Glass Managerie

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade November 2001

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Tennessee Williams' play, The Glass Menagerie, tells the story of a family facing the difficult struggle of living from day to day on a low, single income. The father is a deserter, "A telephone man who "“ fell in love with long-distance"(Williams 1613; scene-6). The three main characters, Amanda (mother), Laura (daughter), and Tom (son) are unhappy with their lives and each of them has their own way of escaping.

Amanda has given up on the possibility of having a happy life for herself. She has lost all hope in getting a new start with a new companion. Amanda takes great pride in her youth. She likes to reflect on the time when she "received - seventeen! - gentleman callers!"(1584; scene-1). This is Amanda's way of escaping from her current life, a life that would have no value to her were it not for her children.

Amanda's primary focus in life is to do whatever she can to help her children obtain happiness.

She knows that Tom is not content with his life; on the other hand, she also knows that his job is their only source of income. Amanda realizes that the only way Tom can go chase his dreams is for Laura to find a husband; so she puts a lot of effort into finding a gentleman caller for Laura. This process of finding a gentleman caller is another way Amanda escapes her current life. In preparation of receiving Laura's gentleman caller, Amanda puts on a dress she wore to a ball when she was young and passionately reflects on how she "sashayed around the ballroom"(1607; scene-6). Amanda is admirable for the love and concern that she has for her children. Laura's low self-esteem and insecurity are Amanda's biggest concerns.

Laura's inability to function in society forces her to seek refuge in her own safe and secure world. An illness during her childhood caused her to be slightly crippled. Since Laura left high school she has slowly slipped into a state of solitude. She finds comfort and peace in her collection of glass figures; her "mother calls them a glass menagerie"(1621; scene-7). This collection gives Laura a meaning in life. She puts all of her effort into caring for them and giving each individual piece its share of attention.

Laura also seems to have a safe haven in a collection of phonograph records and a Victrola that her father left when he deserted the family. Anytime Laura gets nervous she will crank up the Victrola. It provides an escape from whatever is bothering her.

Tom has a strong desire to venture out into the world; however, he is reluctant to turn his back on his family that is in desperate need of his support. It is a constant struggle for Tom to convince himself that he is doing the right thing by staying and supporting his family, but the discontentment he feels inside is undeniable. One way that Tom escapes from this constant struggle is to go to the movies. Tom's mother is worried by this habit, she says that he "[goes] to the movies entirely too much!"(1597; scene-4). Tom says that he "like[s] a lot of adventure"(1597, scene-4). The movies provide two services for Tom; he is able to escape from his family, and he is able to at least subdue his strong desire for adventure.

Another way Tom is able to escape his life is through writing poetry. Tom is very unhappy with his job as a warehouse worker in a shoe warehouse. This is illustrated when he says, "Whenever I pick up a shoe, I shudder a little thinking how short life is"(1611; scene-6). Tom feels that he is wasting his life away in the warehouse. Tom's way of escape while he is at work is his "secret practice of retiring to a cabinet of the washroom to work on poems"(1606; scene-6). Tom finds that he is able to temporarily hide from the unhappiness in his life in the make believe world of poetry.

Amanda, Tom and Laura find themselves in a state of discontentment in their lives. Consistent with the natural reaction of humanity in this situation, they, either consciously or subconsciously, seek refuge in activities, memories or items that brings peace to their hearts. A valuable lesson to be learned in this story is for one to have the courage to face and deal with the harsh realities of life. Too often we find ourselves evading these problems instead of dealing with them immediately. The fact is that the situation will eventually have to be dealt with, so one should save oneself the agony of prolonging the inevitable.