‘The Glass Menagerie’ by Tom Wingfield

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Tom Wingfield’s ‘The Glass Menagerie’ is a memory plan in which his decisions are taken from his previous feelings. Tom is the main character who claims to be a young author who is now working in a shoe factory to support his mother and sister. The topics explored in the play, as well as the motifs and images employed, are so distinct that ‘The Glass Menagerie’ was one of the most frequently performed plays by professional American theater companies prior to 1990, outside Shakespeare’s works (Teachout 59). Throughout their lives, people are frequently looking for fulfillment. Similarly, in ‘The Glass Menagerie,’ Tom and other characters have brought out the aspect of self-fulfillment, and it is widely supported by the symbols and motifs used throughout the play.

Self-Fulfillment in the Play

Tom is seeking adventure as a means for self-fulfillment (Fordyce 14). Tom dislikes his job at the warehouse, and he often finds relief in movies, liquor, and literature. Moreover, his career does not allow him to follow his passion for poetry. At the end of the play, he reveals that he was fired for writing a poem on a shoebox lid. When Tom invites Jim for dinner, he opens up to him and tells him that he used the money meant for paying the electricity bill to join the merchant marine (Fordyce 12). Tom feels that if he leaves his family and hence the job he does not like, he might get something that will make him think that he has fulfilled his purpose. Tom eventually leaves his family, and he travels for a long time in pursuit of something he cannot seem to identify. He also states that he keeps thinking about his sister Laura and even feels that she is always by his side. When Tom concludes by saying that he has realized that he is more faithful to his sister than he intended to be, he is showing that he might have found some sort of self-fulfillment at last (Teachout 60). When he is traveling to a place he cannot seem to identify, he suddenly realizes that what makes him most fulfilled in life is his sister.

The title of the play mirrors the world that Laura uses to seek for self-fulfillment. Laura has obsessed herself with a collection of small glass animals that she spends time polishing, and this keeps her from the real world (Fordyce 18). During one of the arguments between Tom and their mother, Amanda, Tom accidentally breaks some of the glass animals that Laura treasures dearly. Tom feels guilty because he knows that Amanda finds her fulfillment in those animals. Moreover, during Jim’s visit to their house, he also breaks one unicorn accidentally. When Laura finds out that she cannot be together with Jim who was her crush in high school, she offers the broken unicorn as a souvenir (Williams 108). It is clear that Laura has found her fulfillment in the glass menageries and that is why besides taking great care of them, she offers one of them to the person she had loved so much in her life. The symbolic title has been supported throughout the play primarily by Laura’s way of seeking self-fulfillment.

Amanda is seeking for self-fulfillment by ensuring that her children are thriving. Amanda enrolls Laura into a business college with the hope that she will eventually get a business career and get a good fortune for herself and even the whole family. When Amanda discovers that Laura has quit school due to shyness and that she spends her time roaming through the city, she purposes to find a good man who can eventually marry her daughter. Amanda even starts selling magazine subscriptions hoping that she earns some extra money to attract good suitors for Laura (Williams 15). Amanda goes to the extent of requesting Tom to help her in identifying a suitable suitor for Laura at the warehouse. Amanda is also committed to the success of Tom, and she even feels sorrowful sometimes because he is not a budding businessman. It is clear that Amanda will only feel fulfilled when her children become as successful as she envisions. She is extremely involved in their lives because she is confident that her life will have found fulfillment when her children become prosperous.

Mr. Wingfield abandoned his family to seek for self-fulfillment. Tom states that his father ran off many years ago and that they had never heard from him since then except for one postcard. Mr. Wingfield gave up his job as a telephone man to travel long distances. In fact, Tom says that his father skipped the light fantastic out of town (Williams 2). Mr. Wingfield was also looking for self-fulfillment, and that is why he was willing to abandon all the familiar things which included his family and job. The silence from their father may be an indication that he found out something that fulfills his desires and that is why he has never bothered to check them or even to provide his family with his new address.


The play has effectively brought out the aspect of fulfillment in the lives of the four characters, and this excellently mirrors what happens in the lives of individuals. Just like Teachout puts it, the play has achieved the primary purpose of art which is demonstrating human behavior to its readers, in all its proliferating, fundamental and complexity aspects (Teachout 62). The four characters have identified hobbies and even engaged in different activities in pursuit of their fulfillment. People in the modern day also portray similar behavior. The symbolic nature of the title also informs the theme of self-fulfillment to a great extent.

Works Cited

Fordyce, William. “Tennessee William’s Tom Wingfield and George Kaiser’s Cashier: A Contextual Comparison.” Papers on Language and Literature 34.3 (2007): 117-250. Web.

Teachout, Terry. “The Irrelevant Masterpiece.” Commentary 129.6 (2010): 59. Web.

Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. 1944. Print.

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