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The Glass Menagerie Essay Research Paper OutlineThesis

The Glass Menagerie Essay, Research Paper


Thesis Sentence: Did Tom selfishly abandon his family?

I. Tom’s character

A. Daily life

B. Conflicts with his mother

II. Tom’s job

III. Laura

A. Asks Tom to apologize

B. Mother berating him for his selfishness

IV. Gentleman Caller

A. Tom’s secret

B. Tragic outcome

C. Final argument with his mother

Thesis Sentence: Did Tom selfishly abandon his family?

To understand the question, one must understand the person. Tom Wingfield was an aspiring poet stuck in the trappings of menial society. His life was in a constant rut of working in a warehouse by day and escaping to the movies at night. Tom’s strained relationship with his mother is best exemplified in the first scene as his mother reproaches him to chew his food properly. Tom’s reply is “I haven’t enjoyed one bite of this dinner because of your constant directions on how to eat it.”(1.7) This opening scene of mother-son conflict reappears in the forms of cigarette smoking, library books, going to the movies right up to Tom’s eventual departure in Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.”

Tom is clearly unhappy with his job. After a heated argument about his library books, his mother says “What right have you got to jeopardize your job? Jeopardize the security of us all? How do you think we’d manage if you were-”(3.33) Tom’s angry reply is, “Listen! You think I’m crazy about the warehouse…You think I’m in love with Continental Shoemakers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that celotex interior! With – fluorescent tubes! Look I’d rather somebody picked up a crowbar and battered out my brains – than to go back mornings!” (3.34) As the family’s only constant source of income, Tom is a prisoner to his menial job and is a prisoner of his own dreams of flight.

Laura appears to be the main reason why Tom has stayed with the family for so long. His affinity with his sister is evident is scene four as Laura acts as intermediary between Tom and his mother. Laura asks him to apologize, saying, “Tom, speak to mother this morning. Make up with her, apologize, speak to her!” (4.16) After apologizing, Tom is given the task of finding a gentleman caller for his sister. But not before his mother berates him, saying, “Overcome selfishness! Self, self, self is that all you ever think of!”(4.95) This acts as the catalyst for Tom to get away. With a protector for his sister, he would be free to escape the apartment, his dreary warehouse job and domineering mother.

As Tom brings the gentleman caller home to meet his sister, he is free to divulge his plan for escape. When questioned about his future, he replies, “I’m right at the point of committing myself to a future that doesn’t include the warehouse and Mr. Mendoza or even a night-school course in public speaking.” (6.110) This speech is indicative of his guilt free plans to get away. In order to pay for his merchant seaman fee, Tom uses the money set aside for the light bill, electing to symbolically pay for his own light for the future, saying, “I paid my dues this month, instead of the light bill.” (6.120)

The tragic outcome of the gentleman caller brings Tom’s dreams and aspirations into sharp focus. Tom’s mother assaults him verbally, saying “You live in a dream; you manufacture illusions!” This acts as the last insult that Tom will take. He threatens to leave, saying, “The more you shout about my selfishness to me the quicker I’ll go, and I won’t go to the movies!”(7.320) The play’s last line, uttered by Tom’s mother, is a bitter farewell, “Go, then! Then go to the moon – you selfish dreamer!” (7.321)

For Tom to survive, he had to leave. While the warehouse job was providing food and shelter for his family, it was suffocating him. As the only character of the play not living in his or her nostalgic memory of the past, Tom had to protect his own future by sacrificing his family. Tennessee Williams described Tom’s character in the beginning of the play, saying, “His nature is not remorseless, but to escape from a trap he has to act without pity.” (1406) This did not mean he selfishly abandoned his family. He merely chose to start living for himself.


the glass menagerie, by Tenessee Williams