“The Glass Menagerie” is a dramatic play

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“The Glass Menagerie” is a theatrical play of five protagonists depicting the writer and protagonist, Tom Wingfield's, biographical plot. Tennessee Williams, the play's protagonist, based the storyline on his own life experience, playing his dramatic mother and fragile sister. The characters in the play distinctly embody the above characteristics. The play came to prominence after it was staged on Broadway and received an award in 1945. It was Williams' first prolific play, propelling him to prominence as an American playwright. His style and narrator's point of view has greatly added to the emotional effect on the viewer. Having used his life story as the theme, the play held an exceptional power among viewers. Still, critics’ focuses are in the title of the play itself, whether it represents something symbolic or other. Therefore, the play gives both the audiences and the critics an underlying mystery to solve in their own minds which core to the meaning behind the glass menagerie.

Keywords: play, menagerie, life, story, emotion.

Behind “The Glass Menagerie”

Humans are a universe full of secrets. Laura Wingfield could be a beautiful woman, yet she chose to be emotionally unconfident. With her fictional mind, she had chosen the world that is full of only fantasy friends, her glass menageries. She immerses herself into being one of her collections. She sees these ways as an escape from her social difficulties and physical disabilities. However, she seems happy yet we can still see and feel the loneliness of her life. There are certainly a lot of factors that urged her to become what she was. First, her family history is her very first tragedy. Second, her mother’s personality disorder that affected the way she was being taught. Moreover, her older brother has the same way of living and thinking as hers. These have turned her into a somewhat fragile woman, certainly similar to her loved collections. Therefore, these ideas will serve as strong suppositions to Laura’s woeful behavior.

There is no worse tragedy than those happened inside the family. In the story of the play, Laura and Tom were abandoned by their father for around 16 years ago. Henceforth, they have witnessed their parents’ tragic relationship ending. The characters’ situations are no different in reality. This, although several years have already passed, will continue to bring misery to children's mind. Studies show that while it is true that parents' divorce gives a huge impact to children in their childhood, adolescence, and young adult phase, the highest impact will be 15 to 20 years later (Wallerstein, 1970). The research found that the effects of divorce are long-term and permanent. It is when they are about to engage in the world. When the children are about to enter a serious relationship, they expect to fail. In regards to this research, we suspect two dominant effects to children whose parents went divorce. First, they may enter into relationships that they believe will give them escape from their emotional distress. This may not just refer to romantic relationships. Some may engage in drugs, alcohols, marijuana, and cigarettes. Others might go clubbing and extended parties to satisfy their cravings for enjoyment. The second one applies much to Laura Wingfield's case. Due to their parents' unsuccessful relationship, children will have constant fears of committing to relationships. For them, love is nothing but an illusion, game, trick and a gamble played by cruel ones. Therefore, isolating one's self and creating imaginary friends and the world will be the worst possible scenario. Laura gave the conclusion to this by saying, “What is there left but dependency all our lives? I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren’t prepared to occupy a position.”

Laura, as well as his brother, was raised in her mother's custody. Throughout the play, Amanda Wingfield, their mother, is living inside her illusions and dreams of past rather than the reality of the present. She has her own vision of how the world should be and she wants everything to be the way she wanted it to be. As a result, she often rejects her daughter’s peculiarities. While being consumed by her delusions, she later became histrionic by being overacting and exaggerated in her words and actions. This made her ironically funny throughout the drama, yet painful to watch. Due to her struggles to force Laura into a romantic relationship, it resulted in tragedy for her daughter as well. This is also a considerable point for the cause of Laura’s behavioral case. Observing her mother’s beliefs and its effects, Laura developed a thinking that dealing with the world is a complete waste. Although her mother’s motives to give her a partner might be for her good, it actually made her more sorrowful. This incident gave her more reasons that to be alone is the best possible way to find happiness. In fact, women are most likely to acquire histrionic personality disorder and experts say that it might be inherited through the process of the child’s learning behavior (Goldberg, 2016). Fears might arise dominantly for Laura that she chose not to take the same life path as her mother’s.

On the other hand, Laura might found comfort knowing that there is someone who does the same lifestyle. Tom, her brother, also seeks to escape from all aspects of his life but in a different way. Still, their brotherly love has always put them together. In the end, even if Tom left home, he realizes that he can never abandon Laura and exclaimed, “Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!” Tom’s love and support for her sister gave her enough of what she must receive in their home. Sources proved that close relationships between siblings can provide an everlasting source of love and support (Greif, 2012). It establishes healthier and happier lives. Therefore, we can conclude that Laura took advantage to this by thinking that Tom could be the source of her comfort zone. She might think that there is already someone who will fully understand her and will take care of her, and that will be enough.

Laura is the way too mysterious woman. Still, with all these careful analyzing, we can truly understand how and why a person behaves like Laura does. We may, therefore, conclude that those life tragedies, physical deficiencies, and family's behavioral act towards her are what made her fragile emotionally. Her whole soul is a glass menagerie. She can get broken easily. On the clear surfaces of those collection lays the reflection of Laura’s deep emotion. They can be seen throughout her whole being. For Laura, the unicorn symbolizes incomparable hope. She believes that its tears may heal physical wounds and sorrows of heart. Similarly to the unicorn, she has a soothing and loving personality. Even if life gives her much tragedy just like how the unicorn got broken in the end, she can still find hope.


Greif, G. (2012). Friendships — can siblings be friends? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/buddy-system/201207/friendships-can-siblings-be-friendsc

Wallerstein, J. (1970). Research in effects of divorce to children. Retrieved from http://divorceinfo.com/judithwallerstein.htm

November 03, 2022



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