|Copied below is a good example of
a well-written research paper. This paper was written by a
student in an ENG 1002 class in the summer of 2000. Of course,
the paper, including the "Works Cited" page, was
originally double spaced.
Tennessee Williams’ play The
Glass Menagerie gives readers a look into a truly dysfunctional
family. At first it could
seem as if their lives are anything but normal, but Amanda’s
“impulse to preserve her single-parent family seems as familiar as the
morning newspaper” (Presley 53).
The Wingfields are a typical family just struggling to get by.
Their problems, however, stem from their inability to effectively
communicate with each other. Instead
of talking out their differences, they resort to desperate acts.
The desperation that the Wingfields embrace has led them to
create illusions in their minds and in turn become deceptive.
Amanda, Tom, and Laura are caught up in a web of desperation,
denial, and deception, and it is this entrapment that prevents them, as
it would any family, from living productive and emotionally fulfilling
Wingfield’s life has not ended up as she would have wished.
She states, “I wasn’t prepared for what the future brought
me” (Williams 720). According
to Delma E. Presley, “If Amanda appears desperate, she certainly has a
legitimate reason” (37). First
of all, she has a daughter, Laura, that is dependent upon her for
everything. She is afraid
that Laura will end up a “little birdlike [woman] without any
nest—eating the crust of humility” for the rest of her life
(Williams 700). She also has a son, Tom, who goes to the movies almost
every night, or so he says. Amanda
knows that the “movies don’t let out at two A.M.” (Williams 703).
When he finally does come home, Tom is “stumbling” and
“muttering to [himself] like a maniac” (Williams 703).
Amanda desperately fears that he is beginning to take after his
father’s ways. She is
caring for “a fragile menagerie composed of two children” (Presley
desperation of her situation leads her to become controlling, and she
takes this control to the extreme.
Amanda constantly bombards Tom with commands in almost every
scene. She begins her
direction by reminding Tom how to eat properly.
First he is pushing the food wrong and then he is chewing
improperly. After they
manage to finish supper, she then criticizes him for smoking.
Things continue on like this throughout the entire play.
She decides to return his books to the library because she
believes that they are “filth.”
Tom cannot do anything right in the eyes of his mother.
She even tells him how to comb his hair.
Amanda also directs her daughter.
She sends Laura to Business College and then decides to find her
a man. Amanda tries to
decide all of the directions in which Laura’s life turns.
Because of her desperation for her children to succeed, Amanda
turns into a dictator. She
“manipulates her children’s lives through an almost constant barrage
of criticism and guilt” (Jolemore).
desperation leads her to deny reality.
This coping strategy is called a defense mechanism.
Ego-defense mechanisms are defined as a “type of reaction
designed to maintain an individual’s feelings of adequacy and worth
rather than to cope directly with the stress situation” (Carson,
Butcher G-6). Amanda
utilizes these self-defense tools in order to deal with her anxieties
and also the reality of day-to-day life. If an individual uses these mechanisms excessively, they will
become unable to face reality and do not solve their problems (Keltner,
Schwecke, and Bostrom 30). Amanda
“cannot see things as they really are; she can only see what she
wants” (Jolemore). When
talking to Tom about Laura, Amanda questions, “In what way is she
peculiar-may I ask?” (Williams 713).
Amanda will not admit that Laura is different from other girls
despite the fact that Laura “lives in a world of little glass
ornaments” and “plays old phonograph records and–that’s about
all” (Williams 713-714). Amanda
is obviously living a world of self-made illusions.
Amanda believes that Laura’s “difference is all to her
advantage,” but Laura’s self-isolation is hardly a characteristic
for a mother to be proud of (Williams 713).
Amanda also entertains the fantasy that her crippled daughter is
going to have gentlemen callers knocking down her door.
She repeatedly orders Laura to “stay fresh and pretty-for
gentlemen callers” (Williams 696).
According to Presley, “Laura’s role, as Amanda fantasizes it,
is that of the southern belle” (35).
In Laura’s twenty-six years she has never had a gentleman
caller, but Amanda is so delusional she believes only a flood or a
tornado could keep them from coming.
Every time one of her children mentions Laura’s disability,
Amanda quickly snaps back. She
says things like “. . . you’re not crippled, you just have a little
defect . . .” and “don’t say crippled—you know I never allow
that word to be used” (Williams 701, 713).
It seems as if the only person that does not face the reality of
Laura’s deformity is her mother.
Laura acknowledges it several times as does Tom.
Love can make a person blind, but when Amanda says that “it’s
rare for a girl as sweet an’ pretty as Laura to be domestic,” she is
only denying reality (Williams 720).
While living in a world of
desperation and illusions, Amanda becomes deceptive and also is
subjected to deception. It
seems as if Amanda is the character who “seems to reap the bitter
consequences of deception” more than any of the other characters in
the play (Presley 39). According
to Presley, “the critical deception originated with the man she agreed
to marry long ago” (39). Amanda
fell in love with a telephone man who in turn fell in love with long
distances (Williams 720). She
feels that the “innocent look of [Tom’s] father had everyone
fooled” (Williams 713). While
his reason for leaving is not specifically stated, Amanda believes that
it was his love for long distances that drove him from her.
If she pestered her husband half as much as she harasses Tom, the
reason for her husband’s disappearance is more than obvious.
Her children were also deceptive to her.
Tom forms a secret plan of escape and Laura drops out of school.
Not only did other characters deceive Amanda in the play, but she
was also deceptive in her ways. She
spared no expense in trying to deceive Jim, the
caller. She begins
by giving the entire apartment a makeover.
From new curtains to chintz covers on the chairs and sofa, Amanda
went all out. She even
bought a new dress for Laura and helped her put in the “Gay
Deceivers.” These “Gay
Deceivers” were “two powder
puffs which [Amanda] wraps in
handkerchiefs and stuffs in Laura’s
bosom” (Williams 715).
Amanda feels that “all pretty girls are a trap” (Williams
715). She is trying to make
Laura look her absolute best in order to make Jim fall into this trap.
Her deception continues when Jim and Tom arrive home from work.
In order to make Laura appear more capable Amanda states, “You
know that sister is in full charge of supper” (Williams 720).
That statement is a flat out lie.
She also tells Jim that she “never could make a thing but
angle-food cake” (Williams 720).
It seems that once Amanda starts lying, there is no stopping her. When Laura appears obviously ill, Amanda credits the sickness
to “standing over the hot stove” (Williams 721).
If Jim knew of Laura’s horrific fear of social situations, he
probably would not be too impressed.
Amanda is so desperate for Jim to fall in love with Laura, she
will deceive him as much as she can.
Tom, like his
mother, is also entangled in the Wingfield web of despair.
He is desperate to “extricate himself from his coffinlike
existence” (Presley 51). He
is tormented by the constant redirection from his mother and cannot take
it anymore. Tom is “starting to boil inside” (Williams 719).
His problem, though, is his devotion to his sister.
He knows that without his financial support Laura will be in
trouble. He is in the middle of a dilemma.
For a while he tries to satisfy his craving for adventure by
retreating to the movies. After
some time, he only becomes jealous of the actors.
He feels that they are “hogging” and “gobbling” up all of
the adventures (Williams 719). He
realizes that the only way to “escape from [his] trap” is “to act
without pity” (Williams 693). He
loves his sister and does not want her to suffer because of his dreams,
but he cannot stand his life. Tom
decides to leave “home only after a slow painful process” (Fordyce).
Tom also forms
illusions instead of accepting reality.
In several scenes he exits saying, “I’m going to the
movies” (Williams 707). He
uses the movies as his escape from reality.
He feels that “man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, [and] a
fighter” (Williams 707). Tom,
while he is living at home, is not able to be any of these things that
he feels he should be. By
going to the movies, Tom can temporarily live out his fantasies on the
big screen. By the end of the play, Tom becomes “tired of the
movies” and he states that “he is about to move” (Williams 719).
He is living in the illusion that if he can only get away from
his life in St. Louis, he will be able “to make a safari” and “to
be exotic” (Williams 719). What
he does not realize, until it is too late, is that the movies are not
real. He goes to the movies
to try and get some adventure, and he also uses them as a way to get
away from reality. Whenever
things are getting tough at home, he runs off and goes to the big
picture show. Instead of
staying and facing his problems Tom runs.
It is only after he abandons his family that Tom realizes he
cannot rid himself of his memories of the family he fought so hard to
order for Tom to escape from his prison-like existence, he must be
deceptive. Tom is
introduced as “a poet with a job in a warehouse” (Williams 693).
His dreams obviously do not include working in a factory.
He detests his job and would “rather somebody picked up a
crowbar and battered out [his] brains—than go back mornings”
(Williams 703). His escape
seems almost inevitable. He
begins the play by saying, “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have
things up my sleeve” (Williams 695).
It is known from the start that Tom is a deceptive character.
He gets in an enormous argument with his mother, and then he goes
out and gets drunk. When he
stumbles home, Laura meets him at the door.
He is bent down looking for his keys and Laura begins to question
him. Even though the truth
is rather plain to see, Tom starts fabricating a huge story to explain
where he has been. He says
that he has “been at the movies” and that it “was a very long
program” (Williams 704). He
explains that the “big stage show” included “Malvolio the
Magician” (Williams 704). Malvolio
turns water into wine, wine into beer, and finally beer into whisky.
Toms knows he did all this because he gave out souvenirs
(Williams 704). Only
someone as naïve as Laura would believe this fable.
After talking to his mother, Tom learns that his only way out of
his desperate situation is to somehow find a gentleman caller for Laura.
Amanda gives him her permission to leave as soon as he can find
“somebody to take care of [Laura]” (Williams 708). Tom “knew that
Jim and Laura had known each other at Soldan” and he had “heard
Laura speak admiringly of his voice” (Williams 715).
Tom plays matchmaker in his head and decides that Jim would be
someone good to set his sister up with.
When he invites Jim over for dinner, Tom does not mention Laura
or his devious agenda. He
did not want to “let on that [he] had dark ulterior motives”
(Williams 713). If he had
revealed his true plans to Jim, the whole night probably would have
never happened. Jim would
have told Tom that he was already engaged, and that would have been it.
Tom also deceives his mother.
He uses the money for the light bill to pay his dues for the
Merchant Marines. He seems
so sure of his prearrangement of Laura and Jim that he already has his
escape plan ready.
Laura Wingfield is also entrapped in this dismal existence. Her “self-destruction seems inevitable from the opening of
the play” (Reser). Laura
is so desperate to please her mother that she becomes dependent on her
for almost everything. She
is not capable of independently planning for her future or even choosing
her own dates. It is Amanda
that takes the initiative to try and find Laura a husband.
It is also her mother that sends her off every morning to
Rubicam’s Business College. She
even goes to her school and has a parent-teacher conference just like in
grade school. Once Amanda finds out Laura quit school, she decides
Laura’s future should revolve around finding a mate.
Laura sits back and lets her mother run her whole life.
She “apparently is prepared to lead a life of dependency”
(Presley 41). She is content with letting her mother choose what she
will do, when she will do it, and how she will do it.
When Amanda tells her to make a wish on the moon Laura replies,
“What shall I wish for, Mother?” (Williams 714).
She cannot even dream without her mother’s guidance.
Without constant direction Laura would be lost.
Her “low self-esteem” and “lack of any confidence
what-so-ever marks Laura’s descent into the emptiness of her own
soul” (Reser). She is
desperate to just be left alone. She
has an intense fear of being in social situations, especially if she has
to perform. At Rubicam’s
Business College “her hands shook so that she couldn’t hit the right
keys” (Williams 699). During
the speed test, “. . .she broke down completely—was sick at the
stomach and almost had to be carried into the wash room” (Williams
699). If only she could be
left alone with her glass she would be satisfied.
Laura herself states, “My glass collection takes up a good deal
of time” (Williams 727). She
spends most of her time washing and polishing her tiny figurines and her
favorite piece of this collection is the unicorn. The unicorn is “fragile and different” as is Laura
(Presley 42). She
“accepts her lonely isolation and doesn’t complain about it,” just
as her unicorn sits on the shelf and “doesn’t complain” about
being lonesome (Presley 43).
Laura falls into the same trap of illusion that the rest of her
family does. She is unable
to handle her anxiety, so she denies what reality really is.
As we see it, “her existence revolves around her collection of
transparent glass animals, which she can order and control” (Presley
40). She becomes so lost in
her world of glass ornaments that she begins to think that they are
real. She imagines they
have emotions, and she suggests “they all like a change of scenery
once in a while” (Williams 729).
Imagine Laura moving her glass ornaments all around the apartment
just so they can have a “change of scenery.”
Laura uses the Victrola as another way to escape from reality and
her anxiety. She becomes so terrified when it is time to answer the door,
she “darts to the Victrola, winds it frantically and turns it on”
(Williams 717). It gives
her the “strength to move through” the room and answer let her
gentleman caller in (Williams 717).
Her only resource of power is the old record player.
“Laura knows how important illusions can be as one seeks to
cope with pressures of daily living,” and this is why she pleads with
Tom to let her mother repeatedly tell them the stories about Blue
Mountain (Presley 41).
desperation and her self-sustained illusions lead her to be deceptive.
Because she has such an intense fear of being in social
situations, Laura fabricates an elaborate scheme in order to conceal
that she has dropped out of school.
From seven-thirty in the morning until five at night Laura
wanders around town. In
order to pass the time she goes to the art museum, the birdhouses at the
zoo, and she visits the penguins every day.
She also goes to the “Jewel Box,” which is a big glass house
where they grow plants. She
even took the chance of catching pneumonia just to fool her mother.
All she had was a light coat to wear and it was in the middle of
winter. This ploy went on
for almost six weeks. Laura
is so frantic to accommodate to her mother’s desires that being
dishonest was her only option. She
physically could not bear to attend school so there was no other choice.
According to Presley, “although Laura cultivates her illusions,
she attempts no further deception after her mother discovers the truth
about her short tenure at Rubicam’s Business College” (41).
Because of their lack of effective communication and their denial
of reality, the Wingfield family falls apart.
Amanda’s only joy is reminiscing about the past and Tom’s
delight comes from his anticipation of his great escape.
Laura’s life revolves around small glass pieces and an old
Victrola. These characters
do not experience the true joy that comes from a loving and respecting
family. They isolate
themselves from each other by forming illusions in their own minds.
By acting so selfishly, this family fails to thrive and
eventually it falls apart. Tom
descends “the steps of [the] fire escape for a last time” and
follows “from then on, in [his] father’s footsteps” (Williams
734). He too falls in love
with long distances. Amanda
only considers her point of view and Tom runs away from his problems.
Had they only taken time to consider each other’s feelings and
talk respectfully to each other, the play may have had a much happier
Carson, Robert C. and
James N. Butcher. The
World of Abnormal Psychology
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New York: Harper Collins, 1992.
“Tennessee William’s Tom Wingfield and Georg Kaiser’s
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1998): 250-272. ProQuest.
Jacobs Library, Oglesby, IL.
11 July 2000.
“Lecture Notes and Study Guide Questions for Tennessee
Old Dominion University.
2000. 29 June 2000. <http://courses.lib.odu.edu/engl/njolemor>.
Keltner, Norman L.,
Lee Hilyard Schwecke, and Carol E. Bostrom.
3rd ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 1999.
Presley, Delma E.
An American Memory. Boston:
Twayne Publishers, 1990.
“A Touch of Glass.” 29
June 2000. <http://www.filmspot.com/
The Glass Menagerie.
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Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 1999. 693-734.