Tennessee Williams Essay, Research Paper
Thomas (Tennessee) Lanier Williams born March 26, 1911 in Columbus,
Mississippi. The second of three kids. His father a shoe salesman and his mother the
daughter of a preacher. Williams lived a family life of turmoil. His family often
engaged in violent arguments during his youth. Williams got his first taste of fame in
1929 when he took third place in a national essay contest. Williams started college at
the University of Missouri until his father forced him to quit and go to work for his
father?s shoe factory. Later Williams returned to college in 1937 and where he
resumed the writing of plays.
Williams had two of his plays, Candles to the Sun and The Fugitive Kind,
produced by Mummers of St. Louis, and in 1938. Williams graduated from the
University of Iowa. Williams then went to Chicago in search of work, failing, he then
moved to New Orleans and changed his name from Tom to Tennessee which was the
state of his father’s birth. In 1939, the young playwright received a $1,000
Rockefeller Grant. In 1944, what many consider to be his best play, The Glass
Menagerie, had a very successful run in Chicago, and a year later worked its way onto
Broadway. People think that Williams used his own family relationships as plots for
The Glass Menagerie won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best
play of the season. Williams followed up his first major critical success with several
other Broadway hits including such plays as A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and
Smoke, A Rose Tattoo, and Camino Real. He received his first Pulitzer Prize in 1948
for A Streetcar Named Desire, and reached an even larger world-wide audience in
1950 and 1951 when The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire were made
into major motion pictures. Later plays which were also made into motion pictures
include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof , which he earned a second Pulitzer Prize in 1955.
Williams struggled with depression throughout most of his life. For much of
his life, he battled addictions to prescription drugs and alcohol. February 24, 1983,
Tennessee Williams choked to death on a bottle cap at his New York City residence
at the Hotel Elysee. He is buried in St. Louis, Missouri.
Williams play, The Glass Menagerie, is about the Wingfeild family, the
mother Amanda and here two children Tom and Laura. Amanda has a life that is
centered around finding a gentleman friend for her daughter Laura, a husband. Tom
works in a shoe warehouse. Laura is crippled, she has one leg shorter than the other
and lives a very insecure life and is afraid people will make fun of her. Laura has a
collection of glass figures that she uses for an escape from reality, and also listens to
the phonograph. Laura quit college and didn?t tell her mother for weeks because she
was afraid that her mother would be upset, which she was. Laura went as far as to
walk around St. Louis for eight hours a day, rather than admit to her mother she
dropped out of Business College.
Amanda criticizes Tom from everything from eating to how to wear his hair.
Tom?s mother constantly is nagging at him to ask a gentleman caller to visit from the
warehouse he works. Tom finally agrees to bring home a gentleman caller. Jim, the
gentleman caller, is a man who went to high school with both Tom and Laura. Laura
had a crush on Jim long ago because he was nice to her back in high school. When
Jim comes calling, Amanda is very persistent that Laura answers the door. Laura is
very insecure with herself and doesn?t want to go to the door, Laura pleads with her
mother not to make her answer the door. At first Laura is still shy and gets sick
before dinner, but later on her and Jim actually get to visiting some. They talk about
when Jim called Laura Blue Roses back in high school. Jim listens to Laura?s
memories of him from high school and uses those memories to give Laura the feeling
that he thinks she needs. Even though Laura is still a bit uneasy about the evening,
Jim does begin to help her to build up her confidence about herself a little bit. When
the horn breaks off of the unicorn while Jim and Laura are dancing, Laura picks it up
and says ?Its just like all the others now?. Jim explains that just because a thing or
person looks a little different that it doesn?t mean that every one actually sees it.
Laura ends up giving the glass unicorn to Jim. Laura is feeling more confident about
herself, because before the unicorn was her most valued piece of glass because it was
different from all the others, and in this way reminded her of herself.
Jim tells Amanda and Laura that he is engaged to be married. Amanda seems
to be more upset about the news of the engagement than Laura. She blames Tom for
setting up a sick joke. Amanda calls Tom a selfish traitor, as always, Tom gets the
blame for everything from his mother. Tom finally walks down the fire escape for the
last time, to follow in his fathers footsteps.
Each character in this play uses something to ease the pains of their lives.
Amanda uses her children, or lives her life through them. Amanda maybe wanted the
gentleman caller more for herself more than for Laura. As she realizes that her
husband had left her long ago and needed to have a man in her life to fill an empty
Tom uses the movies for his escape from his mother and the dreaded life his
mother puts him through all the time. Amanda always blamed Tom for everything
that seemed to go wrong. Amanda wanted Tom to feel guilty for having his own
dreams of his own life. Tom was made to feel responsible for Laura and was told
that he couldn?t leave until his sister had found a man and had a secure life of her
own. Laura, with her glass collection , and her phonograph lived in a world of her
own. She would hold and look through the glass unicorn rather than face the real
world, she lived in a world of fantasy. Amanda?s husband, only just an image on the
wall in the background evidently did escape into the world to be who he wanted to
The entire play ?The Glass Menagerie? was about people and how they
dreamed. Each person with a different dream of their own, just as our own lives,
looking for that great escape and running with it at the right time.
The play brought out every type of feeling a person could have. The hatred
that Amanda seemed to pass out. Pity, because Laura was crippled and was so
withdrawn because of it. The feeling of courage when Tom stood up to his mother
and told her how he felt. Suspense when we knew a gentleman caller was about to
arrive, who was he, what was he like? Disappointment and disgust when Laura
seemed to like Jim and felt comfortable around him and then to find out that he was
engaged. Hope, that Tom could escape his mothers madness and that Laura would
find a man so it would free Tom of the responsibilities his mother had put upon him.