English Journal for “The Glass Menagerie” Scene I As described in the Introduction, Tom’s character seems to greatly reflect the author, Tennessee Williams. Tom’s soliloquy at the beginning of this scene is quite interesting. It immediately becomes obvious that Tom is the narrator of the play, it is therefore told from his perspective. Tom begins to identify the characters we will later on be introduced to. He tells us of Amanda, his mother and Laura, his sister. He also makes reference to “gentlemen callers”. I can only speculate that these are fictional characters that will be introduced later in the play. There is also a portrait that he mentions of his father, who is (pardon the pun) no longer in the picture.
This scene later brings you to the dinner table with Tom, Amanda and Laura. 1.3 Tom is clearly aggravated by his mother’s criticism. 1.3 If I could choose one word to describe him it would be “aggravated”.
He also appears to be losing patience with her constant ramblings about her past. Amanda brags about how she had at one time 17 gentlemen callers appear at her door. You get the impression that she is so reminiscent about her past because she is so unhappy with her current situation. Perhaps Amanda wishes that she would have made a different choice of husband, given her selection. You can’t help but wonder though, is her memory all that accurate? Or is she clinging to delusions? 1.3 The play is clearly concerned with the components of a dysfunctional American family trying to get through the Great Depression.
I tend to sympathize with Laura’s character the most. Her mother puts a lot of pressure on her to impress “gentlemen callers” who aren’t even showing up. Laura must feel like a disappointment to her mother, and this, cannot be easy to live with.
1.1 This also seemed to be a fascinating yet depressing era. As I learned at the end of Appendix B, one out of every four U.S. workers were unemployed. This was clearly a difficult period to live in. I wonder what sort of social welfare system they had if any at all.
1.4 “Ou sont les neiges” I think that they used this song in scene one as a reflection of how Amanda must feel. She must have a longing for her childhood home and her youth and perhaps she is reminiscing on happier times.
Scene II At the beginning of the second scene it only becomes more and more evident at just how critical Amanda is of her daughter, Laura. You almost begin to form an immediate dislikeness for Amanda. You would relate her to an overly critical parent or parental figure from your own childhood. It seems that Amanda is trying to live out her own unfulfilled fantasies through her daughter who seems not only antisocial, but disinterested.
You can tell by the fact that Laura walked aimlessly around the city for a few months to avoid telling her mother that she had dropped out of school, that Laura was very eager to please her mother. Perhaps she was just more afraid of displeasing her mother. Regardless, their relationship is -frail- to say the least.
As I read on I’m beginning to think that perhaps Amanda is genuinely trying to make her daughter happy, although she clearly isn’t going about it the wrong way. Amanda’s deepest fear is that Laura might never marry. She wants for Laura’s future happiness perhaps more so than she wants for her own. Amanda might feel that it is too late for her to realize her own dreams, but Laura, symbolizes her hope.
You might also wonder whatever became of Jim, the boy Laura knew from high school. Did he eventually marry that popular, well-dressed girl, Emily? Or didn’t he? Will his character be resurrected to their “Glass Menagerie” in the next few scenes??? 1.2 I was always wondering why Tennessee Williams had such a peculiar name. After reading Appendix C I realized that “Tennessee” was just a nickname that he was given and that his real name is Thomas Lanier Williams. I was very impressed by all the awards that he won especially the Pulitzer Prizes. This must have been a great achievement for him. This also confirmed my belief that Toms’ character was written in Tennessee’s image. In fact, according to the autobiographical basis of the play, the entire Wingfield family was in one way or another based on Williams’ own family. I also learned that this play was first produced in the Civic theatre in Chicago. I wonder if that theatre is still open today.
1.4 The beginning of this scene is lit with the image of blue roses. Perhaps this represents memories of an earlier time. Right now, the audience is uncertain. We will later on come to realize that this represents Laura’s high-school nickname that her crush, Jim had given her.
Scene III I think I just fell in love with Tom in this scene. He works at a warehouse during the day just to support his ungrateful, insane, dysfunctional family. Nonetheless, he takes it well. How he does it so well, is beyond me. He is a grown man who has to endure his control-freak mother’s ranting and raving, he has to witness his crippled, antisocial sister’s self-destruction (not that she’s not getting plenty of help from dear old mom) and he still sticks around. Fascinating!! His sarcastic wit in this scene literally had me laughing out loud. You could also sense though that perhaps a good part of the reason why he is still there is out of a sense of guilt. He knows his father took off which leaves him as the only source of support. Despite the lack of appreciation he gets at home, the truth is that there wouldn’t be one without him.
1.4 I think that when Amanda enters the dimly-lit stage in scene three and the full spotlight is put on her, I believe that this represents her yearning to always be in the spotlight, the center of attention. Sort of like how she describes that she was the time when she had “seventeen gentlemen callers”.
Scene IV This is the first scene that really sort of displays the relationship between Tom and his sister Laura. At first glance, it almost seems like your average brotherly-sisterly type of relationship. I’m beginning to think that his guilt over what might become of Laura is the reason why he stays at home to endure his mother.
My sympathies are also drawn a bit more to Laura in this scene, for the simple fact that she is caught in between her crazy mother and somewhat stubborn brother. When Tom apologizes to his mother, he is no doubt just carrying out the wishes of his sister. They both bear a sense of obligation to her. I’m anxious to find out whether or not Tom will bring home a “gentleman caller” for his sister, and if he does, what her reaction will be.
1.4 They play “Ave Maria” softly in the background of this scene. This song, from my experience is usually played only at funerals. Perhaps this suggests the gravity and seriousness of the emotions involved in this scene.
Scene V This scene takes a big turn, there’s hope for Laura yet! Naturally when Tom tells his mother that he has casually invited a male friend to their home from work, Amanda is ecstatic. We can only imagine what kind of lengths she will go to ensure that they leave a good impression after his visit. It’s an exciting scene, what’s even more exciting still is guessing what kind of reaction poor Laura will have! They haven’t even mentioned this to her yet!! I also found it intriguing when they Tom and Amanda were talking together by the fire escape and Tom tried to help his mother to recognize that Laura is very different from other girls. Of course, Amanda is in denial about this sad but true fact.
1.4 When Tom and Amanda are talking to each other in this scene about Laura and her physical handicap and anti-social attitude, the dance hall music in the background changes to Tango music that is described as having an “ominous tone”. The music seems to change at the precise moment where Tom is trying to make his mother understand how “peculiar” Laura is. Perhaps the ominous music represents the reality of this idea settling in with Amanda.
Scene VI ***I think that Amanda is the way she is in good part because of the culture shock she endured from moving from her home in Mississippi. There’s an “era shock” as well. When she was a girl, this was how things were done; this was how they played their “social game”, this courting business, the anxiety over these “gentlemen callers”. Amanda is a long way from home, in both the senses of time and space. In her mind, I believe she is buried deep in a far away place, in a far away time.*** Of all odds, it just had to be the boy Laura had a crush on in high school, Jim O’Connor. Oh, how I relish bitter irony! I am biting my fingernails nervously as I read through this scene, the part where Amanda and Laura are arguing over who is to answer the door, well, let’s just say that it was more exciting than a high-speed car chase.
The pedestal I had Tom up on has just cracked at the foundation, and down comes Tom!! I just read that instead of paying the electricity bill, he paid dues to the Union of Merchant Seamen. How could he desert his family like that?!?!? Well, I guess I have already answered my own question (refer to scene III). My heart is really starting to go out to Laura now, she’s been so sheltered and controlled by her mother that she is practically incapable of being herself, whoever she is… 1.4 There is a “clap of thunder” as Laura is called and forced to the table by her mother. I think that this represents Laura’s fear and vulnerability in this scene. I think the thunder represents the epitome of her terror.
Scene VII 1.10 Predictable, the electricity goes out. More of that bitter irony I was telling you about. Jim is an incredible character. So much is brought to light in this final scene. Jim represents the opportunity for such hope for Laura, but sadly he reveals his “engagement” to Betty at the end of the scene. It seemed for a moment that it would almost be possible for Laura to come out of her shell, overcome her inferiority complex… Personally, I don’t believe that Jim was engaged, I do believe however that he had no intention of walking into Tom’s shoes. Jim knew of Tom’s plans to desert his family, and as nice of a character Jim was, he was not willing to fill them (Tom’s shoes). His position is understandable, though bitterly disheartening at the same time. I’ve lost most if not all respect for Tom’s character. Although I can relate to his desire to be out of that nuthouse and shed the responsibilities he has to his crumbling family, the moral thing to do would have been to stay. I don’t agree with his decision to take the easy way out, but I do understand it. I enjoy the way this play ended. I believe that the unicorn’s horn breaking off had deep significance. I believe that the glass unicorn symbolized Laura’s role in the “Glass Menagerie” that is life. Laura was different, Jim made her see that being different isn’t necessarily all that bad. I think that Laura was always yearning to believe this, and that’s why the unicorn was her favourite ornament. Laura identified with the unicorn. The glass menagerie had a deep significance of its’ own. I interpreted it to represent the fragility of life. How few of us are truly “unicorns”, and how easy it can be to become assimilated. I think Williams is trying to show us the value of uniqueness, the entrapment of dependency and the struggles of a guilty conscience. This play touches on so many issues we all struggle with everyday, and it is for this reason I believe that it was so successful.
1.4 I think that the part of this scene where Laura and Jim are sitting together on the living room floor in candlelight is very meaningful. I think that in bright lights we are able to see everything clearly and this makes us more vulnerable, afraid and insecure. Yet in the subtlety of candlelight, we are protected. Seen, but not every emotion, or every facial expression is clear. In some strange way, we are protected.
1.5 The alley’s realistic use, in my opinion is as a passageway. It represents the dark and dirty corners of the world that the Wingfields live in. Alleys usually imply darkness and danger in real life and I think that that is their symbolic use in this play.
I believe that the fire escape has a realistic use of an escape route in case of fire and as a second exit/entrance to their apartment. I believe that the symbolic use of the fire escape is that it is an opportunity for Tom to escape the “fires” of his family home.
I believe that the stairway has a realistic use as steps to get up and down the fire escape. I think that its’ symbolic use is the simplicity that perhaps escape is just a couple of “footsteps” away.
I believe that the realistic use of the Dance Hall is as a place to go out and have a good time and dance to music. Its’ symbolic use was a touch of yellow paint on a gray canvas. It represented fun and liveliness which was all but present in this play.
1.6 Tom’s Monologues Scene I Tom introduces the other characters of the play, his family members. He explains that this play is demonstrating truth about life through art and illusion. He wants his audience to understand that this play is a reflection of life in “…a quaint period…the thirties…when the huge middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind…” I think that Tom is trying to portray the depressive atmosphere of this era, The Great Depression. He introduces his absentee father as a picture on the wall. His father is in a sense, frozen in time. He will always be a part of their household, but never more than the contents of a frame on a mantel. I think that this monologue revealed Tom’s perspective on his family according to the inaccuracies of his memory. I feel that the effect that this monologue had on the audience was strong, we learned that Tom was narrating the play, and that we would be seeing through his past through Toms’ eyes. I think that his motivation was to sincerely introduce the play and his story to the audience.
Scene III In this second monologue Tom tells us of his mothers’ worries and anxiety over Laura’s future and a bit of the aftermath of the “Fiasco at Rubicam’s Business College”. Tom reveals to the audience the image of a young gentlemen caller waiting at the door with flowers. This is clearly a fantasy that she has for her daughter, Laura. I think that the audience is beginning to see more clearly how desperate Amanda is to see her daughter marry, or at the very least have a gentlemen caller come to the door.
Scene V In Toms’ third monologue he describes the few pleasures of this era, he describes them as “…hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars, and movies, and sex that hung in the gloom like a chandelier and flooded the world with brief, deceptive rainbows…” I think that this best reflects Toms’ pessimistic outlook on life. The audience is becoming more and more aware of just how devastating it must have been to live through The Great Depression.
Scene VI In Toms’ fourth monologue he begins to describe a bit more of Jims’ character. He explains to the audience how popular and well-liked Jim had been in high school. He also tells us of all the troubles that Jim had faced after high school and how despite his earlier successes Jim was in relatively the same position as Tom at this stage of his life. This also implies that Jim must be considerably disappointed in himself. Tom tells us of how Jim likes to reminisce about the earlier more successful period of his life in high school. Perhaps Tom feels that Jim likes to be friendly with him because Tom is in a sense a “witness” to his earlier achievements. In a way Jim reminds me of Amanda; they both like to daydream of the past because they are unsatisfied with their present.
Scene VII In Toms’ fifth and final monologue, he reveals to the audience that he followed through with his decision to abandon his family and follow in his fathers’ footsteps. He tells us of how he traveled around from place to place but is still haunted by his sisters’ memory. “… 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 the bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger- anything that can blow your candles out!…” It seems as though no matter what he does, his sister will always be with him, her presence in his subconscious, I believe is symbolized by a lighted candle, which will never quite blow out.
I think that this final monologue has a dramatic effect on its’ audience, you can’t help but be angry with Tom while pitying him at the same time. We, as the audience are brought right into Tom’s inner conflict over the guilt of him leaving his family and the desperate need to escape them for his own sanity.
Scene III Amanda’s dramatic monologue in this scene serves as a secret window to peer through, so that the audience can see how Amanda acts in real life when she isn’t with her children. It reveals that she is doing what she can to contribute to her family financially, even though being a salesperson isn’t her idea of a “glamorous job”. Amanda swallows her pride and does it anyway. The audience can really see that she loves her children.
Scene V You can tell that her subscribers are uninterested in re-subscribing and are just trying to get her off the phone, but Amanda really throws herself at their mercy. She gives it all she’s got. She keeps on referring to her them as “Christian Martyrs”, I think that this is her way of guilt-tripping them into renewing their subscriptions. She is in a sense reminding them of their moral and religious obligation to help her out because she is going through a tough time and needs the commission money from the sale. This can’t be an easy thing for her to do. I think the audience can relate to the sacrifices she is making to try and help her family get through tough times.
1.7 A) From the very first scene Laura clearly lives in her own little world with her Victrola and her glass menagerie, these are her escapes from reality. She is weary and afraid of the real world so she retreats into her glass one. I think that the symbol that Williams’ uses for Laura is the unicorn. It is different from all the other glass ornaments, and I believe that the reason why this is Laura’s favorite piece is because she identifies with it the most. I believe that Laura’s physical handicap is to Laura what the horn is to the unicorn. They are both unusual physical things that stand out. Laura is terribly insecure and painfully aware of her handicap. I believe that we can attribute her insecurity and anti-social attitude to this. Laura’s character finally begins to open up a bit in the final scene with Jim. There is a light in her that begins to shine ever so gently, causing her to become a little more open a little less secluded in her own little world. Alas, perhaps Laura was destined to imprison herself in her glass menagerie, because when Jim walked out that door, as did the light that begun to shine out from Laura fade.
B) Amanda is clearly living in the past. In the opening scene she is presented as someone who is living in a fantasy world that is part memory, part illusion. Throughout the play we realize that underneath her almost constant criticisms and nagging over whatever it is her children are doing, she cares deeply for them. I believe that the beautiful women on the covers of the magazines she sells symbolizes Amanda’s yearning to be young and beautiful again. I believe that she has deep regrets over her choice to marry her “charmer” of a husband who took off on her after he impregnated her with a second child. I believe that her dream world is her past in Blue Mountain when she was a young woman and before she married her husband. I feel that her dream world is made up in part by fond memories and in part by illusions and unfulfilled dreams. I believe that the “tableau vivant” was a reality check for Amanda. Perhaps it is at that exact moment that she loses whatever hope she once had.
C) Tom presents himself to the audience as the narrator of the play. I believe that this is his honest attempt to perhaps get some closure on that chapter of his life. He tells the story honestly and poetically, he wants his audience to not only see his memories but experience them as if they were our own. He leads us hand in hand through his artistic, poetic and at times, sarcastic outlook on his life and life in general. I believe that Tom’s smoking; writing, reading, the movies, (etc) symbolized his strong yet subtle defiance of his mother while at the same time they represent both his freedom and independence. The fire escape is what I interpret as a symbol of his final escape route out of the “fires” of his difficult family life and responsibilities.
D) Jim is presented to the audience as that all-star, “Mr. Popularity” that all the girls loved back in high school. Didn’t we all at one point or another have a crush on him? No matter how brief, no matter what our social standing? Jim is symbolized as the hope in this play, when the lights go out; he has the luminous personality to keep everyone at ease. In a sense, Jim lives in a fantasy world not unlike Amanda’s. He lives in happier times, when he was youthful and hunted down or “spoiled” by the desires that the opposite sex has for him. This is very similar to Amanda’s fantasy world, wouldn’t you agree? I believe that Jim’s function in the play is to represent a momentary glimmer of hope, and that is exactly what he was.
I believe that the father represents a constant reminder of Amanda’s regretful mistakes of her youth.
I believe that the father represents to Laura a reminder of her feelings of self-hatred and worthlessness. I’m sure she feels that he left on account of her physical handicap.
I believe that the father represents to Tom the failure and disappointment that he will inevitably become. Tom hates his father, Tom is his father. We despise in others most what we already hate in ourselves.
1.8 A) Tom is conflict with himself. He made a choice to abandon his family. You can tell by the simple fact that he stayed with them for so long that this was not an easy decision for him to make, and it is a decision that will haunt him indefinitely. I don’t think that Tom has nor will he ever be able to resolve his internal conflict. Sometimes in life, there are no easy decisions. In my opinion, he should have stayed with his family to support them. Dysfunctional or not, an obligation is an obligation. Family is family.
B) Laura is also in conflict with herself. A part of her wants to move forward and make friends (the time where she wanted to get Jim’s autograph, but was intimidated by the other girls that surrounded him), but she is held back by her insecurities. I think she makes her first attempt to resolve her inner conflict when she opens up to Jim. I don’t think that she was successful in breaking out of her shell because Jim was her stepping stone and without him she will never make it across that bridge.
C) Amanda is in conflict with her children. She tries desperately to push them in the right direction but instead ends up pushing them away from her. She is so set in her ways that her children are terrified of disappointing her, especially Laura. She is so critical of Tom that she ends up driving him away from her, which is the last thing she and Laura need. She was trying to resolve her problems with her children, by talking to them, sharing her point of view, even accepting some responsibility for being too critical and even “witch-like”. Clearly, Tom walking out of her door was evidence of her failure.
1.9 Scene I Message On Screen: A swarm of typewriters Purpose: symbolizes Laura’s fear, like a swarm of bees coming to attack her, school, the typewriter, socializing, etc are her enemies Effect on Audience: alarming, they are beginning to see things as Laura does, Scene II Message on Screen: Amanda is a girl sitting on a porch greeting gentlemen callers Purpose: to display Amanda’s longing for her past, her reminiscing on times when she was in another era, unmarried receiving gentlemen callers who were coming to visit her with the hopes of dating her.
Effect on Audience: they are taken with Amanda to another time, place Scene III Message on Screen: The Glass Menagerie Purpose: to symbolize the importance of Laura’s little world made of glass, broken to pieces Effect on audience: the audience realizes the significance of Laura’s glass menagerie Scene IV Message on Screen: The cover of Glamour Magazine Purpose: represents a surreal, fairytale life to them Effect on Audience: shows the audience the glimpse of glamour the WIngfields have in their anything but glamorous lifestyle.
Scene V Message on Screen: Annunciation Scene VI Message on Screen: The high school here Purpose: represents Jim, introducing his character to the audience Effect on Audience: we identify with our version of a “high school hero” Scene VII Message on Screen: Suspension of Public Service Purpose: to show the audience that their electricity has been suspended Effect on Audience: we learn that their electricity has been cut, another example of the poverty they live in and cannot hide from