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Published: 05-11-2019

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A look at a deadbeat father in The Glass Menagerie

In the play ‘The Glass Menagerie’ the audience is presented with 3 obvious principal characters. Every of these characters, Tom, Laura and Amanda, has strong claims to the title of protagonist, but what hangs over the play is the spectre of the Wingfields’ absent father. It could be argued that his departure was the catalyst for the events of the play, affecting each the monetary security and physiological properly getting of all the family members.

The Wingfields’ father is pointed out at the starting of the play, in Tom’s opening monologue. Tom describes their father and a small about his escape from the family. Right after describing him as “a telephone man who fell in enjoy with long distances” (p14) and a mysterious postcard that he sent to the loved ones saying “hello – goodbye” he states “I feel the rest of the play will clarify itself.” This indicates, correct from the commence, that the absence of the father has a fantastic influence on the family members. He is referred to in practically every single scene, maintains a visual presence on stage at all times (in the type of the picture) and is described after once more in Tom’s closing monologue. Tom’s opening and closing comments frame the action of the play, underpinning his importance to the audience as a primary character.



The iconography that represents the father in the play serves as a continual reminder of his absence to the reader, but much more importantly to the characters themselves. The most important piece of imagery on the set is the picture of the father which stays on the mantelpiece, facing the audience throughout the play. It is described in the stage instructions as (the face of) “a very handsome young man in a doughboys 1st Globe War cap. He is gallantly smiling, ineluctably smiling as if to say ‘I will be smiling forever’” and whilst the interior of the house is described as dim, the fathers portrait is bathed in light. The picture of the smiling father resembles the past for the Wingfield household – simultaneously representing a time of previous happiness, whilst also becoming a constant reminder of the family’s disappointment and feelings of abandonment. The fact that he is smiling and bathed in light represents a happier time to the family, and the truth that they hold it on show suggests that they could nonetheless have illusions that he may well come back or that they feel that they must pretend that he is still there with them smiling. This image represents anything additional for Tom – it represents his future how he will leave the household in a related fashion to his father, virtually ascending to take his location. As the play is told in retrospective way, The image is a constant reminder to Tom of his future that may have been distinct.

An additional reminder of the father’s presence is the victrola music player that he left behind. The victrola is the sanctuary that Laura retreats to when nervous or stressed, For instance in scene two, although she is getting chastised by her mother she ‘crosses to the victrola and winds it up.’ Her mother inquiries her on this and she remarks ‘Oh!’ and then ’returns to her seat.’ The use of the surprised sound and the stage directions following this recommend that it was a reflex action to move to the victrola. The victrola is a symbol to Laura, a connexion with her father the fact that she retreats to it instinctively at challenging instances shows that she nonetheless feels, or hopes to really feel the protection of her father, reminding the reader once again of his presence in the residence. Amanda still wears a bath robe that he left behind, possibly displaying her inability to accept his disappearance. These icons represent the presence of the father in the lives of the loved ones, and shows that he is nevertheless very significantly an integral portion of their lives.

The importance of the father as a character manifests itself in the effects of his actions on the loved ones as a unit, as nicely as on the individual members of the loved ones. In the time that this play is set, pre Second Planet War and post Wall Street crash numerous families in America went via a period of financial hardship – and with no social safety at this point in time it is intimated that the absence of a paternal breadwinner puts a wonderful monetary strain on the household. This is shown through Tom’s discontent in his job and how hard he operates (in reference to the rent) “…who makes a slave of himself…” (p29) and Amanda’s desperate attempts to earn additional cash selling subscriptions to the “Companion” magazine, utilizing unsubtle sales techniques such as “you just couldn’t go out if you hadn’t read it” (p28.) As effectively as generating income, each Amanda and Tom vie to take the spot of the paternal figure.

Amanda takes it upon herself to be the mother and father figure in the family members, the provider of sympathy, and the authoritarian, while Tom takes it upon himself to be an independent adult and the primary funds earner to support the loved ones. This conflict of roles and perception of what is necessary in the predicament eventually causes conflict and is a widespread phenomenon in single parenthood, as properly as becoming a key feature of domestic tragedy – presenting the family members as somewhat dysfunctional.

An example of this dysfunction is that Amanda tries to curb Toms (perceived) excessive drinking and smoking: “Promise, Son, you’ll never ever be a drunkard” and “you smoke also much”, this tends to bring a reaction of anger or humour from Tom, as he feels that he is an adult, both reactions serving as a brush off of his mothers wishes. It could also suggest that Tom feels he has to grow to be an adult prematurely. The capitalization of the word son in this extract indicates that Amanda is forcefully reasserting her position as the adult and parent of the family, and when Tom replies in the damaging Williams capitalizes his use of the word mother, displaying that he accepts, or pretends to accept this. This conflict within the Wingfield family unit is standard of Modern day Domestic tragedy presenting the family as somehow corrupt or tense equally it presents Tom and Amanda manoeuvring for handle, another key function of domestic tragedy.

Laura also tries to fill the void left by the father within the household. She presents the calmer side of a paternal figure attempting to preserve the peace in the household and trying to alleviate her mother’s and brother’s needs “Mother, let me clear the table.” Her humble attitude is symptomatic of her crippling insecurity, brought on primarily by her disability, but also added to by the absence of her father – as stated Laura retreats to the victrola, the symbol of her father, in occasions of anxiety. Tom and Amanda mention the Wingfield father figure on several occasions, utilizing him to reinforce their arguments. “One point you’re father had plenty of – was charm!” Laura does not mention him once, suggesting that she has been the most impacted by his loss, implying that she is in denial. This shows the extent of the damage that his actions have triggered on the family.

The impact of the father’s departure on Tom is diverse from the effect that it has on Laura and Amanda. Rather than a point of sorrow or hardship for him, it becomes a point of aspiration all through the book Tom harbours an rising wish to comply with in his father’s footsteps and leave the household. “I’m a bastard son of a bastard!” exclaims Tom, implying that his urge to escape his scenario is merely a following what his father has predestined for him. This mirroring of his father’s actions would obviously not be possible if his father had not taken the actions that he did.

The notion that the father has predetermined the fate of the Wingfield family is a sturdy indicator of his place as a primary character. Williams’ has offered the play this really feel in numerous approaches, for instance the retrospective way that Tom narrates the story offers it a sense of immovability – you could engage with the characters and want them to make distinct decisions, but there is no chance of this as it has all currently occurred. This adds to the tragic effect of the play and, the way that Tom talking about his father as if it have been his fault shows him to be a key character “…he skipped the light great out of town” the use of the word skipped in this instance implies sarcasm or anger – employing a word typically associated with exciting to describe a life altering occurrence.

As a whole, the father’s ‘escape, or ‘abandonment of the household has detrimental effects and is the catalyst that sets the events of the play in motion. This is typical of domestic tragedy in many techniques, displaying the disintegration of the family – triggered by elements of the past impinging on the present. As the fathers actions, coupled with the turbulent financial scenario of the time, figure out the plot which in the end leads to the family’s downfall and a tragic ending, it is surely fair to say that the father is the primary character in the play.
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