American Literature Unit 1 The Glass Menagerie

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American Literature Unit 1 The Glass Menagerie

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26. What affect does Amanda’s attitude have on Laura in The Glass Menagerie? 

Ans: In Tennesse Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, Laura is dominated by her mother, forced into taking a secretarial class which she quits without telling her mother. Timid and lacking confidence, Laura retreats into the glass world of her animal menagerie,for she is afraid of the world outside the apartment. She also becomes very upset when Tom and their mother argue and, then, do not speak to each other. Laura would like their lives to be suspended and merely continue as they did when she and Tom were younger, for she fears the future. 

When her mother insists that Tom bring home “a gentleman caller,” Laura panics, but Jim, who was acquainted with her in high school, quickly allays her fears. She feels almost normal in Jim’s company; when the unicorn’s horn breaks, Laura gives the “normal” horse to Jim. Sadly, though, there is no future with him for Laura since he already has a steady girlfriend. So, when Jim departs, Laura does not dare look at her mother, instead crouching behind the vitrola to wind it up. With her mother, Laura is trapped in illusion. 

27. In The Glass Menagerie, how would you describe Laura’s relationship with Amanda? 

Ans: In Tennessee Williams’s play The Glass Menagerie, the relationship between Amanda Wingfield and her daughter, Laura, could be described as one based on denial, enabling, and disabling. 

It is first based on denial because Amanda Wingfield focuses on trying to make her daughter do the things that typical girls would do without considering the real nature of her daughter, Laura 

Amanda expects Laura to go to school, to provide for herself, and to maybe one day get married and have children. She goes as far as signing Laura up in a vocational school, and asking her son, Tom, to bring Jim O’Connor over to meet Laura and entice a love match. Amanda does all of these things while grossly overlooking the fact that Laura has an extreme social anxiety issue, that Laura’s crippled foot makes her feel insecure, and that this type of anxiety has taken over her life completely. Had Amanda stopped to really look into it, she would have never placed Laura in such situations where her self-esteem would be dangerously lowered.

Their relationship is also a combination of enabling and disabling based on the same denial problem. Since Amanda is unwilling to properly intervene on behalf of her daughter, she surrenders to Laura’s problem by treat-ing her like a child, and by promising Laura a falsely bright future, even knowing that the chances for one are very low. 

AMANDA: Resume your seat, little sister, I want you to stay fresh and pretty for gentleman callers ! 

LAURA: I’m not expecting any gentleman callers. 

AMANDA [crossing out to kitchenette. Airily]: Sometimes they come when they are least expected ! 

On the other hand, Amanda changes her tune throughout the play when things really bring her down, so she criticises Laura and then feels sorry for both herself and Laura, making the latter feel even more guilty about having issues. 

So what are we going to do for 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 ! [Laughs wearily.] 

This hot-cold change of mood in Amanda basically cripples Laura even more, considering that the latter is unable to initiate any personal goal nor feels safe enough to feel worthy of anything. Therefore, while Amanda anxiously tries to bring her daughter into becoming a woman much like Amanda is, herself, she fails miserably with a combination of the denial of Laura’s conditions, the enabling of Laura’s childish nature, and then the disabling of Laura’s self-worth by criticising her. What Amanda should do instead is to get help for Laura, accept the problem, and hope for the best outcome. 

28. 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 gentlemen 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 is capable, 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.

29. What role does abandonment play in The Glass Menagerie? What are three examples, and how are they important to the overall meaning of the play? 

Ans: Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie incorporates abandonment into the experiences of his three main characters—Amanda, Tom, and Laura—through the physical and the metaphysical. The first clear example of abandonment comes within Tom’s introduction to the play, in which he asserts that his and Laura’s father plays the fifth character, only present as a “larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel” (scene 1). The father left long ago, abandoning his children, his wife, and his home, but even before his physical departure, it seems that he was already far from them through his characterization and career. “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,” Tom explains (scene 1). In this quotation, we learn that the father, long before he skipped town, abandoned his family through his work as a telephone man, preferring to be mentally far away despite his family being nearby. 

Similarly, we later find out that Laura has abandoned her schooling and instead spends her time walking the city. Her ties to the physical world are slowly disintegrating as she drifts farther and farther into the mystical world she seems to have in her head. She is abandoning the world as it is, where she is crippled, dependent, and alone save for her overbearing mother and loving but flighty brother. She flits closer to the idea of the glass menagerie she so adores rather than to the reality around her. 

In contrast, Amanda clings more and more to her children as she senses their inclination toward abandoning her and the life she has shaped around them. Her son’s long absences and supposed vices wear at her, as she sees these as examples of him slipping away, much like her husband. She desperately tries to bring Laura closer to a life she believes she herself lived, with gentleman callers and respectable social connections, while she senses her daughter floating farther into her own imagination and delusion. 

There is also abandonment on the part of Jim, when he suddenly introduces the fact that he is to be married to another after having kissed Laura. Laura’s and her mother’s visions of love and a life beyond her current situation are quickly extinguished as he departs. 

Eventually we see Tom indeed abandon his mother and sister, but he can’t seem to extricate himself entirely from his emotional connections. He has left then physically but is struggling to bring his heart, mind, and memory with him. In his final monologue, he bursts out, “Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended  to be ! ‘ (scene 7). This suggests that perhaps the abandonment we see woven throughout the play is more dimensional than is laid out prior to this scene and asks us to re-examine our understanding of abandonment as it is referenced in the rest of the work, both in the physical and metaphysical senses. 

30. How is The Glass Menagerie an example of a memory play? 

Ans: I think that there is a dominant presence of memory and the role it plays in Williams’ work. Its function is clearly seen in Amanda. Her reminiscing of the past, how she was in her own memory, helps to make everyone feel uncomfortable. Memory is used as a device of oppression in that Laura is made to feel inferior because her present does not match Amanda’s past. In her fantasising of the past, it also serves to oppress her because she cannot effectively deal with the chasm between the supposed grandeur of what used to be and the barrenness of the present. Additionally, such an inability to grasp both domains is what ends up helping drive Tom away. In a larger sense, Amanda’s obsession with memory is a reflection of her obsession we subjective. This is something with which all of the characters are afflicted. Each character seems to believe that Laura is stuck in her “own world” and her own subjectivity. Williams’ genius is to actually make this an affliction that Amanda, Tom, and even Jim, to a certain extent, suffer from, while Laura, the one whom everyone thinks is really afflicted, is actually the least cursed with such a condition. 

31. Is The Glass Menagerie a tragic play, a love play, or a memory play? 

Ans: Great question ! Although it features a melancholy love story and tragic elements, The Glass Menagerie is best described as a memory play. In fact, Tennessee Williams invented the term in the stage directions of this play. The narrator of the play, Tom Wingfield, introduces himself in the opening scene of The Glass Menagerie by saying, 

The play is a memory. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic. In memory everything seems to happen to music. That explains the fiddle in the wings. I am the narrator of the play, and also a character in it. The other characters are my mother Amanda, my sister Laura and a gentleman caller who appears in the final scenes. 

In the opening lines, the narrator reveals that the events of the plot are based on his memories of events that happened to his family. This is an important disclosure as hu lanipernory is notoriously fickle and unreliable. In memory, many details are lost while others are blown out of proportion. This is evident in Tom’s recollection of past events. The symbolism of Laura’s glass animals is too perfect for it and the exaggerated qualities of characters such as Amanda are indications of the shifting quality of human memory.

In The Glass Menagerie, even the physical elements of the stage—such as the frequent music, dim lighting, and haphazard blocking—are designed to remind the audience that the events unfolding on stage are memories, not reality. This style ties to a major theme of Williams’ play: the power memory can exert on an individual’s behaviour and consciousness. 

32. Which character in “The Glass Menagerie” could be considered a tragic hero? 

Ans: One could argue that Tom Wingfield is the tragic hero in Tennessee Williams’s classic play The Glass Menagerie. While Tom does not possess all of the qualities of a traditional tragic hero, he has incredible potential to become a renowned poet, author, or play-wright and suffers throughout his life. Tom is depicted as a talented, imaginative individual, who is stuck in a difficult position, where he is unable to reach his potential because he is committed to taking care of his mother and sister. Tom is the breadwinner of the family and absolutely hates his life working endless hours in a shoe warehouse and listening to his mother fantasise about Laura’s gentlemen callers. Similar to a tragic hero, the audience sympathises with Tom’s difficulties and witnesses him make a drastic, life-altering decision. In order for Tom to reach his Potential as an artist, he decides to leave his helpless mother and sister to pursue his dream and fulfil desires. In doing so, Tom finds independence but is haunted by the memories of his family and experiences guilt for leaving them behind to fend for themselves. 

33. What is Tom’s dual role as narrator and character in “The Glass Menagerie”? 

Ans: It has been said that this play, one of Tennessee Williams’s best-loved works, is somewhat autobiographical. The character of Laura is based upon Williams’ sister, Rose. By making Tom into a character and a narrator, so the narrator comments upon the world of the characters, Williams is able to reveal elements of his own process as a writer (being outside the world of his characters but also inhabiting those to whom he feels closest). 

If Tom had been only a character, or only a narrator, the autobiographical association might have been even stronger, drawing emphasis away from the story, which is moving on many levels and which has elements of drama, comedy, and romance. By having Tom embody a character in the play who also comments upon his own life, as well as his relationship to the other characters, the autobiographical presence of the author becomes more subtle and diffused, because Tom interacts with the world of the play on at least two different levels. 

There is also a sort of revelatory tone at work, allowing audiences to understand that Williams experienced his own life, someone who would one day write about it, and that self-awareness comes through in Tom’s narrator speeches. There’s also a suggestion that Williams may well have felt similarly about all of his characters and work, but allowed The Glass Menagerie to be the most significant and recognizably personal of his plays. 

34. Of the main characters (Tom, Laura, or Amanda), which face life most unrealistically? Does this contribute to the themes of illusion versus reality featured in The Glass Menagerie? 

Ans: In The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams presents a generational difference in the characters’ attitudes, as well as personal differences between the siblings. Of the three Wingfield family members, Laura is the least realistic in her attitudes toward life. That being said, there are ways in which she is realistic. The contradiction between her awareness and her ability is central to the play’s theme of illusion. 

Although Amanda knows that times have changed, she is an optimist where her daughter is concerned. Amanda has strength of character and survivor instinct, which have enabled her to adjust to the harsher, capitalist reality which the family lives in. She was not raised to be self-sufficient and she earns little money, but she has accepted the necessity of working in order to raise her children.

Laura’s fragility—her glass-like character—render her incapable of following her mother’s practical lead. She is hopeless at secretarial school and, rather than discuss the problems with her mother, she has just stopped going and is living a lie. Amanda’s strength has thus become a liability because Laura assumes she could not win an argument with her mother. She is unrealistic in imagining that she can somehow survive without money, but realistic in understanding that she is unsuited for the type of career or marriage her mother envisions for her. 

35. How does The Glass Menagerie symbolise Laura’s escape from reality? 

Ans: The glass menagerie symbolises the various facets of Laura’s personality in many respects. For one thing, her collection of glass animals is very fragile and delicate, just like Laura herself. It also constitutes a world of its own, a miniature kingdom where everything is impeccably neat, orderly, and in its proper place. Laura feels serene in this world, far away from the disordered harshness of everyday life, where everything seems so scary, and where she always feels so terribly shy and insecure. 

The little glass creatures belong to Laura; she gets to Control them in a way that she could never hope to control herself, let alone the people and events in her life. The fantasy world that Laura has built for herself In Tennessee Williams’s entire aesthetic approach in constructing The Glass Menagerie. In writing the play,

Williams wanted to show that the product of the subjective imagination was more real than the minute objective detail presented to us by dramatic realism. 

Yet this world of the imagination, though more real, is by the same token more prone to destruction. Laura’s glass menagerie, like herself, and indeed like art in general, is achingly vulnerable to a sudden unwelcome intrusion from the world of the everyday. Laura is simply too precious for this harsh and cruel world. And although her glass menagerie allows her a momentary escape from this world, it can only ever provide temporary respite. 

For Tennessee Williams, much the same could be said about art. However much heightened reality art can give us,however much of an elevated insight into the human condition it can provide, we still have to live our daily lives in the midst of a world that can all too often be so terribly cruel and unpleasant. At various times in our lives, Laura’s world is our world too. 

36. What allusions to the upcoming war does Tom make at the beginning of Scene Five? 

Ans: At the beginning of scene five, Tom breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly. As he stands on the fire-escape landing, he starts to reminisce about the area in which he grew up. He tells us how the glitter ball from the dance hall from across the alley used to cast shafts of rainbow light in through the windows of his family’s home and how on warm spring evenings, the sound of music from the dance hall would invade the air as young couples kissed in the alleyway. 

Tom muses that these young couples were trying to escape lives not too different from his own, lives of excruciating dullness and monotony, lives without any change or adventure. Tom is in an especially pessimistic mood here, ground down as he is by a life whose horizons are strictly limited to the stifling confines of home. 

Tom notes that the present generation of Americans will soon be offered all the adventure they can handle when the United States enters World War II. Of course, this isn’t the kind of adventure that Tom has in mind for himself. He’s an artist, not a soldier, a writer, not a fighter. For adventure, he seeks the cultural and intellectual stimulation that only a literary life can bring. 

37. The final scene depicts Laura as “she blows the candle out.” What does this act represent and what message is it sending? 

Ans: In the final scene of “The Glass Menagerie ”, Tom’s monologue synchronizes directory with Laura blowing out the candles of the candelabra. It was the candelabra that Amanda had given Jim (the gentleman caller) to take and go talk to Laura who felt sick and left the room when she discovered that the gentleman caller Was the boy she had a crush on in high school.

Tom leaves the house forever after he is berated by Amanda for bringing home a gentleman caller for Laura who (unbeknownst to Tom) was already engaged. Tom leaves St. Louis and “descended the steps of this fire escape for the last time and followed from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space. . .Perhaps it was a familiar bit of. music. Perhaps it was only a piece of transparent glass. .. (referring to Laura’s glass menagerie). Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I have found companions. I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colours, like bits of a shattered rainbow. Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. 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 cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger–anything that can blow your candles out! (The following passage synchronises with Laura blowing out the candles) . . . For nowadays the world is lit by lightning ! Blow out your candles, Laura—and so goodbye. . . ” (She blows the candles out.) 

Tom is troubled by how he deserted Laura. He tried to help her and his mother, but he could not live with them any longer–the guilt is overwhelming and he finds no peace. He wants the interminable reminder of what he has done to end. . . and thus asks Laura to forgive him and to forget about him. This is the symbolism in the passage of asking her to blow out the candles. Laura and Amanda are destined to continue living their lives with little income and no husband to take care of Laura. Tom is asking her forgiveness and she grants his request by blowing out the candles. 

Note: In real life, Tennessee Williams’ sister’s bedroom was next to an alley where she could hear cats fighting and screaming at night as she went to sleep. So Tennessee painted her room white and brought home little pieces of colored glass for her to collect in order to brighten her room as well as her spirits. 

38. At the very end of the play, Tom asks Laura to blow out her candles. What do you think that action symbolises to Tom? 

Ans: Tom’s monologue at the end of the play The Glass Menagerie serves as his conduit to provide some form of closure to the action, and to his thoughts. It also works as his last cry for help on behalf of his sister, Laura.

In his last words, he explains what he does after he leaves the house the evening of Jim’s visit. 

TOM: I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further – [ … ].

I left Saint Louis. I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space – I travelled around a great deal…. 

However, we find that Tom just cannot get over the guilt that he feels for having left the family, particularly, his crippled sister Laura. 

Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes … 

Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be ! 

Tom utters these words because he is completely certain of the fact that Laura is totally unprepared for this world. Within the historical context of The Glass Menagerie (the late 1930s just before the onset of World War II) we find that society is about to start moving at a very fast-pace; Laura simply cannot, and will never be able, to keep up with it. Moreover, the world is beginning to get rougher, more advanced, and more ruthless. Laura, and her mother, are nothing but antiquated pieces from a world that no longer will be. In Tom’s own words : 

for nowadays the world is lit by lightning ! Blow o Mur candles, Laura – and so good-bye. 

Notice how the candle is a sign of the feeble and old-fashioned practices that still take place in the Winfield home. These behaviours are in juxtaposition with what is taking place in the world outside the house. While the world outside of the house is lit by lightning, the only light that is seen in Laura’s world is the subtle and weak flame of the candle. This is why Tom says 

I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger -anything that can blow your candles out ! 

Like the butterfly effect, Tom wishes that even the most minimal of his actions can somehow change fate,and help Laura catch up with life. He basically is saying that he, if he could, would do anything to help her get out of the retrograde world in which she lives, thus “blowing out” her candles, and moving her on to the real world; the world that has already found a way to light itself up, differently. 

Hence, these last words are an appeal that Tom makes to the world, to destiny, and to Laura to please look forward and move on as best as she can. 

39. What does Tom mean in the sentence below? How does that show Tom’s view about the world and the destinies of his mother and sister? Tom’s saying : “nowadays the world is lit by lightning, so blow out your candles, Laura…” 

Ans: Mom had been living in the past for ages= Still talks about gentlemen callers, still reminiscing those old Southern days when she had what not many boys at her beckoning call- still wearing the SAME DRESS she wore for that evening, even after having two grown children. 

Laura has been living Jim’s fantasy from the moment she left high school. When Jim came to visit the house she STILL had the yearbook of the year when Jim was the leader of the school, CPT of the Football Team and what not. Both Amanda and Laura were utterly STUCK in the past. 

Tom couldn’t handle it anymore- it was a nightmare scenario and none of them, neither Amanda nor Laura had a remedy, for the past was their comfort zone. Hence, Tom simply left- may sound rude, at first, but if you really read the entire story you would more than agree with him in the end. 

Tom did not pay the electric bill that Amanda told him to pay and, instead, he used the money for the Union of the Merchant Marines…when the climax situation happened in the story, which was when he brought a visitor home whom Amanda thought to be a gentleman caller for Laura, and whom ended up being Laura’s fantasy crush, Jim, Tom simply could not handle the drama any longer after both Amanda and Laura found out that Jim was engaged to be married, and that the whole thing had bee To way to please his mom and sister, and- well- it didn’t work. 

So, as he left the household, left them in the dark, and (at the vet end) Laura ends up blowing the candle that was only way to light them up, it’s a metaphone for Tom to say “wake up, women- get off the past and get on with the present, let go of your mental imprisonments, and move on” 

40. What do Tom’s final words of the play mean ? What do the lit candles represent ? Why does he say the world is “lit by lightning”? 

Ans: In this passage, Tom is reflecting on his memory of his sister Laura as someone who will never be able to move in the world as others do because of her shyness and lack of confidence about her appearance. She is a “candle” in a world “lit by lightning,” and this metaphor describes her quiet beauty and gentle ways that may not be noticed or appreciated among people who are louder, more talkative, more assertive, or more glamorous. Tom fancies himself one of the kinds of people who Laura can never really fit in with: he is talkative, confident, and has a sense of adventure. He also has a deep urge to get away from his mother and his upbringing, and he knows Laura will never be able to get away as he has done, and this fills him with guilt. 

The lit candles are Laura’s memory and the image of her Tom carries with him. He tries to distract himself with other things, but cannot forget her. He says “blow out your candles, Laura,” and the stage directions of the Play depict Laura blowing out the lit candles on a candelabra. This same candelabra was given to Laura’s Gentleman Caller Jim by Laura’s mother Amanda, in a scene that symbolises what may be Laura’s last chance to find happiness and a way out of her situation. “I he lit flame may symbolise Laura “carrying a torch” for Jim, who she has had a crush on since they were in school together. In a wider sense, it could also symbolise Laura’s sense of hope for the future and her quiet way of doing things. 

Tom says goodbye to Laura when she blows the candles out in this final scene. Is he finally extinguishing his memory of her? Does his goodbye mean he commits suicide? Does her act of blowing out the candles, which we assume happens on a nightly basis, mean she goes on as before while Tom moves further away from his old life ? The play’s ending is somewhat ambiguous on these points. 

41. What does Laura’s limp symbolise and what do the candles she blows out represent in The Glass Menagerie? 

Ans: There are several ways of looking at the candles. First, they establish a more muted tone – you might even call it romantic. That less harsh light perhaps allows Laura to be more open with Jim; it gives her courage. That might lead to an interpretation that the candles symbolise hope. Hope that Laura might be able to connect with Jim, hope that Amanda’s dream of a Gentleman Caller providing a future for Laura, hope that if Laura is taken care of, Tom will be able to strike out on his own and leave the shoe warehouse, etc.

It makes Tom’s final line more heart-breaking – “blow out your candles, Laura.” There is ultimately no hope for this socially and physically (at least in her mind) handicapped young woman. There is no place in our society for such a misfit. 

42. At the end of The Glass Menagerie, why does Tom ask Laura to blow her candles out, and why does she blow the candles out? For what symbolic reasons does Williams end the play with this? 

Ans: According to one criticism, the Expressionist play, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, 

…identifies the conquest of reality by illusion as a huge and growing aspect of the human condition in its time. 

As a memory play, lighting and music play an integral role in the plot and development of character. In Tom Wingfield, the memory of having abandoned his mother, and especially Laura, haunts him. In fact, these memories confine him as restrictively as if he were yet in the small apartment. Thus, the lighting of the final scene expresses the intimacy and fragility of this particular part of the drama. Williams’s stage directions state that the interior scene is played simultaneously with Tom’s closing speech; it is as though he were viewing his family through soundproof glass, Williams directs. 

Relentlessly pursued by memory, Tom looks into a lighted window of a perfume store. There he sees miniature bottles, transparent in delicate colours “like bits of a shattered rainbow”–symbolic of Tom’s shattered dreams as well as Laura’s and Amanda’s broken hopes. Then, with the suddenness of memory, Tom thinks of his delicate sister—”Illue Roses” as Jim calls her—and he is consumed with guilt, 

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 cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger -anything that can blow your candles out ! 

With light already having been associated with memory, Tom wishes that he could “blow out” the light and love of Laura and escape his unfaithfulness to this dear, delicate creature who has needed him. 

At the same time, through the window the audience sees the forsaken Laura, from whose face, Williams previously has written, the “holy candles in the altar…have been snuffed out,” as for only a moment Jim has made her feel normal,only to reveal that he is engaged and her illusions are ended. Now, she bends over the candles that are still burning after Jim’s departure. 

For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! [theme of illusion] Blow out your candles, Laura–and so goodbye…. 

Laura blows the candles out, symbolising the “snuffing out of her fragile hope that she might find love. In addition, having created and completed the play, this “snuffing out” may also signify that Tom has released himself from his own memories through the purging of artistic endeavour. 

43. 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 first-hand 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 instead 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. 

44. Who is the hero? Why? 

Ans: This play by Tennessee Williams presets Tom Wingfield as the protagonist, but he is not necessarily the hero. Tom uses the play in part to explain his decision to leave home, which meant leaving his mother and sister to get along without him. He is careful not to present his actions as heroic, however. Tom’s strong love for his family is evident throughout the play, even though he often seems critical of his mother’s behaviour.

His sister, Laura, has struggled with her own, unspecified disabilities as well as the challenge of asserting herself in relation to her mother’s much stronger personality. Because she takes initiative to follow her own path, in rejecting her mother’s vision of employment and perhaps marriage, Laura is shown as a distinct though fragile individual. Tom’s presentation of Laura’s courage in resisting her mother suggests that Laura is the hero. 

45. What conflicting views of responsibility and selfishness do Amanda and Tom hold in The Glass Menagerie? 

Ans: Tom Wingfield realises that he has a responsibility to himself and believes that in order to thrive as a man and artist, he must leave the stifling environment of the warehouse and his mother’s apartment. Similar to his father, Tom desperately craves adventure and desires to experience the world, where he can create, explore, and express himself. He feels that he can no longer remain at home and must leave his mother and sister in order to live a fulfilling life. One can argue that Tom Wingfield’s decision to abandon his family is an act of self-preservation rather than an egocentric, selfish escape. 

In contrast, Amanda believes that Tom’s responsibility is to provide for their family and find his sister a gentleman caller. She neglects to sympathise with her son’s inherent desires to explore the world and continually criticises his attempts to escape from his unfortunate, mundane reality. She finds Tom’s decision to leave for the Merchant Marines selfish and believes that he must first ensure that his sister is married to a man who can provide for their family when Tom leaves. Overall, Tom feels responsible to himself while Amanda believes that her son’s responsibilities are to herself and Laura. 

46. In The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, what is the symbolism of the Victoria? 

Ans: Many of the characters and items in The Glass Menagerie are symbolic. The story takes a look at different types of people and their actions through life, so almost everything has some representative meaning beyond the straightforward narrative of the plot. 

The Victoria is used by Laura after she is overwhelmed by anxiety and fear when attempting to take a rest for business school. Laura, having a disability and typically being incapable of work or socialisation, retreats into her own world mentally, focusing on the records from the past, choosing to listen to music her mother used to enjoy. This nostalgia prevents her from socialising and expanding her horizons. In this way, the Victoria symbolises memories and nostalgia that envelope people, who use it as a crutch instead of legitimately stepping out of their comfort zone both socially and professionally. 

47. What are the important components of The Glass Menagerie’s setting ? How could they be updated to the present time? 

Ans: At the rise of the curtain, the audience is faced with the dark, grim rear wall of the Wingfield tenement. This building, which runs parallel to the footlights, is flanked on both sides by dark, narrow alleys which run into murky canyons of tangled clothes-lines, garbage cans, and the sinister lattice-work of neighbouring fire-escapes. It is up and down these alleys that exterior entrances and exits are made, during the play. At the end of Tom’s opening commentary, the dark tenement wall slowly reveals (by means of a transparency) the interior of the ground floor Wingfield apartment. 

A version of the Winfield tenement can be found in virtually any country in the world now, as it could in 1944 when this play was written and even in the more distant past. In The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams shows us a hard, dirty, rough world, and within it lies the fragile existence of Tom, Laura, and Amanda Wingfield. The contrast between their home—with its lacy, tattered linens and the glass menagerie that Laura dreams over—and the bitter reality of the lower-middle-class tenement where they live is stark. 

The Wingfield apartment is in the rear of the building, one of those vast hive-like conglomerations of cellular living-units that flower as warty growths in over-crowded urban centres of lower-middle-class population and are symptomatic of the impulse or rills largest and fundamentally enslaved section of American society to avoid fluidity and differentiation and to exist and function as one interfused mass of automatism. 

A modeni production of The Glass Menagerie could be performed in a warehouse space, cavernous with brick and steel surrounding the delicate scenes of home life. It could also be performed in a just-scarcely-built Chinese megacity and with the Wingfields as rural migrants, with construction cranes and unfinished dams in the distance or looming overhead. The play’s powerful poetry, its tragedies of sweet and shattered dreams, can be easily adapted from its America in World War II setting, back to the 1890’s in Industrial Revolution Great Britain, or forward in time to a shabby suburban ghetto. 

What was once St. Louis, Missouri, the original setting of Williams’s play, could be Ferguson, Missouri, today, charting the struggles of a black Wingfield family. Most recently, there was a multiracial cast in a production at the 47th Street Theatre in New York City in 2015. The first production of The Glass Menagerie with an all-black cast was performed in 1946, just two years after the play was written. Teacher and director H. D. Flowers produced several black cast productions of the play in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and he wrote, the play was written by Tennessee Williams, one of America’s most prominent authors to write of experiences in the South which are so close to the Black experience. Because the experiences in The Glass Menagerie are so real to the Black community, I found that performances by Black actors are more compelling. Most Black actors have witnessed or felt the problems and obstacles that confront Laura, Tom, and Amanda—even the Gentleman Caller. 

Multiple productions have updated the setting surrounding the play to adapt to the times. In a 1987 production of the play, with a multi-racial cast, 

It also included two dancing couples, a dance hall owner, a bag woman, and four street toughs (two men and two women). This production was imbued with revolutionary fervour capturing, through Williams’s script, the spirit and turmoil of the early 1960s.

In his play notes for this production, director Thomas A. Brown points out: 

In The Glass Menagerie, the Wingfield family is as much poised for revolution and the realisation of dreams as was America. They are the microcosm. Amanda, Tom, and Laura are poised on the brink. It is the parallel of the two societies, and the intersection of myth and dream that form the conflict in The Glass Menagerie. 

The revolutionary spirit of The Glass Menagerie, its intensely realised characters, and the poignant highs and painful lows of the family as they imperfectly try to find happiness and lives worth living give the play a universality that has clearly attracted many artists and audiences who recognize the play’s truths. The basic structure of the play’s setting, if thoughtfully and truthfully adapted, can be updated into many contexts, for the play’s core humanity is recognizable to all people. 

48. Which character in “The Glass Menagerie” could be considered a tragic hero? 

Ans: One could argue that Tom Wingfield is the tragic hero in Tennessee William’s classic play The Glass Menagerie. While Tom does not possess all of the qualities of a traditional tragic hero, he has incredible potential to become a renowned poet, author, or play-wright and suffers throughout his life. Tom is depicted as a talented, imaginative individual, who is stuck in a difficult position, where he is unable to reach his potential because he is committed to taking care of his mother and sister. Tom is the breadwinner of the family and absolutely hates his life working endless hours in a shoe warehouse and listening to his mother fantasise about Laura’s gentlemen callers. Similar to a tragic hero, the audience sympathises with Tom difficulties and witnesses him make a drastic, life-altering decision. In order for Tom to reach his potential as an artist, he decides to leave his helpless mother and sister to pursue his dreams and fulfil his creative desires. In doing so, Tom finds independence but is haunted by the memories and experiences guilt for leaving them behind to fend for themselves.

49. How does Williams develop the theme of emotional bondage The Glass Menagerie? 

Ans: The characters in the Wingfield family are very closely connected, but the relationships seem co-dependent rather than healthy. In that respect, the siblings and mother are all tied through emotional bondage. Tom, as an outsider, largely seems detached from that sort of bondage; his connection is to the status quo and the mundane world. 

Tom’s struggle to break free of his family forms much of the play’s substance. Amanda, the mother, is a strong matriarch who relies heavily on Tom for financial support and to help her connect with Laura. In the end, Tom must break those ties by leaving home; his emotional connection not only remains strong but becomes suffused with both guilt and nostalgia. Amanda uses guilt and fear to help keep Tom close. The fear of abandonment that he grew up with and the idea she projects that he will be like his father are two things that weave the emotional bonds. Laura’s disability and escape into her fantasy menagerie both show her emotional dependency. She has remained a child in many ways, in part because her mother tries to protect her. When she tries to move into the adult world, she must break, just like the unicorn. 

50. How does “blue roses” resemble in the play? 

Ans: In Tennessee Williams’s play The Glass Menagerie, the character of Laura Wingfield is characterised as a young woman whose foot malformation makes her limp. This is considered a flaw to her physique, which makes her even more shy than she naturally is. 

Laura Wingfield fits the description of a person who suffers deeply from social anxiety, and her option becomes to remain a recluse to her own home, under the care and overprotection of her mother, and holding onto the memories of her high school years, to this day. 

One of the memories that binds Laura to her past is that of Jim O’Conner, a once-popular high school class-mate of Laura’s whose charm and looks made him Laura’s first love interest. This is when the term “blue roses” comes in. For, it is during one of Laura’s ab-sences caused by illness that she is able to establish contact with Jim. 

LAURA: When I had that attack of pleurosis – he asked me what was the matter when I came back. I Said pleurosis. He thought that I said Blue Roses ! So . That’s what he always called me after that. Whenever he saw me, he’d holler ‘Hello, Blue Roses ! I didn’t care for the girl that he went out with [ .. ] It says in the Personal Section – they’re engaged. That’s – six years ago ! They must be married by now.

Here we have a classic example of the person Who is so stuck to a small cyclical life that, six years later, she still holds the past as if it had just happened the day before. The “blue roses” instil in the audience the image of something extremely rare and sensitive. This is the same image that Laura instils in the reader : a woman like her is unique, not only in her physical limitations, but also in the fact that she is so fragile and soft that she is almost easily breakable. 

When you analyse the symbolism of the blue roses, it is interesting to see that it is an imaginary object, one that brings Laura in contact with reality. 

JIM [ smiling doubtfully ]: You know I have an idea I’ve seen you before. I had that idea soon as you opened the door. It seemed almost like I was about to remember your name. But the name that I started to call you – wasn’t a’ name! And so I stopped myself before I said it. 

LAURA: Wasn’t it – Blue Roses ? 

JIM: [ springs up. Grinning ]: Blue Roses ! – My gosh, yes – Blue Roses! That’s what I had on my tongue when you opened the door ![..]I didn’t even know you were Shakespeare’s sister ! Gosh, I’m sorry. 

In other words, Jim is real. High School was real. Laura’s needs are real. However, the allegorical mention of “blue roses”, ironically, bridges Laura’s world from fantasy to reality.

We know, however, that it will not remain so. Jim is, indeed, engaged to be married, and the economy has reduced him from high school hero to a regular factory worker with hopes to make a better life. The Jim that Laura remembers is the same one that she has kept in her imagination for years. 

To Jim, however, Laura’s uniqueness is just like that of the blue roses. As sensible, soft, and special as the blue rose would be. 

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 not such wonderful people. They’re one hundred times one thousand. You’re one time one! They walk all over the earth. You just stay here. They’re common as – weeds, -but – you – well, you’re – Blue Roses ! 

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