Glass Menagerie": The Importance of Socialization

Tennessee Williams has a reputation for innovation and the power to be profoundly poignant. "The Glass Menagerie" is a play that is based on several revisions of short stories and somewhat based on his life. This is a family play and a play that is composed of a series of memories. The narrator and protagonist is Tom Wingfield. The story is of a certain period in his family's history. The characters are Tom, his sister Laura, his mother, Amanda, Mr. Wingfield who walked out on the family, and somewhat of a mysterious character, a friend of Tom's from high school, Jim O'Connor. As with all of Williams' pieces of work, there are many themes and symbols running rampant throughout the play, to make the audience think and be engaged. The play is mostly melancholy with few tender moments of beauty. The paper will perform a literary analysis focusing specifically of themes of (un)healthy social tendencies. All of the characters are people that have been damaged and challenged by life; the play is in some ways a meditation upon how important healthy methods of socialization are critical to a happy and healthy life.

In nearly every one of Williams' most notable and famous works, there is a significant to moderate focus upon people (characters) that have some kind of social impediment. Each one of the characters in "The Glass Menagerie" has a problem that impedes him/her from socializing in a healthy or normative way and interferes directly with that character's success and/or happiness. Laura Wingfield is the most obvious example of lack of social skills, social intelligence, and lack of healthy socialization. She is additionally the most outwardly troubled of all the characters. Amanda is significantly introverted. She has no friends, besides her brother Tom, who tries very hard to be there for her as a brother and a friend, but her lack of self-confidence is a tremendous hurdle for her, Tom, and her mother. The play was written nearly seventy years ago, and at that time, the type of disorder she suffers from would be worded differently in the 21st century. Laura, if she had lived today, would likely be diagnosed as clinically depressed. Her sadness is so apparent and spread to others like a communicable disease. Only Jim is able to see through her sadness, and in a way, diagnose her:

You know what I judge to be the trouble with you?

Inferiority complex. Know what that is? That's what they call it when someone low-rates himself! ?I understand it because I had it, too. Although my caw was not so aggravated as yours seems to be. I had it until I took up public speaking, developed my voice, and learned that I had an aptitude for science. Before that time I never thought of myself as being outstanding in any way whatsoever ?Now I've never made a regular study of it, but I have a friend who says I can analyse people better than doctors that make a profession of it. I don't claim that to be necessarily true, but I can sure guess a person's psychology, Laura… (Scene VII,-Page 31)

Jim specifically uses the word "psychology" when describing what he thinks Laura's problem is. He tells her in this same scene (VII) that she should not be so self-conscious and that she also needs to consider that every person has problems of a personal nature, and perhaps with that knowledge, she could not feel so alone and so bad about herself. Laura's low self-esteem, low self-confidence, inferiority complex, depression, and perhaps agoraphobia, completely hinder her from making friends, socializing with her family members in a healthy way, and ultimately marrying a good man. Laura, like Tom, does not truly occupy the real world, but spends more time and has greater preference to live in her fantasy world, which is most directly symbolized by her collection: the glass menagerie.

Amanda Wingfield essentially becomes a single parent after her husband abandons her and the children. A single woman with children was a symbol of being a social outcast during the 1940s and for decades afterward, until enough women were in that position where…