The Glass Menagerie

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The Glass Menagerie – Williams Autobiography Essay, Research Paper Tennessee Williams entire life was about escape and so it is not surprising that he should choose to emphasize this theme in many of his major works. The Glass Menagerie is an autobiographical story about his life and the struggles that he faced with his family and himself. The play mirrors many aspects of his young life, and emphasizes the need for escape in order to survive. The three main characters who illustrate this need most clearly are Amanda, Laura and Tom. Amanda Wingfield vividly depicts the likeness of Williams real mother, Edwina Dakin Williams. She was an overbearing, manipulative hysterical woman who thrived on the memories of a better time, much like Amanda Wingfield does. Edwina was the

puritanical daughter of an Episcopal rector and grew up in a comfortable, luxurious, wealthy southern lifestyle. Her removal from this lifestyle had devastating effects on her and the upbringing of her children. They fell into poverty and as a result of their financial strain and recent move to St Louis, she became constantly ill. After ongoing issues with abuse and neglect from her husband, Edwina turned her back on him and placed her entire focus on her children. She was very overprotective of them because she saw them as very fragile. Williams seemed weak and different, and at age 5, he contracted diphtheria leaving him in an even worsened condition. His sister Rose, represented by the character Laura Wingfield, was also very sensitive and suffered from schizophrenia. In the

play, Amanda sees similar weaknesses in her children and responds in a similar way. She utilizes an almost hysterical mechanism of denial in order to cope. Her method of escape is to fall deep into the past and reminisce about her glory days. She surrounds her reality with images of the days when she saw herself as the southern belle, and whenever she urges her family forward; she inevitably retreats to a time when her chief problem was to choose a beau over all the other beaus. In real life some of Edwina s fondest moments were spent with a young man named Paul Jameson, and although she was married and never became romantically involved with him, it is clearly suggested the he represents Amanda s gentleman caller… The one who got away. And I could have been Mrs. Duncan J.

Fitzhugh, mind you! But I picked your father! (line 33, pg. 1295). In order to relive some of these fond memories again, Amanda sets up a caller for Laura as well. She is so wrapped up in the delusions of her girlhood conquests that she is unaware of the realities of the world around her. She does not see that Laura s life is not her own. However, when she discovers that her plan has failed, that Jim is actually engaged, she forgets all her silly lies and sees the humiliating position that she has put herself and Laura in. That s right, now that you ve had us make such fools of ourselves… All for what? To entertain some other girls fianc ! (line 320, pg. 1337). Finally she realizes that she is alone and sees the reality of the situation for what it is. She is, …a mother

deserted, [with] an unmarried sister who s crippled and has no job! (line 320, pg. 1337). Rose Williams was Williams most beloved sister and the character Laura Wingfield is modeled very closely after her. Their relationship growing up was very close and they had an almost psycho-spiritual kinship with each other. Rose had always been a very quiet, perceptive, delicate girl but her transition to St. Louis, where she was removed from security and thrown into a world of alarm and despair, caused her hideous inner turmoil and she was unable to cope with life. Laura Wingfield is unable to cope as well and instead she creates an elaborate world in which she can safely withdraw. Laura uses her victrola and collection of delicate glass ornaments to help maintain her fantasy world.