Following on from Maura Kennedy’s appreciation of Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines last week, today we hear from Ben Salmon who has been doing work experience with us this week – we let him take a break from scrubbing the floors and making tea to share his thoughts on Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.
‘Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.’
The mention of ‘glass’ in the title of Tennessee Williams’ 1944 memory play, set in the Deep South, is a supreme example of a hauntingly vivid use of imagery to communicate the pure essence of a piece of literature, and to take the reader on a discovery of a character’s existence.
The character Laura possesses a collection of glass, which symbolises her state of intricate delicateness in an environment of a consuming and overwhelming world which is almost dictated by the over-caring nature of her mother, Amanda, and conveys the mental aggravation she experiences, fairly and honestly inflicted by her brother and the play’s narrator, Tom. I find that the production notes and stage directions perfectly resemble Laura’s character of self-loss and despair – it is impossible to read the descriptions of her emotions and not picture a touching vision of this character, struggling so much that the reader will feel immense sorrow and empathy for her situation and life.
The play’s background and context relates to Williams’ early life as a young adult in St Louis, and it is clear that a certain extent of the play is autobiographical, enriching the particular persona of the character of Tom. In addition, Laura bares resemblance to Williams’ sister, who underwent a lobotomy due to a diagnosed disability. Once again, the traits of Williams’ experiences ring true in the play’s exploration of the human condition and are hugely responsible for the transition of developing intense human emotion, when exploring the realms of general experiences of Southern life.