Introduction to Literature - Paper Number One

  • March 8, 2001
  • James Skemp
  • article

For this paper, I went to go see The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. This play was put on at the Weidner Center, and was the first student production that I had seen there. In fact, this was the first time that I had heard of both the story and the author.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Glass Menagerie. I thought that the acting was good and I really enjoyed the story. Truthfully, the only thing that I did not like was the 15-minute intermission, since I was pretty well caught up in the story at that time.

For my paper, I am first going to talk about each character and what I liked and disliked about them. Next, I am going to talk about the actual story, and what I thought about it.

Tom is the first character that we meet. I really liked Tom the most for a couple of reasons. First of all, he doesn’t keep his feelings locked up inside. As we find out later, the rest of the family keeps themselves pretty well boxed up. By showing Tom’s feelings, the audience is able to get to know him better, and we relate to him in a way. We are able to grab onto a portion of his life, and learn from it. It also makes us question what we would have done, were we in the same situation.

Another reason that I liked him, was because we all of this is through his eyes. We don’t know how the others end up, but at the end of the play, we know what happens to Tom. Tom shows us before and after.

Amanda, the second character that we meet, really got on my nerves throughout the play. I enjoyed her sayings, such as “Sticks and stones can break our bones, but the expression on Mr. Garfinkel’s face won’t harm us!”, but I think that she put far too much responsibility on her children. She wants the best for them, but she goes to far sometimes. She doesn’t want Tom to end up like his father, and her daughter, in some ways, like her. She gets caught up in a fantasy world, and doesn’t listen to what her children are telling her. An example of this is when in the first scene, Amanda keeps going on about “our gentlemen callers”, showing us that they are also for her, not just for Laura.

Laura, the third character we meet, is extremely timid and caught up on her leg. She uses this to explain the situations around her, and lets it drag her down. I can see Laura growing up to be much like her mother, in that she wouldn’t go out much and socialize. The book compares Laura to her glass collection, and this is a good comparison. However, I think that she also treats other people as glass, as well as herself, as shown in the scene with Jim.

Jim, the last character, didn’t appeal to me very much. I thought that he was cruel, whether it was intended or not, because he lead Laura on for far to long near the end of the play. Instead of telling her first off, he dragged it on, as if he was just in it to talk about himself, and soak up the attention.

The actual story was very good, and the author did a very good job at hinting at things and letting us look for their meanings ourselves. One thing that I got from this is that what parents do has an effect on how the children turn out. Tom ends up following the path of his father, and Laura probably ends up following the path of her mother. Something else that I got from this is that we can never leave the past behind us, no matter how hard we try. At the end of the play, Tom is still haunted by his sister and still thinks about what he did to her.

Tennessee Williams does a good job of using symbolism in the play. One really good example of this is the glass menagerie. Laura is much like the glass in that she is fragile, and can be easily broken. One piece of her collection, the unicorn, is also used in the play to foreshadow a break in the normal affairs, Tom’s leaving, but also can be compared to Laura, in that it is different from the rest of her collection. The breaking of the unicorn’s horn goes along with Jim’s talking to Laura and getting her to see that she is much like everyone else. Once you get rid of the physical, or external differences, we see that we are all made of the same thing.

In conclusion, I enjoyed the play a lot. There wasn’t really a lot that I disliked about it, and thought that the author did a very good job of telling the story and using symbolism.