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The Destruction of Laura in The Glass Menagerie
In Tennessee William's play, The Glass Menagerie, the character of Laura is like a fragile piece of glass. The play is based around a fragile family and their difficulties coping with life.
Laura unable to survive in the outside world - retreating into their apartment and her glass collection and victrola. There is one specific time when she appears to be progressing when Jim is there and she is feeling comfortable with being around him. This stands out because in all other scenes of the play Laura has never been able to even consider conversation with a "Gentleman Caller."
Laura's mother and brother shared some of her fragile tendencies. Amanda, Laura's mother, continually lives in the past. Her reflection of her teenage years continually haunts Laura. To the point where she forces her to see a "Gentleman Caller" it is then that Tom reminds his mother not to "expect to much of Laura" she is unlike other girls. But Laura's mother has not allowed herself nor the rest of the family to see Laura as different from other girls. Amanda continually lives in the past when she was young a pretty and lived on the plantation. Laura must feel she can never live up to her mothers expectations. Her mother continually reminds her of her differences throughout the play.
Every time the family comes to a confrontation someone retreats to the past and reflects on life as it was back then, not dealing with life as it is for them today. Tom, assuming the macho role of the man of the house, babies and shelters Laura from the outside world. His mother reminds him that he is to feel a responsibility for his sister. He carries this burden throughout the play. His mother knows if it were not for his sisters needs he would have been long gone. Laura must pickup on some of this, she is so sensitive she must sense Toms feeling of being trapped. Tom dreams of going away to learn of the world, Laura is aware of this and she is frightened of what may become of them if he were to leave.
Laura feels she will never find someone that will take care of her. This is very upsetting because it is obvious that it is very important to everyone in the family.
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While with Jim, Laura began to come out of her shell. Jim made her feel comfortable and accepted her as she was. This man she had always carried in her heart had suddenly become a reality. Unlike the lives of her brother and mother, she was now living in the present. She shares her inner most secrets about the glass unicorn and what it means to her. Jim is quiet as she talks of her collection. She talks about how this is her favorite piece because it is unlike all the other horses in the collection. Jim remarks "must feel sort of lonesome" it being the only horse in the collection with a horn. Laura remarks "Well, he doesn't complain about it. He stays on the shelf with some horses that don't have horns and all of them seem to get along nicely together." This is the reason that Laura loves this piece, she can relate that it is unlike all the other horses. Just as she is unlike all other girls. This comment seems very strange coming from Laura - it is almost humorous. Humorous remarks are not consistent with her character. It is at this point that Laura makes a temporary change. Jim makes her feel so comfortable, he asks her to dance and even gives her a kiss. His intentions are to give her confidence and help her.
Instead of helping Laura by building her confidence, Jim only builds up her false hopes. In the end, Laura's confidence is destroyed when she learns that Jim is engaged to be married. Immediately Laura retreats back into the fantasy world of the glass menagerie. Her heart is broken like the horn or her tiny unicorn. She gives Jim the unicorn because she knows that it, like her, will never be the same as before he came into her life.
In the beginning Laura seemed normal enough, going to business school and practicing her typing and shorthand at home. Then the plot unfolds and it becomes apparent she is not normal at all. Unable to even take a typing test without getting so emotional that she gets sick. She then retreats not to her home but the streets where she wonders day after day hiding her failure in business school from her mother. Until she gets sick with a cold and has to stay home. Her wondering took her to a museum and the birdhouse, and a zoo. All of these places she felt comfortable because she did not have to deal with people. Just the animals and the art work. Allowing her to remain within herself in her own world.
Laura has been surrounded by others that do the same. Each having their own world. Mothers being the teenage years when she was young and popular. As if this is what makes a person real being popular and pretty. Toms world being one of a writer. Living for the future and running from the burdens in his past. Wishing to live the adventures he saw in the movies. And even Jim when in there presence falls back in to his past when he was a talented singer and athlete. So how could Laura be any different. She being the weakest of all the personalities in the play. So much a victim the circumstances she was surrounded by.