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Tom Wingfield Of The Glass Mengerie English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1978 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Glass Menagerie is an autobiographical play of Tennessee Williams that brought him his first great success. The prototype of Wingfield family was the Williams’s own family drama: a strict father, quick-tempered mother and sister Rose, who suffered from depression. Depicting the main character Tom Wingfield, the author depicts himself. Tom is an ambiguous, controversial character, which changes over the course of the play and this fact makes the play even more interesting.

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Speaking about the main character of the “The Glass Menagerie”, first it is better to tell the plot of the play. It will help to understand the circumstances of the situation, events affecting the behavior of the protagonist and the formation of his personality. Thus, analyzing the story itself, we should start be mentioning that in its essence it is a memory. Tom Wingfield tells of the time – between the wars – when he has lived in St. Louis with his mother Amanda Wingfield – a woman, endowed with an enormous zest for life, but not knowing how to adapt to the present time and desperately clinging to the past, and his sister Laura – dreamer who had undergone a serious illness in the childhood, and one leg remained slightly shorter than the other one. Tom himself, a poet at heart, worked in a shoe shop and suffered, being engaged in hateful job. In the evenings he was listening to endless stories about her mother’s life in the South, about the left fans and other real and imaginary victories (Smith 2011).

Amanda was eagerly waiting for the success of her children: promotion of Tom and Laura’s advantageous marriage. She did not want to see how her son hated his job and how timid and unfriendly her daughter was. Mother’s attempt to make to send Laura to typewriting courses crashed – because of fear and nervous tension girl’s hands were shaking, so she couldn’t hit the right keys. She felt well only at home when she was busy with her collection of little glass animals. After the failure of Amanda’s courses, Laura got even more fixate on the thought of her daughter’s marriage. At the same time she was trying to influence her son, trying to control his reading: she was convinced that the novels of Lawrence – the favorite writer of her son were too dirty. Amanda didn’t like Tom’s habit to spend almost every free evening in the cinema. For him, these trips were a way to escape from the monotonous routine, the only outlet – the same as glass menagerie for his sister (Tarigan 2010).

One day Tom’s promised Amanda to bring home and introduce Laura to some decent young man. Tom invited to the dinner his colleague, Jim O’Connor, the only person in the shop with whom he was on friendly terms. Laura and Jim went to the same school, but for Jim’s surprise she appeared to be Tom’s sister. Laura, when she was a schoolgirl, was in love with Jim, who was always in the limelight – starred in basketball, led the discussion club, sang in school productions. For Laura, seeing again this prince of her girlish dream was a real shock. When shaking hands with him, she almost lost consciousness and quickly hid in her room. Soon, under the pretext, Amanda sent Jim to her. The young man did not recognize Laura, and she had to reveal to him that they had been familiar. Jim hardly remembered the girl whom he gave the nickname Blue Rose. That nice friendly young man did not succeed in life, as he had promised during his school years. But he did not lose hope and continued to make plans. Laura gradually calmed down, sincere concerned tone of Jim removed her nervousness, and she gradually began to speak with him as with a longtime friend (King 1973).

Jim saw that the girl had many complexes. He tried to help assuring that her lameness was not evident – no one at school even noticed that she was wearing special shoes. He tried to explain that people were not evil, especially when you knew them better, and that she had to stop thinking that she was the worst. In his view, the main problem of Laura was that she drove into her head that everything was bad.

Laura asked about the girl whom Jim had dated in school because people said they were engaged. Laura was very happy to hear that there had been no wedding. She got a hope. She showed Jim her collection of glass figurines – the highest mark of confidence. Among the little animals Jim saw a unicorn – an extinct animal, no one else was like it. Jim immediately drew attention to it. It was probably boring for it to stand on a shelf with mediocre animals such as glass horses.

They heard the sound of waltz from the restaurant through the open window. Jim invited Laura to dance, she refused fearing to step on his leg. “But I’m not made of glass,” – Jim said with a laugh (Bloom 2007). During the dance they ran into a table, and the unicorn fell. It became the same as all: his horn was broken. Jim said Laura that she was an extraordinary girl, unlike anyone else – just like her unicorn. She was beautiful, she had a sense of humor. There was one in a thousand like her, the Blue Rose. Jim kissed Laura. However, she misinterpreted the movement of the soul of young man: a kiss was just a sign of a tender care of Jim about the fate of the girl and an attempt to get her to believe in herself

However, seeing the reaction of Laura, Jim frightened and announced that he had a fiancee. He sad that Laura had to believe that she also would be happy, she only needed to overcome their complexes. Jim continued to utter typical platitudes like “man – the master of his fate,” etc., without noticing that Laura there was the expression of infinite sadness on her face. She gave Jim the unicorn – in memory about that evening, and about her.

When Amanda came in the room, she was almost sure that the groom was on the hook. However, Jim was in a hurry, he needed to meet his bride at the station and left. Immediately after he was gone, Amanda started yelling at her son for bringing a young man who was already dating another girl. For Tom, this scandal was the last straw. He quit his job, left home and embarked on a journey. In the epilogue, Tom said that he could never forget his sister: “I did not know that I was so devoted to you, that I could not betray you” (Bloom 2007). In his mind there was a beautiful image of Laura, blowing at her bedtime candle. “Goodbye, Laura” – said Tom sadly (Rathbun 1990). This is how the play ends.

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Having summarized the play it became possible to understand the life of the main hero better, to find out about his character, deeds, point of view, and life position and so on. Analyzing Tom, it is worth mentioning that Tom Wingfield acts as both a character and narrator during the whole play. His great desire to experience “adventure”, his use of poetry as mean to get away from the problems of the real life, and his never disappearing feeling of being limited by his own family all relate to personal experiences that readers of the play could have in their lives. Tom Wingfield loves his family a lot and feels devoted to his mother and elder sister. Nevertheless, at the same time, Amanda and Laura’s incredible dependency on Tom as their security, defense and profits can often consume him.

As it was mentioned above, Tom Wingfield is an aspiring poet who works in the Continental Shoemakers warehouse. He is the narrator of the play, so the action of the play is built by Tom’s memory. The main hero loves his mom and sister, but he feels uncomfortable at home. His family depends on his wages and as long as he lives with them he realizes he can never have his own life. Every night, he disappears to “go to the movies” (Fambrough 2005). Through out the play, Tom feels more and more imprisoned and his mother starts to sense his worrying feelings. She offers Tom a deal – as soon as he finds a husband for his sister Laura, he is free to go. But Tom is fascinated by his own guilt for leave-taking and his own repressed anger for being put in the situation where his freedom comes at the expense of his personal principles.

Taking Tom as a single character, it is seen that he is full of contradiction. From the one side, he reads literature, writes poetry, and dreams of escape, adventure, and various higher things. From the other side, he seems inextricably connected to the squalid, trivial world of the Wingfield household. The reader knows that Tom reads D. H. Lawrence and supports, follows political developments in Europe, but at the same time the content of his intellectual life is very difficult to distinguish. The reader is not aware of Tom’s opinion about Lawrence, or what his poetry is about. The only things are known: what he thinks about his mother, sister, and his warehouse job. These are the main things from which he dreams to escape.

Tom’s feelings toward Amanda and Laura have confused critics. Although he obviously cares for them, he is sometimes indifferent and even cruel and lean toward both of them. His speech at the end of the play proves his strong feelings for Laura. Despite this, he meanly deserts her and Amanda, and the whole play it is not seen that he behaves kindly or lovingly toward Laura, not even when he knocks down her glass menagerie. Most critics suppose that Tom’s strange behavior shows an incestuous attraction to his sister and his shame about such attraction (Bluefarb 1963). This kind of theory allows understanding some certain moments of the play-for example, when Tom and his Mom discuss Laura at the end of the fifth Scene. Tom’s claim that Laura is completely peculiar and can’t survive in the external world, while Amanda argues that Laura’s strangeness is a positive quality, could have as much to do with his jealous wish to keep Laura for himself as with her own quirks.

At the beginning of the play Tom introduces himself as a narrator and tells the whole story. He tells about the nature of memory, the life in 1930s, glass, and all things generally. He talks waxes poetically. The story of Tom focuses on his wish to escape out of town. He needs adventure, excitement, new experiences, new people and new places – he wants everything he doesn’t have working at the warehouse and living ordinary life at home. He is also inspired reader and a writer. The main character sees his current situation as imprisonment, and his regular forays to get away are just about as accidental as Laura similarity to her collection of glass. Tom also uses the movies in order at least for a short time experience vicariously what he wants to have in his own life. At the end of the play Tom finds out that he could never forget Laura. He seems to feel guilty about having left her, but he says nothing about his mother! This makes the whole topic of Tom’s interaction with these two women. Despite the fact he can’t understand the nature of her secret world, he dearly cares for her, struck with guilt when he breaks her glass animals with his coat. The play also has an issue of the missing father. Tom often tells that he is similar to his father – willing to leave the family and never come back. The story has a lot of discussible moments and issues and Tom can be criticized on moral grounds for abandoning the family. Tom Wingfield evokes mixed emotions, being a controversial character. The play “The Glass Menagerie” was written a log time ago, but still remains interesting and readable. It touches many actual and burning issues.


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