Theme of Memory in Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”

Subject: Literature
Pages: 2
Words: 608
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College

The Glass Menagerie is a memory play written by Tennessee Williams and set in St. Louis in 1937, whose actions are based on the narrator’s memories, Tom Wingfield. Tom is a protagonist and a narrator who presents the analysis of past events directly to the audience, and he takes part in the play’s actions to demonstrate the recollections of his experience. The play consists of various themes that help build the story and portray its meaning effectively to the audience, including memory, family duty, individual aspiration, escapism, and gender roles. Themes are vital elements in any literal work that allows readers to connect themselves with the narrative. Themes provide literal work’s meaning, flow, and background of the play presenting the author’s observation of the critical facts about humankind. The theme of memory is dominant in The Glass Menagerie, which has been used in different ways to demonstrate emotions, means of escape and unhappiness, and nostalgia.

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In the play, the theme of memory is used as an emotional lens to provide the audience with knowledge to know the lives and behaviors of the characters through Tom’s memories. Memories change with time, which may alter the way things are done, influenced by the emotional responses of an individual. Tom portrays Laura’s fragility in a manner that cannot be argued as true or false since memories are subject to time, place, emotions, and an individual’s perception of past events. At the beginning of Scene 1, Tom says, “The scene is memory and is therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart. The interior is therefore rather dim and poetic (Williams 1).” Therefore, the narrator informs the audience that events in the play can be exaggerated or altered to convey the intended meaning, entertain, communicate cultural knowledge, and express emotions and personal circumstances.

The theme of memory is used to escape unhappiness in The Glass Menagerie, where the present characters’ lives are affected by memories. In the play, the memory becomes a hindrance to Amanda’s current circumstances, plagued by the near-perfect past youth events that remind him of the differences between the two different time zones (Bhawar 2168). The narrator is embittered by his father’s abandonment, which affects the present life of adventure, new places, excitement, and new experiences. Tom is haunted by the memories of working at the warehouse and living at home, restricted from the life he always wanted, which brings guilt and unhappiness.

The past affectionate feeling is demonstrated in the play and its ending, which presents an inevitable presence of nostalgia, and the ability to shape people’s lives. Memories trigger people’s emotions, which can highly affect how things are presently performed (Bhawar 2167). At the end of scene seven, Tom reveals that memories of Laura still haunt him even though he left her behind.

People’s past events cannot be destroyed as memories are a powerful tool to shape an individual’s present life. In the play, the character’s actions are shaped by the past events of Tom’s memories, but their alteration is clear evidence that the feelings brought together with memories can be changed. People can decide to feel differently concerning a particular memory, and from this, they can choose to build their story, enduring progress, and happiness.

Work cited

Bhawar, Pradnya. “Conflict Between Reality and Illusion in Tennessee Williams’ Play The Glass Menagerie”. International Journal of English Literature and Social Sciences, vol. 5, no. 6, 2020, pp. 2166-2170. AI Publications.

Williams, Tennessee. The glass menagerie. New Directions Publishing, 2011. 1-116. Web.

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