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TERM PAPER IDEAS AND OTHER TOPICS FOR WRITING
• CHARACTER STUDIES
1. What gives Tom the sense that he's in a "two-by-four" situation?
2. What are the apparent causes of Laura's removal from reality? What are the probable hidden causes?
3. If Tom were to write home after he leaves, what would he say to Amanda? To Laura?
4. If the play were in the memory of a character other than Tom, how would the play be different?
5. Who is the hero of the play? What evidence can you offer to support your opinion?
6. What are Amanda's strengths and failings as a mother?
• SYMBOLISM IN THE PLAY
1. Are the symbols for each character appropriate?
2. How do the play's symbols relate to its themes?
3. Compare and contrast symbolism in The Glass Menagerie with that in A Streetcar Named Desire.
• THE PLAY AND ITS MEANINGS
1. How do the unconventional, anti-realistic production techniques contribute to the play's meanings?
2. In which ways does "memory" contribute to the mood of the play?
3. Is the ending of the play optimistic or pessimistic? Explain.
4. Discuss whether Tom's predicament is common or extraordinary.
5. What are the uses of illusion in everyday life? Do the play's characters use illusions in an unusual way?
6. To what degree is the play autobiographical?
ON SYMBOLISM IN THE GLASS MENAGERIE
Roger B. Stein thinks that Williams wanted his play to be more than a social and personal tragedy. To suggest the story's deeper meaning, he crowded The Glass Menagerie with Christian symbols.
Amanda, who condemns instinct and urges Tom to think in terms of the mind and spirit, as "Christian adults" do, is often characterized in Christian terms. Her music... is "Ave Maria." As a girl, she could only cook angel food cake. She urges Laura, "Possess your soul in patience," and then speaks of her dress for the dinner scene as "resurrected" from a trunk. Her constant refrain to Tom is "Rise an' Shine," and she sells subscriptions to her friends by waking them early in the morning and then sympathizing with them as "Christian martyrs."
...In a very small sense both Amanda and Laura are searching for a Savior who will come to help them, to save them, to give their drab lives meaning.
"The Glass Menagerie Revisited: Catastrophe without Violence," 1964
ON THE USE OF TIME IN THE GLASS MENAGERIE
The lives of the characters are touched by the past, present, and future. But as critic Frank Durham points out, time is used in a poetic way, too:
Tom stands with us in the immediate present.... But through his consciousness we are carried back in time to his life in the drab apartment before his escape.... Within this train of memory there are two types of time, the generalized and the specific, and through the use of these two we are given a deeper insight into the lives and relationships of the Wingfields. The first scene in the apartment, the dinner scene, is an example of generalized time. It is not any one particular dinner but a kind of abstraction of all the dinners shared by the trio in their life of entrapment....
"Tennessee Williams, Theater Poet in Prose," 1971