Character Analysis of Tom Wingfield
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams offers a host of characters that we come to realize were plagued with inner demons caused by the circumstances that fell upon them whilst they least expected it, losing one’s center of life is something that no one wants to come across. Through the characters of the play, Williams offer all of those elements just mentioned along with the side effects that were never taken into consideration that came alongside with the rise of the machine we now know to rule the corporate world.
One of the main cast members of the play the glass menagerie is Tom Wingfield, son to Amanda Wingfield and brother to Laura Wingfield. Throughout the majority of the play, we are made sure to comprehend most of the characters emotions, some being of denial and others of discontent. While all there of the characters face profoundly serious issues that are indeed worth a trip to the psychologist today the subject of analysis is the character of the son and brother Tom Wingfield.
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A unique aspect to the character of Tom is that he is the one that offers the narration of the play. He is the individual that is reminiscing about the entire play and the events that took place, hence the play itself is part of the past. That too offers us an insight that tom perhaps took the same route as his father. From the start of the play we see that the family is not a functional one, we are introduced with them and there is a lack of a norm that would come to be the norm in the later years. The man of the house is absent from the house, however the same cannot be said about the minds of the children. Tom, in particular is infatuated with the fact that his father has, in fact, left them all, many times throughout the play it is seen that Tom reflects on this life and how it was in the past when their father was around. Even seeing that time as a prosperous and thriving time for his family. When we are introduced to Tom all we see is an individual that is constantly in an unhappy mood, often times trying to avoid any contact or spending time with his family as much as possible.
“Amanda: But, why-why, Tom—are you always so restless? Where do you go to, nights? Tom: I—go to the movies. Amanda: Why do you go to the movies so much, Tom? Tom: I go to the movies because—I like adventure. Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies. Amanda: But, Tom, you go to the movies entirely too much! TOM: I like a lot of adventure” (Williams).
As we progress in the play it becomes evident that going to the movies is a sort of release that Tom has for all his pent up discontent, his financial background was of a stable one when they lived as a complete family. Now, with his father out of the picture we see that all of that responsibility is on the shoulders of Tom and he is not thrilled, not even the slightest (Crandell, 1998).
“Tom: But the wonder fullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without removing one nail. . . . There is a trick that would come in handy for me—get me out of this two-by-four situation! . . . You know it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?” (Williams)
The lines relay his desires to escape from his life that he feels is as stagnant as one inside a coffin. Tom has had big dreams of adventure and becoming someone that is known for their literary genius, with that being said, such an individual working in a factory for minimum wage is nothing short of torture for them. The lines are said in admiration as well as jealousy as the man knows a trick that seemingly offers a solution to the metaphorical hell he is stuck in. As far as the relationships go it would not be an outrageous assumption that Tom is not the best of either a son or a brother, while people that have read the play know that none of the characters are what one would consider as shining examples of their respective family ties, there is still one character that there might be a soft spot for by both the audience as well as Tom. In that regard, it can be said that Tom is a better brother than he is a son however that bar is not set that high.
“Tom: Yesterday you confiscated my books! You had the nerve to – Amanda: I took that horrible novel back to the library- yes! That hideous book by that insane Mr. Lawrence. [Tom laughs wildly.] I cannot control the output of diseased minds or people who cater to them – [Tom laughs still more wildly.] BUT I WON’T ALLOW SUCH FILTHBROUGHT INTO MY HOUSE! NO, no, no, no, no! Tom: House, house! Who pays rent on it, who makes a slave of himself to – Amanda [fairly screeching]: Don’t you DARE to…” (Williams)
It can be seen that due to the over dominating nature of Amanda, as well as Tom, being the free-spirited kind the two never get along, he distances himself from Laura for the very same reason. The two siblings are basically two sides of the same coin, both say the mental detrition of their mother as he was left by their father. Where one of them, Tom, chose to blame the mother for the actions of the father due to lack of understanding of the fathers motives as well as seeing as the father is the hero and role model of the male child, the other, Laura, saw the pain suffered by her mother and made it her duty to keep her happy no matter the cause, even if it means losing her free will and adhering to the needs of a woman that might be not all there in the head. And thus it is clear as to why the end of the play was as such, as the then young and ambitious Tom came to terms with the first conclusion shallow conclusion he could muster with the limited understanding of the relationship that his mother had with his father. Conclusion The character of Tom is a case of misguided anger and self-proclaimed fats about affairs that one has no ideas about.
An issue like marriage and separation are not things that the kids can understand without giving their parents a fair shot and without thinking about the hardships that the two partners had to face which they had no control over either in causing nor in reliving. However, such observation takes a mature mind and patience, while Tom had the mental capacity to eventually understand the reality but it was his mother’s constant imposition that leads him astray. If anything Tom projected his feelings on to his father due to the constant nagging and controlling tendencies of his mother.
- Crandell, George W. “The Cinematic Eye in Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie.”
- The Tennessee Williams Annual Review 1.11 (1998). Williams, Tennessee. The glass menagerie. New Directions Publishing, 2011.