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The Glass Menagerie | Discussion Questions 41 - 50

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What is the parallel suggested by Tennessee Williams's juxtaposing a rainstorm and Laura's near fainting episode in Scene 6 of The Glass Menagerie?

Both the premature blackness of night that follows an evening rainstorm and the darkness that overcomes Laura when she almost faints represent the uncertainties and obstacles in the Wingfields' future. The Wingfields are heading for a family tempest as a result of Tom's using the electric bill money to guarantee his future, as he virtually shuts off power at home to guarantee his escape. The storm outside parallels Laura's onset of anxiety that would scare away potential suitors and Amanda's fears about the "stormy" future. She reveals her worries when she says, "A nice cool rain has come up," but she contradicts her calm words by aiming a panicky look at Jim.

What does the electricity being shut off foreshadow about Amanda's plan for this gentleman caller and her daughter in Scene 7 of The Glass Menagerie?

When the electricity is shut off, Amanda sees her perfectly planned evening for Laura and Jim fade with the lightbulbs' glow. She feels sure Jim will attempt to excuse himself and rush down the fire escape stairs as quickly as social correctness allows. To try to save the situation she turns up her charm, lights the tapers in the candelabrum, entertains Jim with the story of how she freed it from the ashes of the burned down Church of the Heavenly Rest, and then tells him to go into the living room to visit with Laura. Because Amanda is a woman who can devise a backup strategy at the flick of a switch, she immediately turns a failed dinner into a possible romantic encounter.

How has Amanda's disapproving attitude and behavior toward Tom escalated from insinuation throughout Scene 7 of The Glass Menagerie to assertion?

From the opening dialogue, Amanda has criticized Tom's table manners, smoking, reading material, and choices for evening entertainment. She has suggested he is putting his job in danger by going to work hungover. In Scene 7 her behavior escalates as she criticizes him in front of Jim by calling him untrustworthy and careless and then stating, "There's such a high price to pay for negligence in the world!" After Jim leaves she accuses her son of playing her for a fool by bringing Jim, a man with a fiancée, as a possible suitor for Laura. She calls him a liar when he says he never knew Jim was engaged. Exasperated with her demands and accusations, Tom announces he is going to the movies. Not a woman to back down when she is mistaken, she deliberately calls him selfish instead of implying it, and adds he is a "selfish dreamer." Tom has had enough and storms out of the apartment—not to the movies, but to his future.

In Scene 7 of The Glass Menagerie why is Jim able to talk with Laura candidly about her attractiveness, strengths, and need for confidence whereas Amanda and Tom are not?

Jim is able to talk openly with Laura because he sees her objectively. He is not emotionally involved with her, nor has he witnessed her extreme shyness and interactions with her glass menagerie. In his eyes she has a sort of beauty that is magnified by her distinctive personality, like delicate and exotic blue roses would if they were real. As an outsider Jim does not perceive her as Amanda and Tom do. Because they are with her every day, they notice only the qualities they expect her to reveal, the ones that they long ago forced on her with their judgments. To them her quirks are too peculiar to be socially acceptable, and her leg is a major detriment—something to hide, not the "hardly noticeable little physical defect" Jim sees. Her mother and brother are blinded by how her damaged leg sets her apart from the norm. Their negative reactions to it have eroded her confidence to the point that she is too frightened to try to interact with people, or more importantly, to like herself. To them her leg has always overshadowed all of her other qualities and has caused them to condescendingly accept her quirkiness because she is their "fragile Laura." They have never stepped outside of their preconceived notions and looked at her with fresh eyes. Jim is able to do this and has enjoyed her quiet humor and playful imagination about her figurines. He sees the glass animals not as Laura's reality but as, perhaps, a hobby, in the way a more worldly person might see it. Laura can relax and share with Jim, even to the point of telling him about the unicorn. Because he lives in the present time, with hope and ambition for the future, he can speak to Laura as "an emissary from a world of reality," as Tom describes him in Scene 1.

In Scene 7 of The Glass Menagerie how does the glass unicorn represent Laura?

Both Laura and the unicorn are unique figures within their settings. The unicorn is extinct, or mythical, and no longer (or never did) live in the world. Laura, too, because of her disability and introversion cannot function in contemporary reality. The unicorn's horn distinguishes him from the other animals, and Laura's disability isolates her. When Jim accidentally breaks the horn, Laura is, surprisingly, undisturbed. She thinks the animal's uniqueness is gone and he will be like the other horses: a part of the group. The feelings projected onto the unicorn reflect Laura's, or those the audience believes. In the few moments she dances with Jim, she feels part of the world; she has a momentary hope that she can belong: that she is like the unicorn, has had an operation of some sort, and is no longer "different." Of course such feelings are short-lived; as the unicorn goes back to the shelf, injured rather than normalized, so Laura, injured, returns to what she was before.

In The Glass Menagerie if Laura loves the unicorn's uniqueness as she claims, what has prohibited her from similarly accepting her own uniqueness?

Laura loves her glass unicorn's physical feature because it makes him as unique as her leg makes her. She is not alone with him, as she was with her peers in school, or judged as she feels with her mother and brother. It is noteworthy that the unicorn is 13 because that means she acquired him when she was 10, an age when children start to truly understand which of their traits are accepted by society and which are rejected. When he fell to the floor and broke his horn during Jim's visit, she describes him as "less—freakish," and says that now "he will feel more at home with the other horses." She is voicing the same sentiments that she feels about herself. Just as this accident is, in her words, "a blessing in disguise," so is Jim's acceptance of her differences. His approval of her quirks allows her to appreciate her individuality. She shows him that she has taken his advice to heart when her mother wishes their guest "luck, happiness and success," and she agrees with a heartfelt, "Yes!"

What does Jim mean in Scene 7 of The Glass Menagerie when he says, "I'm not made out of glass"?

Jim is telling Laura he is tough, not fragile like her glass animals; he won't break if she steps on his foot, disagrees with his advice, or finds his personality deficient in some way. Most important, he is assuring her that his acceptance of her is not shattered by her slight defect. He finds her an attractive young woman with whom he wants to dance, not a disabled person to avoid or to treat differently from anyone else. In his first monologue leading into Scene 1, Tom says that Jim is "the long delayed but always expected something that we live for." Even though he is engaged and Laura will not see him again, he has recognized her worth to herself and to society. However, it is doubtful that Laura, unlike the broken unicorn, will see herself as the same as others; rather, she will be as she was before but now even a bit more broken.

Why are Jim's rambling monologues about public speaking and his goals in Scene 7 more realistic than Amanda's remembrances of her southern debutante days in The Glass Menagerie?

Jim's monologues are realistic because he builds up his positive traits and mentions his weaknesses equally. He is not afraid to admit that his self-esteem needed a boost, which it got when he "took up public speaking, developed my voice and learned that I had an aptitude for science." Although at times he comes across as egotistical, such as when he says, "I was beleaguered by females in those days," he offers this comment with happy humbleness. Also Jim continually builds up Laura's confidence with sincere support and doesn't offer it for return compliments. He tells her she has "magnified" the importance of her leg "thousands of times by imagination" and earnestly explains she is as refreshingly rare as "blue roses," when most other people are nothing but "weeds." Furthermore, his monologues are grounded in realistic assessments of the past, present, and future. His ambition is palpable and practical. In contrast Amanda's repeated stories of her 17 gentlemen callers—all from wealthy and prominent families—drip with braggadocio and superiority. Amanda must always be the center of attention, and her stories serve no purpose other than self-glorification. Her ambitions are unrealistic and desperate, with no clear path other than survival.

How is Tom's decision to leave an act of both courage and cowardice in Scene 7 of The Glass Menagerie?

Tom's abandonment of his mother and Laura is part cowardice he cannot evade and also part courage. He is courageous in joining a branch of the military, which eventually may involve him in a war that he senses is in the near future. However, when he is talking with Jim before dinner he mentions he is "The bastard son of a bastard." He acknowledges his father was a phony charmer who wasn't strong enough to accept his responsibilities as a husband and father, and Tom considers himself the same kind of son and brother. While it takes strength to admit such weakness, he does force his family to pay an enormous price when, like his father before him, he simply leaves.

In Scene 7 of The Glass Menagerie what does Tom mean when he says from the future, "Blow out your candles, Laura," and in the apartment, she does?

By begging her to "Blow out your candles, Laura," Tom is asking her for forgiveness. Instead of "escaping the coffin without removing a nail" and achieving happiness, as he says in Scene 4, Tom's life has been plagued with guilt during the years since he walked down the fire escape steps of the St. Louis apartment for the last time. The nails are his metaphor for Amanda and Laura, and he wanted to feel no remorse for leaving them behind when he escaped the "coffin" of his job, his mother's persistent demands, and his sister's needs. In his last monologue as the narrator, he never mentions Amanda, but he speaks of his inability to forget Laura. The sight of a glass bottle, displaying the same rainbow effect as the scarf he gave her, or a few music notes from one of their father's records that she played so often, evokes her memory along with his guilt. His future has not given him the freedom he imagined. Williams offers a powerful dramatic effect by having Laura blow out the candles simultaneously with Tom's plea. During her brother's speech, the stage directions mention that Laura smiles when her mother leaves the sofa after comforting her. With her smile Laura is showing that she has forgiven her brother. The guilt that Tom has carried with him is his burden. It has never been Laura's.

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