The Themes of the Glass Menagerie
Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie is the story of the Wingfield family, Amanda, the mother, Tom, son, and Laura, daughter. The Wingfield’s story is one in which contains many underlying themes that each character experiences throughout the play. This essay will explore in depth looks at the themes, difficulty accepting reality, the impossibility of a true escape, and the unrelenting power of memory, as well as each characters issues with abandonment left behind by Mr. Wingfield.
One of the major themes in the Glass Menagerie is the difficulty accepting reality. This is demonstrated each member of the Wingfield family. In the case of Amanda, she often seems to be stuck in the past and constantly recalls events of her youth. Terry Teachout describes Amanda in the Irrelevant Masterpiece as one who, “longs to retreat into her own dreams of her genteel southern youth” (59). Amanda often compares Laura to herself when she was younger, telling her stories of the night she attracted seventeen gentlemen callers as though she expects Laura to be capable of the same . Amanda has a very strong influence on Laura and comes across very overbearing. Eric P. Levy states that, “she turns her daughter into a mirror in which her own flattering self-image is reflected, but to do so she must first turn herself or, more precisely, her judgment, into a mirror reflecting Laura’s limitations” (530). This refers to Amanda’s inability to accept that Laura is not like her and is handicapped, due to one leg being shorter than the other, which in turn made her very self-conscious and shy. Levy goes on to further say, “Amanda slights Laura’s appearance even as she praises it.” (530). Amanda then goes on to tell Laura that she has reached her peak, almost to let her know that she will never be quite as attractive as she is and somewhat inferior. Amanda also believes she can protect her children from the outside world. She is sometimes very overbearing and very overprotective. Frank Rizzo of the Daily Variety writes, “Amanda’s humanity is clear and her motivations purposeful. This is an Amanda whose chatter and flutters are not those of a neurotic nag, but are rather cultural quirks mixed with a mother’s desperate need to inspire, instruct and fortify her children for a world that can be cruel to those who are damaged or different.”
In Laura’s case, her inability to accept reality comes from her glass figurines. Laura sees herself in the way that she sees her collection of glass animals, fragile. She seemed to develop and relationship with the glass animals acts almost as they are alive. Levy states, “Laura’s own self-image is represented by ornaments of glass. Hence, in virtue of the glass which is their substance, these ornaments suggest that the fragility with which she identifies is no more than a self-image, dependent on the mirror of self-consciousness reflecting it.” (531.) During Jim O’Conner’s (gentlemen caller) visit, a...