“The Glass Menagerie” is a memory play written by Tennessee Williams in 1944. The play is based on Williams’ short story “Portrait of a Girl in Glass” that was written earlier. “The Glass Menagerie” tells the story of Wingfield’s family that consists of a mother – Amanda Wingfield, a son – Tom Wingfield, and a daughter - Laura Wingfield. As Tom and Laura’s father has abandoned the family many years ago, Tom got used to be a breadwinner for his sister and mother. Mrs. Wingfield is obsessed with finding a suitor for Laura. The young woman usually spends most of her time with her glass menagerie, a collection of glass animals that are as fragile and beautiful as Laura herself. The play “The Glass Menagerie”raises such conflicts as family duty and freedom, responsibility and need to live one’s own life, and so on. Tennessee Williams shows a complicated soul of a young woman Laura Wingfield, who fears to open her heart, to love and not to be loved back and to change her life to prevent unpredicted developments. All the conflicts and problems raised by Tennessee Williams in his memory play “The Glass Menagerie”are still of vital importance nowadays.
Laura Wingfield was growing up without father. Her mother, Amanda Wingfield, raised her daughter with excessive care. She protected her from hard work trying to make Laura look fresh and relaxed. However, Laura’s mother could not absolutely isolate her daughter from the outer world. Amanda had great expectations about Laura’s education and marriage, but the young woman could hardly justify her mother’s ideals. Without education or getting married Laura could always be dependent on her family. All these unrealized expectations make Laura feel unworthy and guilty. However, she does nothing to change her life because of her fears.
Laura is afraid to face the outer world. Thus, she runs from the terrifying reality into her world of glass and old phonograph records. Laura admires cold perfect beauty of her glass collection. She would like to be as perfect as it is. Laura polishes her collection every day. It shows that she is very careful, thoughtful and responsible. The glass menagerie will never leave or abuse her and that is the reason why Laura loves her collection so much. She has to take care of it very carefully as all the figures of the glass animals are so small and fragile, that it seems that even the noise from the outside can cause the damages to the glass menagerie.
Laura is as fragile as her glass menagerie. She is afflicted with lameness that has been caused by her childhood illness. Thus, she has a huge complex that complicates her life. As Laura is oversensitive, she thinks that everyone notices her physical defect. However, in fact, nobody pays attention to Laura’s limp. Actually, Laura is special not because of her hardly noticeable defect, but because she is special as a personality. Her beauty, behavior and interests are odd and that is why they are interesting. However, Laura’s frightened mind puts her in a cage and only other people could help her to liberate herself.
Appearance of Jim, Laura’s school love, influenced the young woman very much and took her out of the cage for a few moments. Jim’s charm even made Laura open her heart. At the beginning of their conversation, Laura, as usual, was too shy and could hardly speak. However, as the conversation was going on, she started to talk, laugh and forgot about restraint. This proves that all Laura’s complexes and inner oppression were created artificially by herself. In fact, Laura is open-minded, fun and very interesting young woman. She would better not hesitate herself.
Laura is also ashamed of her body. At first, this problem appears when her mother wears her in a new beautiful dress and makes her look like a lady before coming of the suitor. Further, this problem appears when Jim offers Laura to dance with him. Laura’s restraint is resulted from the lack of self-confidence that exaggerates her imperfection.
The fact that Laura asks Jim to take the damaged imperfect unicorn as a gift also tells a lot of Laura. She wants him to remember her and that it is not good to burst into one’s world if his purposes are not clear. However, if Laura was not intended for this, it is an evidence of her impracticability, because presenting broken or damaged things is tactlessly.
The play “The Glass Menagerie” is also characterized by symbolism that helps to understand Laura’s character better. The collection of glass animals symbolizes the nature of its owner, Laura Wingfield. The figures of glass are as fragile, beautiful, clear and unprotected as she. The unicorn is a prototype of Laura and her unique inner world. The fact that Jim breaks only a horn of the unicorn, but not its whole figure, is also symbolic. The damages caused by Jim are not incredibly huge as they do not mean that Laura’s life is over. The unicorn’s horn, as well as Laura’s broken heart can be fixed and treated.Blue Roses, Jim’s nickname for Laura, is symbolic as well. It expresses her character. Blue roses cannot live outside the greenhouse and are completely dependent on people as they are created and treated by them.
However, Laura Wingfield is stronger than blue roses. At the moment when Jim is going to leave, Laura is not crying. She is holding on, showing her restraint and ability to move on despite all problems. Jim has already changed Laura, and her life will never be the same. Moreover, this situation has hardened Laura. Probably, this will help her in the future.
The paly “The Glass Menagerie” raises eternal conflicts. Tennessee Williams shows common human’s fear, hopes and dreams through the characters of this play. Laura Wingfield was a unique young lady caught in a cage of her own mind. Tennessee Williams tries to make the readers live their own lives, not be afraid of their future, other people and the outer world. The author uses Laura Wingfield’s character as a good example. Tennessee Williams also claims that love stimulates people to move and change.