Underlying themes in The Glass Managerie by Tennessee Williams

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English 3


March 1, 2004


One of the most prominent themes in the Glass Menagerie is that of abandonment by their father. When the father left it had a dramatic effect on the family. Tom began planning his own escape, Amanda slowly began losing her mind and the whole family was thrown into financial dependence on one another. Tom and Laura’s father had more of an impact on the family after he left than when he was living with them. This idea was apparent throughout the story.


The abandonment by the father had a major impact on Tom. When Amanda began bothering Tom he thought that he could just run away, because that’s what his father did. Tom truly longs to escape from his life and leave for good. When he finally tells Amanda this. "I know I seem dreamy, but inside -- well, I\'m boiling! Whenever I pick up a shoe, I shudder a little thinking how short life is and what I am doing! Whatever that means, I know it doesn\'t mean shoes -- except as something to wear on a traveler\'s feet!" (Williams 62). Just like his father he wants to leave everything behind and start a new life. The fact that the father abandoned the family became justification for Tom’s actions. He began to feel that if his father could do that, why shouldn’t he do the same thing?



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When the father left Amanda began developing severe emotional problems. She was no longer able to face reality and retreated into her memories of her youth. At one point in the book Toms says to her, "You don\'t know things anywhere! You live in a dream: you manufacture illusions." (Williams 95) The abandonment by her husband was too much for her to bear; she went into denial and refused to accept the fact that she wasn’t a “catch” anymore. Also, she tried to pretend that the father never existed, even though he was so important to her. Without the father she had nobody to give her emotional support.


Another problem that developed was the issue of economic stability within the family. Without the father around Tom became the provider for the family. Without Tom the family would become impoverished so Tom was forced to stay with them out of guilt. Tom sums up his situation when he says "But the wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without removing one nail. There is a trick that would come in handy for me -- get me out of this two-by-four situation." (Williams 27). What he means is that his life with Amanda and Laura is the coffin and he wishes he had a way out, since he’s trapped in it forever. Amanda and Laura did not contribute to the family’s finances and without a father to be a provider the family surely would have crumbled after Tom abandoned them.


The Glass Menagerie was a big example of the necessity of a father figure during the 1930’s. Back then a one-parent family was almost destined to fail do to the poor state of the economy and the stigma against single parents. If it wasn’t for


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the father leaving, the family would be the same as all the others and the book wouldn’t exist. The book was a look into the lives of some of the less fortunate people of the time period and how they dealt with their problems.