AICE English Literature. 1st Period
15 December 2018
Tennessee Williams is known for many pieces of literature written throughout the 1900s. In his writing Williams often uses symbolism to grab the attention of the audience and highlight key details that are important to understanding the plot. One of these works is The Glass Menagerie, throughout this play Williams manipulates the use of memory and other symbolic objects to display the theme of escape. The three different topics that will be talked about in this essay are memory play, stage notes, and the characters in the play.
The Glass Menagerie is explained by Williams as a memory play, this alters the way the play is presented to viewers. This altered perception allows for the play to be swayed towards the thoughts of one person rather than a general overview of a situation. This frees Williams from the normal conventions of writing and allows him to display a unique stream of thought. This in turn makes the play in itself a form of escape as it is meant to stray from normal theatrical techniques and shows an exceptional story. Tom is the narrator of the play, and he uses memory play to change the entire story up to make it better for him. Each of the characters have different dreams and fantasies of what they wish their lives could be. Despite these wishes each character finds themselves trapped and unable to escape their own memories. Tom wishes that he was free and fights the memories of his father, Amanda fantasizes her youth, and Laura wishes that she wasn’t crippled because everyone sees her as handicapped. All of the characters have something they wish was changed, but Tom is the one who is telling it so he thinks that he can use his words to portray himself as the one trapped by these people. The characters are existing in an unrealistic world, that is shown in certain light, and are extremely fragile. This portrayal alters reality and shows the characters to be ensnared by their own symbolism. The essence of
Toms mind is captured throughout the entire play because his thoughts are being shown the entire time. This frees the play from being normal and real. The play isn’t trying to “escape its responsibility of dealing with reality”, it seems to focus on the feelings that are trying to be captured and take away from all of the distractions. All of the memories lose validity over time, and all of these stories are biased to Tom, so most of the stories are going to be told in his favor. The memory is Tom’s way of “escaping” without removing any nails because he can alter the reality.
The stage directions are one of the more important things even though they are mainly at the beginning of the play. The stage directions are filled with different metaphors that concern the imprisonment and the escape. Williams uses these metaphors throughout the entire play to describe the situation and the mood of the scenes. Williams describes the Wingfield Apartments as “vast hive-like conglomeration” , which shows the inhabitants of the buildings and describes as working bees. In the opening there is an analysis that is made that is criticized. The main objective of the beginning of the scene was to prepare the reader and grab the reader’s attention all at the same time. The Glass Menagerie starts with very precise stage directions about how the set should look, and how each thing should come out into the set. In the opening scene tom is giving a speech, and he talks about how America is going through the Great Depression. He mentions this to draw the attention away from the Wingfield and to focus on something less irrelevant. The enslaved section of the American society operates as one. It is mentions as the main symbol of his plan. The fire escape was another one, which Tom is explaining that he wants to get away from his current life and live his dream. He is tired of his old ways and is using this as a metaphor to get to a new life. Tom is the first character introduced, showing that he was the narrator. This play in the stage notes talks about a bunch of different side topics such as plastic theatre, lighting, music, and screen device. All of these different topics have an effect on the play. Some of these are types of plays and some just set the mood for the scene to open and close. The screen device is an important aspect of the light for the audience. If this wasn’t in the play the people viewing the play could end up missing some of the key points in the play. This is mainly for the director and the performers as they use the script. The lighting relates to this because the lighting in the partly sets the mood. In this case, the lighting is dim which relates to the fact that the play is a memory play, which means that this focuses on the escape as well. At one point in the play Tom is fighting with his mom, but really puts the spotlight on Laura. The music that is playing in the background gives the emotional balance to the different scenes. Most of the music is slow and gloomy, which shows a sorrowful tone to the scenes. The music brings the mood down most of the time. This play is also called a plastic theatre. A plastic theatre is a type of play that escapes the reality and also comes back to the point of escape. It removes all of the distractions and leaves very little feelings for the characters.
All of the characters in this play contribute to importance, but Tom shows a lot of importance throughout the entire play. He is always in the conversation for most of the play. Tom is the narrator, everything comes from his point of view. He portrays his family, and how they are all different, and want something other than what they have right now in their lives. He never shows remorse, and thinks he has no other option but to leave his family and find an escape. Tom always said that he was going to the movies. He told Amanda that quite often. He always wanted to get away and have some time alone which he wanted to all of the time. Tom doesn’t like the dream that Amanda wants him to pursue, so he wants to get away from all of the drama. Laura is a girl that claims that she is crippled. She hates the fact that she is, and hated the people at her school who called her handicapped. Her escape is to isolate herself from literally everyone she comes into contact with, even her family. Her glass menagerie is very childish and she also doesn’t want to be handicapped anymore. Jim was a boy who talked to Laura in high school. They had a crush on each other. Blue Roses was one of their inside jokes. Laura was talking about pluerosis, but he thought that she said “blue roses”, so Jim ended up calling her Blue Roses. Amanda was Toms wife and she was always so nervous about everything. She was always going back and looking back at the days that she was younger. That is where her drea wanted to lead to. She wanted her youth back. She always worried about Tom when he went to the movies. She was a nervous wreck at most points.
All of these characters at the beginning wanted an escape. They wanted their own life to be what they wanted it to be, and not the reality that they were in. All of these things come back to the escape and the memory play. The escape was the goal that each of the characters had, but Tom being the narrator wanted to control what they wanted, which ended up just wanted it his own way. All of these exits were fantasies and couldn’t become true.
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