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The Glass Menagerie Research Papers

The Glass Menagerie presents an excellent topic for research papers because it was written during a time when the American Dream was failing in America. The play represents may aspects of society, psychology and literary genius because of its focus on the American Dream. You can have a writer from Paper Masters custom write a research paper on any aspect of Tennessee Williams' play.

The Glass Menagerie was written in a time (late 1930’s) in which American middle class citizens were searching for answers as to why the devastation of the depression era was destroying the American Dream of the industrial era. Tennessee Williams was often criticized for his use of the stage as a public staging for what he viewed the problems of the world and his own person problems to be. The Glass Menagerie vividly portrays the lack of hope in and male/female relationships that is undertaken by a blurring of the lines between illusion and reality for the characters of his play.

The Glass Menagerie has been accused by critics of being a sexist play because of Amanda’s, the mother in the story, deep desire for her daughter to have a man in order to insure her happiness. This is also indicative of the era in which William’s wrote the play, an era in which women had not fully received their independence and the Victorian notion of Nancy Tischler points out, “The mother, Amanda Winfield is trying to hold the family together and to steer her children into more practical paths than those she followed herself, for she is a disillusioned romantic turned evangelical realist”. Therefore, Amanda lives in a world of illusion in which she desires for her children the romance she found in her home in Blue Mountain, where she met Laura’s father. In reality, the romance in her life ended when she met Laura’s father and he turned out not to be the symbol of patriarchy that Amanda wished for Laura to find. In fact, Amanda’s denial of reality goes so far as to not even acknowledge that her husband abandoned her family long ago. Symbolism of her denial is the picture of him on the wall, still looming over the family as if he existed in their life beyond their illusions. You can outline a research paper on how The Glass Menagerie, symbolizes the lives of Tom, Laura and Amanda in Tennessee Williams’ play in the following way:

     I. A brief description of the menagerie.
          A.  What it is.
          B.  What it stands for.

     II. How the menagerie symbolizes the lives of the
         characters.
          A. Tom
          B. Amanda
          C. Laura

     III. Conclusion                   

 

"In an old-fashioned what-not in the living room are seen scores of transparent glass animals." Such is our introduction to the title object in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. But of what significance is a collection of glass animals in a play about the lives of three people? Picture, if you will, a glass cabinet comprised of four glass walls, and a velvet covered shelf.  Consider the inhabitants of the cabinet- a collection of tiny, delicate, glass animals. As long as they remain in their proper places inside the cabinet, they are safe from the harm of the world outside. It is a fact that left behind the glass, they will never change, they will never grow, but they are safe and will remain beautiful. As it happens, from time to time a person will come along, open the case and remove one of them. In doing so, they become exposed to all the potential joy and sorrow that the world has to offer. In the right hands they will be enjoyed for their beauty, celebrated and then carefully returned to the case. In careless hands, they stand to be dropped, even broken and in some way altered forever. Now imagine that you were one of those animals. You have a choice. You can remain behind the glass, safe, secure and content. But because the walls of the case are transparent you are privy to all the wonders of the world outside. How long could you stand behind glass and watch the world breeze past you? Of course, leaving the glass requires the help of others. Would you trust your well-being in the hands of just anyone? Perhaps you had at one time left the safety of the glass only to be hurt and mishandled. Would you dare venture out again?

We are all born behind that glass. We all face those decisions everyday. Amanda, Laura and Tom, they too are behind that glass, and to each of them the world outside represents a very different thing.

For Tom, the confinement of the glass case follows him wherever he goes.  Whether he is at home with his mother and sister, or working his loathsome job at the warehouse to support them, Tom is trapped in a world he despises, or as he puts it, "stuck in a 2 x 4 situation". He feels an intense reflex to leave but knows that if he does he will be forever likened to the father that left them all behind. He daydreams his life away in his poetry and in the darkness of the movie house until he can secure his freedom by finding his sister a husband and freeing himself of his mother’s detailed instructions and lofty expectations. Eventually he frees himself from the glass but Tom comes to realize that the key to freedom does not always lie in flight. He learns that one cannot always "find in motion what was lost in space".

Amanda, the mother, has been on both sides of the glass. There was once a time, in her youth, when she was removed from the glass and handled beautifully by hordes of gentlemen callers, a time when she felt safe and could discuss with them "things of importance going on in the world" without ever being exposed to the consequence of those "things". Then, one day she was removed from the case by what would be her future husband. Over the course of their time together she was mishandled, damaged and eventually abandoned. As a result, Amanda has been frozen in that lost period of her innocence. Hers is a fantasy world of a time long past, a world of "gracious living", "gentleman callers" where her dresses don’t go out of style and the countryside is "lacy with dogwood, literally flooded with jonquils". It is a world that she will be stuck in until her own daughter, Laura, can vicariously repair the damage by finding a perfect world of her own.

But Laura, alas, is not her mother and never will be. She is a painfully shy and physically disabled girl who has been abandoned by her father and saddled with expectations from her mother that she cannot fulfill. She lives inside her own menagerie as one of her animals. It is a pleasant enough world, colorful and safe and the victrola provides a soothing soundtrack to relieve the monotony. But her world is much like a "piece of translucent glass touched by light, given a momentary radiance, not actual, not lasting". Laura knows that there is more to life, but her mother’s constant warnings of life’s dangers, and her refusal to acknowledge Laura’s disability only prompt Laura to believe that she is better off behind the glass, away from the rejection and disappointment that she has had tastes of outside. Laura herself is made of glass, and as she tells Jim, "Glass is something you have to take good care of".  When the unicorn’s horn is broken while she is dancing with Jim, Laura realizes that to enjoy the pleasures of life you must, for better or worse, put yourself in the hands of the world. And should you lose your horn in the process, it might just be a "blessing in disguise".

I believe that we are all fragile creatures in a world full of "Stumble-johns". Sometimes it seems easier to stay on the shelf, behind the glass where we are safe from harm.  But in the end, if we don’t allow ourselves to be bumped and bruised from time to time, we will never come to know the true joys of living.

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