The Glass Menagerie

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade January 2002

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Dependence in The Glass Menagerie "The Glass Menagerie," by Tennessee Williams, is a play about one family's lifestyle during the Great Depression. Trapped within their St. Louis tenement lives Tom, the budding poet, Laura, the "cripple" who lives in a world of glass animals, and Amanda, the aging Southern belle trying to relive her past. By being too dependent on Tom, Amanda and Laura force him to escape.

For the most part, Amanda depends on Tom for all of the family's basic needs. She claims he is her "right hand bower" and that he cannot fail or disappoint them (459). Tom despises the warehouse that he works at, yet he "makes a slave of himself (452)." He gives up "all that [he dreams] of being and doing" for sixty-five dollars a month to pay the rent and the other bills (453). Due to the fact that Mr. Wingfield left Amanda many years ago, Amanda immediately thinks of Tom as the man of the house.

For example, she depends on Tom to bring the gentleman caller home for Laura. Needless to say, he does bring home a gentleman, but only after he hears that "[he'll] be free to go" as long as Laura has someone to take care of her (463). As the play continues, Amanda's dependence will drive Tom to escape just as his father did.

Similarly, Laura depends on Tom because he is her brother and he understands her more thoroughly than Amanda does. Even though it isn't said, Laura depends on Tom to help Amanda realize how Laura lives in "a world of her own-a world of-little glass ornaments (472)." She feels comfortable around Tom and knows that he will not force her to "study [her] typewriter chart" and "stay fresh and pretty" for the gentleman callers (443). Earlier, in Scene 3, Tom and Amanda get into a fight over his all night movie outings. Afterwards, Laura depends on Tom to "make up with [Amanda], apologize, speak to her" rather than having tension between the family (458). Tom tries "to leave [Laura] behind," without guilt, but he is "more faithful that [he] intended to be (508)." Although Laura's dependence added to the reasons of Tom's departure, he knows he will never be the same without her.

Without doubt, Tom cannot handle the dependence that Laura and Amanda force upon him. His "ambitions do not lie in the warehouse" and he has had to "make sacrifices" to support the family (461). Amanda's view of Tom's dependence is seen as selfishness, but "the more [she] shouts about [his] selfishness," the quicker he leaves to go to the movies (507). He goes to the movies for the adventure because he cannot find it in his career or at home. In Scene 5, Tom, "about to move," secretly pays his dues to the Union of Merchant Seamen instead of the light bill (483). As Amanda claims that Tom lives "in a dream," he leaves the house for the last time "to find in motion what was lost in space (508-509)." Although Tom left without regret, he felt guilty about leaving his sister behind in her "glass menagerie." Amanda believes there is nothing left "but dependency all our lives," however, Tom greatly disagrees (448). Due to the fact that Tom couldn't handle Amanda and Laura's dependency, he fled from their family into the outside world.