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Essay on the Dysfunctional Family of The Glass Menagerie

The Dysfunctional Family of The Glass Menagerie

Dysfunctional. Codependent. Enmeshed. Low self-esteem. Emotional problems of the modern twenty-first century or problems of the past? In his play, The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams portrays a southern family in the 1940’s trying to deal with life’s pressures, and their own fears after they are deserted by their husband and father. Although today, we have access to hundreds of psychoanalysis books and therapists, the family problems of the distant past continue to be the family problems of the present.

The three family members are adults at the time of this play, struggling to be individuals, and yet, very enmeshed and codependent with one another. The overbearing and domineering mother, Amanda, spends much of her time reliving the past; her days as a southern belle. She desperately hopes her daughter, Laura, will marry. Laura suffers from an inferiority complex partially due to a minor disability that she perceives as a major one. She has difficulty coping with life outside of the apartment, her cherished glass animal collection, and her Victrola. Tom, Amanda’s son, resents his role as provider for the family, yearns to be free from him mother’s constant nagging, and longs to pursue his own dreams. A futile attempt is made to match Laura with Jim, an old high school acquaintance and one of Tom’s work mates.

Jim is very self-assured and attempts to help Laura with her problems of self-esteem and shyness. Laura seems to be responding to his efforts of help when he unexpectedly announces his engagement to be married. Of course, this brings an end to the well-planned evening. At this point, there seems to be a wake-up call for these characters. A…

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… yet, escape into their own, personal cocoon of fear and insecurity.

In conclusion, nothing really changes from beginning to end. Laura is still dependent, very shy, and lonely. Tom still has no real future, even though he runs away to fulfill his dreams. Amanda has no job and continues to relive her past. We really don’t know what happens to Jim. In an effort to free themselves, these characters become more entangled in their problems. The ending is sad, without hope. However, The Glass Menagerie is timeless. Many of us can relate to these characters in some way. Most of us struggle in some way with fear, insecurity, dysfunction, codependency, and the complexities of life. Yes! The problems of the past continue to be the problems of the present.

Works Cited

Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1999.

Essay on Tom’s Escape in The Glass Menagerie

Tom’s Escape in The Glass Menagerie

In Tennessee Williams’ play, The Glass Menagerie, each member of the Wingfield family has their own fantasy world in which they indulge themselves. Tom escaped temporarily from the fantasy world of Amanda and Laura by hanging out on the fire escape. Suffocating both emotionally and spiritually, Tom eventually sought a more permanent form of escape.

Tom supports his family despite his unhappiness of his world. He tries to please Amanda by being the sole supporter, but only gets rewarded by Amanda’s constant nagging and suspicion. Eventually Tom finds himself more like his father as he seeks adventure in the movies and hangs out on the fire escape he avoids suffocation, and desperately seeks the life he always desired; the life of adventure.

By hanging out on the fire escape, Tom finds a temporary safe haven from Amanda. With Amanda nagging Tom about every minute action, like mastication, Tom needed to find somewhere to escape. Perhaps, even more, the fire escape shows various things about Tom’s personality. Since Amanda and Laura have their illusionary worlds inside, Tom can easily escape these worlds by going out on the firescape. He does not desire to be part of an imaginary world, which only proves to be the downfall of Amanda and Laura. He realizes that the world is not what Amanda has made it seem inside the house. Also, during his reflections on the firescape he is not really separating himself from the imaginary world because that metal frame is still anchored to the apartment wall. This shows that no matter how hard Tom tries to escape he will always be ‘bounded’ to the apartment. His emotional attachments to Laura would permantly k…

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…s and it will be impossible for him to not disturb the nails. He is suffocating in his own figurative coffin, but knows his escape will upset Amanda and Laura.

Tom escaped from the fantasy world of Amanda and Laura by hanging out on the fire escape, even though he could never fully escape. Unfortunately for Tom, his life was cramped like the coffin and he was slowly suffocating emotionally and spiritually. Unhappy with the lifestyle he followed in the footsteps of his father, he searched for adventure, escaping the nagging of Amanda.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, Harold Ed. Modern Critical Views: Tennessee Williams. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 1999. pp.1865-1908.

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