The Glass Menagerie

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Tennessee William’s “The Glass Menagerie” and John Updike’s “A & P” are both tales of anguishing confinement and eventual escape. Tom and Sammy are trapped in a place where they work away their existence, unable to abscond from their miserable conditions due to an opposing force holding them captive. Their families rely on them to bring in what income they can, and neither Sammy nor Tom wishes to let down those dependent upon him. Both have jobs which are stable and potentially life-long; however, they desire excitement and freedom rather than the perpetual routines to which they are bound. The men are despondent in the circumstances to which they are confined, and it requires a catalyst to spark the ambition to become independent. Undergoing a change which opens their eyes to a world that lies beyond the limited lives of oppression they previously led, they make the difficult transition to greater personal freedom. Complete liberty is only achieved by Sammy, however; Tom is physically free yet left with the memory of his dear sister Laura, forever binding his heart to the home he once knew. Sammy and Tom are constrained to monotonous jobs which lack gain or reward; their disgust of the work environment and those who hold them hostage is evident. Sammy lacks respect for the customers, whom he appraises to be “sheep pushing their carts down the aisle” (Updike 1493). He describes his boss, Lengel, as a “very patient and old and gray” (Updike 1496) man who is “pretty dreary” (Updike 1495) – a manager with a dry personality which matches that of the store itself. The A & P is a store which runs on policy, like a clock whose gears are expected to interlock and click away steadily but are of no value individually. Feeling ... ... middle of paper ... ...u behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I …[do]…anything that can blow your candles out!” (Williams 97). While he has achieved a freedom in the sense of space and finances, he is still pulled back home by the constant though of his sister whom he loved deeply. He feels a sense of remorse for being yet another man to abandon Laura, a burden that Sammy does not carry because he left only a job, not his family. Both Sammy and Tom are liberated from the desolate situations they find themselves in, though Sammy finds his actions to lead to a more optimistic future while Tom can only dwell in the past. They learn that life cannot be lived based completely on the desires of others, nor can an occupation be solely for monetary gains; there must be goals toward which to stride. Only when they realize this are they able to find true freedom in life.
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