Torn Apart By Memories: Tom Wingfield In The Glass Menagerie

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Torn Apart by Memories: Tom Wingfield in the Glass Menagerie In a sadly perplexed fashion, Tennessee Williams portrays a main character who troubles himself with two possible options: either to take responsibility for his family or to follow his own ambitions and live a more independent life. Being a play performed strictly from Tom's memory (a shady, illusion-filled one, that is), the nature of the Glass Menagerie contributes to the effects of confusion, isolation, and perplexity of Tom's character. Both Tom's internal conflict and the style of the play complement each other in a fashion that allows Williams to illustrate and almost romanticize the meaning of the work as a whole, a meaning that simply informs the audience that life is full of illusions.

Illusion and oddity drive the play. One of Tom's more significant problems in life is that he is a middle aged man living at home with his own mother and sister.

Although Tom's failure to ever leave the home may be perceived as genuine love for Amanda and Laura (somewhat justifiably so), he is trapped more than he wishes to be. Amanda is terribly annoying. Whether constantly referring to her childhood (perhaps a symbolic representation of her own failures), being worried that Tom is an alcoholic, or constantly nagging him about his eating habits, Amanda is a hyperbolized version of a terribly worried mother. Tom has an urge to leave her and the family behind and start up a more exciting lifestyle traveling around the world. Nevertheless, he feels a responsibility "“ which he himself fails to ever completely comprehend the reasons of this responsibility "“ to stay behind with the family until his self-imposed deadline of finding a man for Laura. Accepting this responsibility leads Tom (or at least leaves a general feeling with the audience) that independence and happiness is simply an illusion.

Williams structured the play to revolve around Tom's often twisted memories. Amongst these unreliable memories (everything is questionable because the story is essentially presented from one person's point of view), lie the tribulations and conflicts that Tom must deal with on a daily basis. The annoyances of Amanda result in Tom's urge to leave. Laura's collection of glass dolls and her dream world only annoy Tom further. The memory of his father and the eerie similarities to himself haunt Tom. Somewhat bothered by the prospects of becoming identical to his own father, Tom is reluctant to leave the household. This reluctance is cleverly portrayed through his own memories contributing to the overall tone of the play "“ a tone of instability and eventually hopelessness.

All of these internal conflicts presented in a play that is in its nature internal lead to the feelings of sad perplexity and almost a hopelessness. Williams uses Tom's conflict in the context of the "shady" play structure to provide the feeling that happiness and perhaps even life is an illusion.