Appearance Versus Reality in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie

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Appearance Versus Reality in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie

In any Tennessee Williams' play, nothing is as it seems. Everything represents more than itself. Williams' creative use of symbols creates a drama that far exceeds the apparent or surface level. Williams himself admits that "art is made out of symbols the way your body is made out of the vital tissue," and that "symbols are nothing but the natural speech of drama [. . . ,] the purest language of plays [. . . ; S]ometimes it would take page after tedious page of exposition to put across an idea that could be said with an object or a gesture on the lighted stage" (Demastes 174). The reader must engage not only what appears to be just a needed prop or dialogue, but also the reader has to project beyond the obvious to understand the full impact of the symbols Williams uses. He controls every aspect of his plays by giving very precise stage directions. He is the god of his work. He directs every aspect as if he is afraid to turn lose any control unless it becomes something else than he wills it to be. In The Glass Menagerie, Williams uses many symbols that cannot fully be retained by the reader in just one reading of the play.

The Glass Menagerie is a play about a dysfunctional family during the 1930s and how they survive in their own world of reality. Even the characters themselves are symbols of a deeper meaning; for example, Amanda Wingfield's name itself is revealing. Amanda contains the word man, and she has to play the role of the man and the woman of the house since the father deserted the family long ago. Close examination of the last name Wingfield gives the reader additional clues. The Wingfields are actually taking life as it comes to them, or, in...

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...orks Cited

Demastes, William D. Realism and the American Dramatic Tradition. Tuscaloosa, AL: U of

Alabama P, 1996.

Kolin, Philip. Tennesse Williams: A Guide to Research and Performance. Westport, CT:

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Scanlan, Tom. Family, Drama, and American Dreams. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1978.

Sievers, W. David. Freud on Broadway, A History of Psychoanalysis and the American

Drama. New York: Hermitage House, 1995.

Weales, Gerald. "Tennessee Williams 1914-. Contemporary Literary Cristicism. 21 Vols.

Ed. Dedria Bryfonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson.Detroit:Gale,1978.471.

Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. 5th ed. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999. 1864-1908.

Work Consulted

Williams. Edwina Dakin. Remember Me to Tom. New York: Putman, 1963.
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