The Glass Menagerie: Existentialist Responsibilities Conveyed Through the Character Tom

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The story of a young Tennessee Williams is poetically portrayed through a 1945 Broadway Play, The Glass Menagerie. The main character, Tom Wingfield, lives in his family’s apartment with his mother, Amanda Wingfield, and sister, Laura Wingfield. Their father left the family, and he remains a silent character appearing as a portrait on the apartment wall. Throughout the seven scenes, the immaturity of each family member is revealed. In search of adventure, Tom has dreams of being a writer and wishes to leave his family and factory job, like his father, to join the Merchant Marines. Laura lets her disability, a braced leg, hinder her finding a job or a husband, while Amanda stays in denial of her children’s failure by living in the past with her “gentlemen callers.” Tom’s main responsibilities, created by Amanda, are to take care of Laura and the family. Amanda and Tom are constantly fighting about their different views of what they wish the future to bring. To cope with his problems, every night Tom ventures off to probably a bar, gets drunk, and then tells his family he was at the movies ("Plot Summary: The Glass Menagerie").

Williams tries to express a personal struggle about trying to leave his family with out feeling guilt (John Lahr) through fictional characters paralleling his family. These struggles are seen as failed responsibilities in the view of an existentialist. The responsibility of being an existentialist is conveyed through Tennessee Williams’ autobiographical character Tom and his failed responsibilities, guilt of the past, and denial of reality in The Glass Menagerie.

The play takes place during the Great Depression in the 1930s, but America was in World War II when Williams wrote the play. The ...

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