Monday, February 24, 2020

Notes on The Glass Menagerie

A brief discussion of The Glass Menagerie


In The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams there is a confluence of two events or elements, one is the stagnation of the Great Depression, the time of the play, and the other, Southern culture.

In this semi-biographical play, Laura's glass menagerie can be read as a symbol of her fragility. The movies, a symbol of Tom's desire of adventure. James, Tom tells us, is a symbol of "the long-delayed but always expected something that we live for".

Tom's father abandons the family, and in this cyclical play, so does Tom, leaving his delusional mother and helpless sister behind. He succeeds as a poet, and writes a history play of his earlier life. At the end of the play, he looks into a shop with glass crystal in the window, reminding him of his sister. He writes: "Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder.... I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!" He continues: "I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar...." He does not say "We". Laura is nothing more than the other illuminated images in the play. He fails to keep the promise made his mother to help his sister, and rationalizes aiding her by imagining she has found him. He tells her, merrily, as though it is her birthday, "Blow out your candles—and so good-bye...." What appears to be a happy ending is actually Tom's shying away from his sister.

How the play is classified is problematic. I haven't read the critics yet.

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