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The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The characters are Amanda, the mother, who Williams describes as “a little woman of great but confused vitality clinging frantically to another time and place” (Williams, 1945, page 18), Laura, the sister who is handicapped by an illness she suffered in childhood which left “one leg slightly shorter than the other and held in a brace” (Ibid.) and Tom, the protagonist, who Williams describes as “a poet with a job in a warehouse”. It is because of Laura’s disability that it may be safely concluded that she is as fragile as the glass animals she collects (Pilkington, Fredrickson, Whetsell, 2006, p. 190) – literally, the glass menagerie! The plot surrounds Tom’s recollection of the last days he spent with his family before he leaves them for good. The play opens with William’s taking the audience to the past “to that quaint period, the thirties, when the huge middle class of America” was obligated to survive in “a dissolving economy” (Williams, 1945, p.5).The play is about dreams, hopes and memories, arousing sympathy in the audience. (Macaulay, 2007, p.10). Tennessee understood the psyche of the dream world that Tom is so immersed in and how it conflicts with familial responsibility: Tom’s obligations towards his mother and sister, and in the larger context, poetic metaphor. (Ibid.) The play does not just encapsulate the fantasy world that Laura occupies with her animals, but, on a greater scale, Williams explores the world of psychological escape, that he has instilled in many of his characters. (Ibid.) Williams has attempted to exorcise his youth and the ghosts that haunt him from then – a mother who is cavalier, a father who is missing from the scene and a sister with a mental condition and most of all, frustrated ambitions.

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