited by circumstances. As a result, they appear weakened and even vulnerable. However, the end will show that the ultimate choice to change, or remain the same, remains within each character.
If we start with Tom, we see that he does have the inner will to make changes for himself. However, the setting of The Glass Menagerietakes place in the 1930’s where the Great Depression was hitting the very psyche of the American heart. Tom may very well represent every American who, like him, feels confined and helpless at this point. However, Tom finds his strength in things that nobody expects: writing poetry, reading Shakespeare, and getting his inspiration from movies (and alcohol, at times). Hence, Tom’s strength are his talent for the arts, his obvious loyalty to his female family members, and his ability to stick to a job, even when he does not like it. His weakness is his incapability of making the choice to remove himself from his current circumstances. He does it at the end, showing his enormous strength of choice, but his heart still remains right where he was.
Amanda Wingfield’s strengths are her dedication to her children, her intentions to prevail above the surface in a suffocating economy, and her tolerance for the reality of her children’s weaknesses. When she realises that Laura had dropped off typing school she feels the loss deeper than Laura, herself.
Fifty dollars’ tuition, all of our plans – my hopes and ambition for you – just gone up the spout, just gone up the spout like that.
She is a clear witness to it all, and she puts up with it even after having been abandoned by her husband. However, she does have huge weakness to holding on to the past and not moving past a specific period during her youth. ‘For this reason, she looks out of place and almost foolish in the eyes of others.
Laura’s strengths are quite surprising during Jim’s visit. Contrary to what we first think, she actually gages in conversation and even drops a hint of charm ! It is strong enough to cause Jim to look at her with a flirtatious eye !
JIM : Unicorns, aren’t they extinct in the modern world ?
LAURA : I know !
JIM : Poor little fellow, he must feel sort of Ione some.
LAURA [smiling] : 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.
JIM : How do you know?
LAURA [lightly]: I haven’t heard any arguments among them !
Her weakness, however, is her very low self-esteem, which makes her think of herself less than anybody else and which has given her such a complex that it has crippled her more than the slight limp with which she walks, which she says it actually “clunks”. Even Jim said that he never heard any clunking.
Finally, Jim has many strengths such as a capability to be a high achiever, good looks, and high self esteem. However, he seems like the type of man that sets goals that are too high. This is why, even though he is a hero in high school, he does not make much of himself as an adult. He also downplays Laura’s condition as if he were seeing life with “rose colored glasses”. His weakness may very well be over-confidence which, in the end, has made him into an underachiever.
9. Elaborate on the concept of the American dream in The Glass Menagerie.
Ans: The essential concept of the American Dream touches the lives of many characters in The GlassMenagerie. The idea that the opportunity to achieve one’s aspirations is within reach of all Americans is, Tennessee Williams suggests, more of a myth than a reality.
Though Amanda Wingfield believes that her son and daughter can rise in society and become self-supporting and successful, her thinking is delusive. Laura is too psychologically and physically frail to become independent. Tom Wingfield does not buy into the idea that becoming a successful businessman will be proof of a successful life; he is an artist who wants to pursue his passion for writing, which is unlikely to bring the kind of success associated with the American Dream.
Another aspect of the American Dream is having a close and loving family. The Wingfields’ relationships, however, are dysfunctional. The father left the family years before, and Tom resents the responsibilities that his mother tries to foist upon him. Laura is pathetic and a burden to both her mother and brother.
This memory play set in the 1930’s captures the desperation of the years of the Great Depression, a Period of America’s history in which achieving the American Dream was particularly unlikely for most people.
10. In The Glass Menagerie, how do Tom and Jim differ in their goals and dreams?
Ans: Tom is also stifled in his attempts to reach his dreams by the fact that he feels responsible for both Laura and his mother. Jum has more freedom to pursue his dreams. Jim’s dreams are also more “socially acceptable” whereas for Tom, a gay, man with a desire to be a writer and with a single mother and disabled sister to take care of, his dreams are much more out of reach. Tom is a highly autobiographical character. Tennessee Williams experienced much of what Tom experiences in his own life. His sister, Rose, on whom Laura is based, had a problem with mental illness and was ultimately given a lobotomy. Tennessee Williams lived with a degree of guilt over this for much of his adult life. Williams himself was a gay man who wanted to write, and he often had times when the dream was out of reach. A good editor who stood by him, going so far as to allow him to retreat to a country home and take care of chickens for a period of time in order to refocus, ultimately is what allowed him to break free. (all of this can be found in his letters that are collected in the play “A distant country called Youth”) Tom is trying to break free as well.
Essentially, Jim’s dreams reflect a socially acceptable norm; whereas Tom’s do not. This is key to the difference between the two characters as well as to a degree of strife that exists between om and Jim themselves.
11. Compare and contrast Tom and Amanda in The Glass Menagerie.
Ans: One distinct comparison between Tom and Amanda lies in how both are unhappy with the present. A point of contrast would be in how they address it.
It is clear that Tom and Amanda don’t share much respect for one another by the end of the drama. Perhaps this is because they are so similar to one another. Both of them are really unhappy with their lives. Tom is unhappy with the life he leads: “Look !—I’ve got no thing, no single thing…in my life here that I can call my own !” His dissatisfaction extends to a job to which he would prefer “somebody picked up a crowbar and battered out my brains.”
Tom’s unhappiness about his life is one of his primary connections to Amanda. She recognizes that her dreams and aspirations have not materialised. Instead, she lives a life where “Things have a way of turning out so badly.” Her husband leaving her, her son following the same path, and her daughter lacking “plans and provisions” are reasons for her unhappiness. She is unable to reconcile a painful present with a past filled with success such as “seventeen !—gentlemen callers” from Blue Mountain. It was a world full of promise and possibility. When she tells Laura to wish for “Happiness ! Good fortune !” it is only because her life lacks it.
The primary difference between the despondent lives that both lead is what they do to alleviate it. Amanda places her entire faith in trying to control her children. She avoids being the pitiful cases” that she has seen in her past through her interaction with her children. She believes that finding a man for her daughter will minimise her pain. She places this same emphasis in how she interacts with Tom. The small things such as nagging him about how much he smokes, how much time he spends at the movies, and how much more he needs to be there to do his duty are ways that Amanda believes she can minimise her unhappiness. If she wills her kids into the life she sees for them, Amanda believes that she will find that sense of “good fortune” and “happiness” she so sorely lacks. Amanda believes that focusing on the present in the form of controlling her children is where contentment lies.
Tom sees the answer to his pain in escape. Amanda hits the nail on the head when she calls Tom a “selfish dreamer.” Tom believes that the only way he will improve his life is by leaving it behind. Dreams are the vehicle for getting out. Tom sees the future as his only chance at happiness. He is different from Amanda in this way.
12. Compare and contrast Tom and Laura in The Glass Menagerie.
Ans: 1) Temperament
Laura is a fragile young woman. Her disability is a source of her depression; she takes refuge in her glass menagerie. The glass figurines are symbols of her fragility and her beauty. Although she understands Tom’s frustration with his life and his job at the warehouse, she is very protective of their mother. When Amanda tries to regale them one more time about her gentleman callers in past days, Laura implores Tom to humour Amanda because it makes her happy. Even though he does so, he can’t help but show his irritation at his mother’s constant harping about the gentleman callers that are supposed to come calling after Laura.
While Laura can’t bear to disappoint their mother, Tom isn’t as particular. He argues with her about reading Lawrence and going to the movies. He is frustrated that he has no autonomy at the house: Amanda returns his Lawrence novel to the library because she terms the novel a product of ‘diseased minds.’ He argues that he feels all he does is pay the rent and provide for their upkeep. He can’t stand his job at the Continental Shoe-makers and doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life there. His mother is only concerned about the security of the family. These types of arguments become the catalyst for Tom to go his own way. He is so frustrated that he calls his mother an old, babbling, ugly witch. However, he feels no small amount of guilt for deserting his mother and his helpless sister.
2) Life goals
Tom is restless. He feels that his adventurous spirit is subdued by working in a warehouse. Amanda tells him he needs to cultivate ‘Spartan endurance,’ but he insists that “Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse!” On the other hand, Laura also feels herself trapped and sees no hope of ever marrying; it is why she seeks refuge in her glass menagerie. When Amanda accuses Tom of playing a nice trick on them by inviting a gentleman caller to dinner who is engaged, he can take no more of her oppressive accusations.
AMANDA: That’s right, now that you’ve had us make such fools of ourselves. The effort, the preparations, all the expense ! The new floor lamp, the rug, the clothes for Laura ! all for what ? To entertain some other girl’s fiancé ! Go to the movies, go ! Don’t think about us, a mother deserted, an unmarried sister who’s crippled and has no job ! Don’t let anything interfere with your selfish pleasure. I just go, go, go – to the movies !
TOM: All right, I will ! The more you shout about my selfishness to me the quicker I’ll go, and I won’t go to the movies !
He walks out on his family just like his father did before him. He is free, but still feels himself tied to the memory of his helpless and loving sister. Of his mother, he feels no such guilt. Laura chooses to stay with their mother, but it is evident that the light has gone out of her life. She blows out the candles at the end of the play, a fitting symbol for her heart sorrow.
3) Relationship with their mother, Amanda.
Tom does not get along with Amanda, their mother. At the start of the play she tells him how to eat his meal so that he can get maximum enjoyment out of his dinner. He is irritated with her micro-management and tells her he is going to smoke a cigarette instead. As noted above, he feels that Amanda is stifling his individuality. He feels misunderstood and smothered. He does not placate Amanda as Laura does. It is Tom who has loud arguments with his mother. She tries to manipulate Tom into finding a husband for Laura by slyly stating that he will finally be free to do what he wants in life if he fulfils his role as a brother should.
4) The relationship between Laura and Tom.
Both Laura and Tom understand each other and try to enter into each other’s sorrows and hopes for the future. They confide in each other.Tom tries to bring Jim and Laura together and Laura discusses movies with Tom. Even though she begs Torn to apologise and make up with Amanda after their big argument, he is initially unrepentant. He does not see any reason to apologise to someone who makes his daily life miserable. Eventually, he does so when he sees how sad his mother is. While Tom and Amanda’s relationship is both fraught with guilt and conflict, Tom and Laura’s relationship is burdened with alternating pity and love.
13. In “The Glass Menagerie”, what might happen to Laura after Tom’s departure? What might happen to Amanda? In “The Glass Menagerie”
Ans: Amanda will be okay. She’s had a husband who left her, she’s raised two children on her own, she’s working two jobs to make a living, she’s survived several of her gentleman callers, and we have nothing to suggest she won’t weather this storm, as well. Amanda is resourceful, judging from her elaborate preparations for Laura’s one and only gentleman caller. Amanda isbcapable, as she is running her household with little help from Tom and no help at all from Laura. Amanda is practical, as she sees the need for Laura to prepare herself for a future alone. (It doesn’t work, but it’s a decent plan.) In short, nothing so bad happens that I feel Amanda will now be broken or in some other way derailed. I believe she’ll be just fine.
14. What does Amanda nag Tom to provide in “The Glass Menagerie”?
Ans: Amanda believes that Tom should be the provider for the family, much as a husband might do. Because Tom is the only son, Amanda believes he should feel obligated to provide for them. Torn and Laura’sfather left them long ago Amanda still believes that he’ll return someday (he won’t!), as she keeps his picture hanging on the wall. Tom does not feel he should be the provider and protector because he has his own aspirations and dreams. Too much pressure is put on him by Amanda and it finally gets to him. She nags him to no end about virtually everything he does, which would drive anyone crazy. Eventually, Tom realises that if he wants to ever have a chance of being able to have his own life, he must leave both his sister and his mother. He feels particularly guilty about having to leave Laura.
15. In The Glass Menagerie what does Amanda ask Tom to do?
Ans: In scene 4 of the play The Glass Menagerie Amanda Wingfield asks her son, Tom, to look in his workplace (the warehouse) for a potential beau for her socially awkward daughter, Laura.
There is a lot of background to this. Amanda, who was left by her husband years ago, has lived with her son and daughter in a small apartment. While Tom does what he can at the warehouse to support his mother and sister, he is also very frustrated at his current situation.
Amanda is equally frustrated. Being an naturally eccentric woman who still hangs on to her Southern belle past, she looks up to her children only to realise, slowly, that none of the two has amounted to much. Both of her children seem to be stunted and unable to grow into productive adults. Tom works at the warehouse but is restless, unhappy, and drinks a lot. Laura stays home all day playing old records in her phonograph and tending to her glass menagerie.
Amanda is concerned mostly about Laura and her inability to go out into the world. Moreover, who, but a husband, could take care of Laura? Amanda is an older woman. The only other option would be Tom. Is he up for that task?
Regardless of the fact that she is asking Tom to find someone for Laura, Amanda still has specific requirements :
AMANDA: Find out one that’s clean-living – doesn’t drink and – ask him out for sister !
AMANDA: For sister ! To meet ! Get acquainted.
Tom is aggravated by the idea but manages to Jim to visit the house. Jim’s visit will be the pivotal part of the play where truths are finally told, and Tom’s destiny is decided for good.
16. Why does Tom go to the movies in Glass Menagerie?
Ans: Yes, one can assume that lbm does more lust escape to the movies. The movies for Tom chance for vicarious experiences for his much-desired “romance and adventure.” But even Tom knows that movies are hardly satisfactory. Late in the play, here’s what Tom says to Jim about the movies :
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 adventure themselves Goody, goody ! -It’s our turn now, to go to the South Sea Islands – 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 !
So, Tom does go to the movies for escape, but he’s far from happy about it. And even his mother doesn’t think that’s all he does when he’s out so late at night :
AMANDA: I think you’ve been doing things that you’re ashamed of. That’s why you act like this. I don’t believe that you go every night to the movies. Nobody goes to the movies night after night. Nobody in their right mind goes to the movies as often as you pretend to. People don’t go to the movies at nearly midnight, and movies don’t let out at two am. Come in stumbling. Muttering to yourself like a maniac !
One can assume, then, that “going to movies” is a euphemism for all kinds of other late-night doings which no doubt include drinking and some other extra-curricular activities. Tom comes stumbling home one morning at 5 AM, and only his sister, Laura, would believe he got that colourful silk scarf he waves from Malvolio the Magician.
17. What are some quotes about isolation in The Glass Menagerie?
Ans : Amanda : But, why—why, Tom—are you always so restless? Where do you go to, nights?
Tom: I—go to the movies.
Amanda: Why do you go to the movies so much Tom?
Tom: 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.
These lines relate to the exchange between Amanda and Tom where she chastises him for going to the movies too much. Tom says he likes the movies because they give him a sense of romance and excitement he does not get in real life. While this exchange might not seem to relate much to isolation at first, one must realise that in going to the movies so much to vicariously live through the adventures of the characters on screen. Tom is metaphorically shutting himself off from the real world. There is a kind of isolation in this.
You know it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?
Tom views his life as suffocating and lonely, hence the coffin imagery. He feels he is being smothered from within and that the only way to break free is to escape from his family situation. He also feels misunderstood by his family, who do not understand why he should want to break free from this isolated way of living.
[Jim] is the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were some-how set apart from. But since I have a poet’s weakness for symbols, I am using this character also as a symbol; he is the long delayed but always expected something that we live for.
Tom’s initial description of Jim O’Connor highlights just how isolated the Wingfield family is, particularly in a psychological sense. They are so removed from normal reality that Jim becomes a symbol for them more than a man because he is not part of their cloistered, suffocating world.
18. What is the meaning of the title The Glass Menagerie?
Ans: The title The Glass Menagerie brings to prominence the collection of figurines composed of delicate glass and shaped like animals that the equally delicate Laura owns. This title also helps to draw attention to the symbolism of the fragile glass animals who come to represent anything that is too delicate to last in the day-to-day outside world.
Because life is harsh and difficult for Laura, she has fabricated an imaginary world symbolised by the glass menagerie. Laura is even compared to the glass animals in the stage directions in Scene 6:
She is like a piece of translucent glass touched by light, given a momentary radiance, not natural, not lasting.
In a similar fashion, Amanda longs for the world of her youth, in which she was comfortable as a Southern belle. Tom desires a world that is beyond the mundane and trivial, escaping in books and at the picture shows (the movies).
Much like the glass menagerie, all three Wingfields prove to be unrealistic. They each hold another world in their minds, and, like the glass figures, it is a much too fragile world to last. Thus, the title of The Glass Menagerie helps to bring to the front the themes of illusions and impossible dreams.
19. How is The Glass Menagerie a tragedy?
Ans: Tennessee Williams’s classic play The Glass Menagerie is a tragedy because each member of the Wingfield family suffers in their own individual way and Amanda’s plan for Jim O’Connor to court her handicapped daughter ends in disaster. Williams creates a somber atmosphere throughout the play as each member of the Wingfield family struggles with the burden of their unfulfilled dreams. Amanda Wingfield is overwhelmed with loneliness, instability, and uncertainty after her husband abandoned her and relies on her son to financially provide for the family. Instead of facing reality, she escapes to memories of her past and harbours unrealistic dreams for Lura. Amanda’s plan for Jim O’Connor to be with Laura is shattered after it is revealed that he is married. Amanda’s constant nagging and demanding nature also caused her son to abandon the family. Following Jim O’Connor’s visit, Laura retreats back to the imaginary world of her “glass menagerie” and Tom is haunted by the memory of his fragile sister. Despite attaining independence, Tom is plagued by his decision to abandon his family and cannot overcome the difficult memory. Overall, the memory play has a tragic ending, where each member of the Wingfield family is emotionally scarred and does not attain their dreams.
20. Is The Glass Menagerie a modern tragedy ? If so, why?
Ans: The answer depends to a large degree on how one uses the term “modern tragedy.” In one way, the term can be considered an oxymoron as a tragedy is a genre of ancient Greek drama. According to Aristotle, a tragedy portrays a noble protagonist who possesses a flaw (usually “hubris”) that leads to his or her ultimate downfall. The main effect of tragedy is to evoke fear and pity in the audience. This is accomplished by having a fundamentally great or admirable protagonist whose downfall evokes empathy.
One could argue that Amanda Wingfield is a tragic protagonist since she is a southern belle whose imprudent marriage and abandonment by her husband have led to her downfall, although much of that occurred before the actual action of the play. On the other hand, she may be more flawed than a traditional tragic heroine. Laura does not follow a tragic trajectory nor does Tom, who escapes the main tragic situation of the play. Although the play could be considered tragic in the sense of portraying human suffering and evoking fear and pity, it does not really follow the narrative trajectory of a tragedy, but instead is a fully modern drama.
21. Why did Jim call Laura “Blue Roses” in The Glass Menagerie?
Ans: When Amanda asks Laura whether she ever liked some boy, she mentions Jim. She points out his picture in the yearbook in the Pirates of Penzance performance and with a debate trophy. She then tells her mother that Jim used to call her “Blue Roses.” Her mother asks why he would call her such a name. She explains that when she missed school due to pleurosis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the lungs or chest cavity, he thought she said “Blue Roses.” Thereafter, he called her by that name. When he saw her passing in the halls, he’d yell after her, “Hello, Blue Roses!”
When Laura’s brother Torn invites Jim over for supper and he meets Laura again, he says he vaguely remembered seeing her before, but a name other than Laura came to his mind. Laura asks, “Was it Blue Roses?” Jim remembers that’s what he called her but can’t remember why, so she explains it to him as well.
Jim points out later that Blue Roses is a good name for her. She says blue is wrong for roses, but he says it’s right for her because she is unique. He tells her that she’s pretty and kisses her. He then explains that he is in love with another girl. His intent only was to increase her self-confidence but he realises that he went too far.
22. In The Glass Menagerie, why did Laura give the broken unicorn to Jim as a souvenir?
Ans: Perhaps the least functional member of the family, Laura is plagued by crippling doubt and anxiety, leaving her unable to hold even the most menial of jobs. Incredibly impartial to the worry of the outside world, Laura prefers the company of her collectible figurines. She favours the unicorn most of all, as it is a symbol of how she feels about herself: she is unique, singular, and vulnerable to the pain of the world.
When the unicorn breaks, one would assume that, due to her neurosis, Laura might suffer some kind of breakdown. However, she reacts to the change rather well. She observes that, without the horn, the unicorn could be any other horse. By receiving some relatively normal affection from Jim, Laura is able to let go of a moderate amount of her insecurity. However, just as the change occurs violently in the glass unicorn, so too is Laura’s change violent. She has had change brought upon her in a sudden and forceful way, destroying a part of what she considered her identity.
She gives Jim the broken unicorn as a “souvenir”— a reminder of the irrevocable change he has brought about, both positive and negative.
23. In The Glass Menagerie, why did Laura quit business college?
Ans: Laura quit business college as she was simply too nervous to cope with the typing course she was taking there. However, she has been pretending to her mother that she has been attending. Amanda only find out by chance, when she visits the college to ask how Laura has been getting on, and is shocked to learn that Laura dropped out weeks earlier. The teacher describes her as ‘a terribly shy little girl’:
Her hands shook so 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 ! After that she never showed up anymore. (Scene 2)
This incident illustrates the extent of Laura’s shyness and difficulty in facing the outer world. She vastly prefers to remain in her own world, or in places which have little to do with everyday concerns – when she has been out, pretending that she is still attending college, she has actually been dividing her time between the zoo, the cinema, and an exotic greenhouse known as the ‘Jewel-box’ – (Scene 2).
Laura’s failed attempts to compete a business course — a ‘fiasco,’ as Amanda later terms it (scene 4) — also affects the course of the plot as it is after this that Amanda becomes ever more set on finding a good husband for her, as she has proved she is unlikely ever to make her own living.
24. Why is Laura the tragic hero in “The Glass Menagerie”?
Ans: Of all of the characters in “The Glass Menagerie”, Laura’s situation is the most tragic. Tom is able to escape his circumstances by joining the Merchant Marines. Jim leaves the apartment and, apparently, marries Betty and goes on with his life. Amanda is older and can still retain her memories of “Blue Mountain.” Laura, however, has never had a good life to be able to remember. She has always been terribly shy and obsessed with the idea that everyone notices the fact that she is crippled. Her one hope for a happier life occurs when Jim visits and, for a few brief moments, seems to fall in love with her. However, Jim soon reveals that he is engaged to another girl and Laura’s hopes are dashed. This can be seen through two symbols. First, the unicorn, which symbolises Laura because it,like Laura, cannot exist in the modern world, loses its horn and becomes “like all the other horses”. However, Laura gives the unicorn to Jim as a reminder that she was one “normal” but he is taking that normalcy away with him. In addition, the candelabrum, which is also “deformed” like Laura, is lit during the scene between Jim and Laura. However, at the end of the play, Tom tells Laura to “blow out her candles”. The light of her life is gone and it is going to be almost impossible for her to exist without anyone to take care of her.
25. In The Glass Menagerie, what does Amanda hope for Laura?
Ans : Amanda hopes that Laura will get married to a nice man and settle down. She imagines all manner of gentleman callers for her and is thrilled when one does finally materialise, in the shape of Tom and Laura’s old schoolmate, Jim O’Connor. However, things do not end the way she hoped, as Jim turns out to be already engaged.
What Amanda really tries to do is to mould Laura in her own image, as a popular and romantically-inclined young woman. Amanda endlessly harks back to her own days when she was a Southern Belle and a resounding social success, with a string of gentleman callers always at hand. This is the way she would like Laura to be. However, she wilfully ignores the fact that Laura is the complete opposite of what she was as a girl. Laura is painfully, indeed almost pathologically shy, who neither wants nor expects gentleman callers. She lives in her own little world, quite apart from society. Amanda has to admit she cannot fathom what kind of person Laura is:
I don’t understand you, Laura. You couldn’t be sat-isfied with just sitting at home, yet whenever I try to arrange something for you, you seem to resist it. (scene 6)
Amanda does not realise, or cannot accept, that Laura is indeed content with staying at home, and suffers whenever she has to venture out into the world at large. However, it is true that she does respond warmly to Jim during his visit, and is devastated when it turns out that he cannot be with her after all.
Amanda often comes across as domineering in trying to arrange Laura’s future. It is not surprising, though, that, as a mother, she wants to see her daughter settled. She really just wants a happy, fulfilling life for her.
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