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Understanding Character & The Glass Menagerie

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1 Understanding Character & The Glass Menagerie
Week 3 段馨君 副教授 國立交通大學 人文社會學系

2 Understanding Character
Representing reality Mimetic action Who does what and to whom under specific circumstances Plot reveals character The Glass Menagerie, the conflicts is between two generations in an inhospitable world

3 Portraits Characters are traditionally defined by their physical characteristics, speech and dress In modern plays, a character’s appearance is usually described in stage directions that establish physical characteristics

4 Common Humanity Around the middle of the 18th century, changes in social and ethical considerations caused philosophers and writers to look upon human beings—a common humanity—with greater sympathy than had been true of their ancestors. The Origin of Species, Darwin The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud

5 Modern Dissolution Declare that a long history of artistic achievement had come to an end Hamletmachine, Heiner Müller In the mainstream of writing from the Greeks to moderns, dramatic character has been portrayed as a whole, recognizable persona.

6 The Glass Menagerie

7 Playwright-Tennessee Williams
acclaimed as the new Eugene O’Neill preeminent American playwright, adding at least five major plays to the modern repertoire

8 Introduction Written in 1944 Originally titled The Gentleman Caller
Seven scenes Comprised of the oppressed, the fragile, and the needful About human desperation and courage a memory

9 The Glass Menagerie author  · Tennessee Williams (born Thomas Lanier Williams III) type of work  · Play genre  · Tragedy; family drama language  · English time and place written  ·  1941–1943; a number of American cities, including New York, St. Louis, and Los Angeles date of first publication  ·  1945 publisher  · Random House narrator  · Tom Wingfield

10 The Glass Menagerie point of view  · Tom both narrates and participates in the play. The older Tom remembers his youth and then becomes a younger Tom who participates in the action as scenes from his youth play out. The point of view of the older Tom is reflective, and he warns us that his memory distorts the past. The younger Tom is impulsive and angry. The action sometimes consists of events that Tom does not witness; at these points, the play goes beyond simply describing events from Tom’s own memory.

11 The Glass Menagerie tone · Tragic; sarcastic; bleak
tense  · The play uses both the present and past tenses. The older Tom speaks in the past tense about his recollections, and the younger Tom takes part in a play that occurs in the present tense. setting (time)  · Tom, from an indefinite point in the future, remembers the winter and spring of 1937. setting (place) · An apartment in St. Louis protagonist  · Tom Wingfield

12 The Glass Menagerie major conflict  · In their own ways, each of the Wingfields struggles against the hopelessness that threatens their lives. Tom’s fear of working in a dead-end job for decades drives him to work hard creating poetry, which he finds more fulfilling. Amanda’s disappointment at the fading of her glory motivates her attempts to make her daughter, Laura, more popular and social. Laura’s extreme fear of seeing Jim O’Connor reveals her underlying concern about her physical appearance and about her inability to integrate herself successfully into society.

13 The Characters Amanda Wingfield, a woman abandoned by her husband some 15 years ago, trying to raise her children under harsh financial conditions. Her devotion to her children has made her, she admits at one point, a "witch," and she longs for the kind of Old South gentility and comforts which she remembers from her youth for her children. Once a Southern belle, she still clings to whatever powers vivacity and charm can muster. Laura Wingfield, Amanda's daughter. She is slightly crippled and has an extra-sensitive mental condition. Tom Wingfield, Amanda's son. He works in a warehouse but aspires to be a writer. He feels both obligated toward yet burdened by his family.

14 The Characters Jim O'Connor, a workmate of Tom's (a shipping clerk) and acquaintance of Laura's from high school, he is also the physical representation of all Laura's desires and all Amanda's desires for her daughter. He is invited over to the Wingfield's house for dinner with the intent of being Laura's first gentleman caller. He seems like a dream come true for the Wingfields.

15 Plot rising action  · After Laura admits to leaving a business course that would have allowed her to get a job, (show the next slide for film clips) her mother, Amanda, decides that Laura must get married; Tom tells Amanda that he is going to bring Jim O’Connor to dinner; Amanda prepares extensively, hoping that Jim will become Laura’s suitor.

16 Film-DVD Director: Anthony Harvey Leading actor: Katharine Hepburn
Year: 1973 Showing Part: Laura’s mother asks Laura why she skipped classes From 08:20 to 18:00

17 Film-DVD Director: Anthony Harvey Leading actor: Katharine Hepburn
Year: 1973 Showing Part: Tom tells his mother that he invited a guest to home From 44:20 to 52:08

18 Plot climax  · Each character’s struggle comes to a climax at different points. Tom’s decision not to pay the electric bill and to use the money instead to leave his family in search of adventure reveals his initial, decisive break from his family struggles. When Jim breaks the horn from Laura’s glass unicorn and announces that he is engaged, the possibility that he will help her overcome her self-doubt and shyness is also destroyed. When Amanda discovers that Jim is engaged, she loses her hope that Laura will attain the popularity and social standing that Amanda herself has lost.

19 Plot falling action  · Laura gives Jim the broken unicorn as a souvenir; Jim leaves the house to pick up his girlfriend; Amanda accuses Tom of not having revealed that Jim was engaged. Addressing the audience, Tom explains that not long after that incident he left his family but was never able to emotionally leave Laura behind —in his later travels, he frequently felt a connection to her.

20 Plot overview The Glass Menagerie is a memory play,
and its action is drawn from the memories of the narrator, Tom Wingfield. Tom is a character in the play, which is set in St. Louis in 1937. He is an aspiring poet who toils in a shoe warehouse to support his mother, Amanda, and sister, Laura. Mr. Wingfield, Tom and Laura’s father, ran off years ago and, except for one postcard, has not been heard from since.

21 Plot overview Tom chafes under the banality and boredom of everyday life and spends much of his spare time watching movies in cheap cinemas at all hours of the night. Amanda is obsessed with finding a suitor for Laura, who spends most of her time with her collection of little glass animals. Tom eventually brings a nice boy named Jim home for dinner at the insistence of his mother, who hopes Jim will be the long-awaited suitor for Laura. Laura realizes that Jim is the man she loved in high school and has thought of ever since.

22 Film-DVD Director: Anthony Harvey Leading actor: Katharine Hepburn
Year: 1973 Showing Part: Laura dresses up From 53:17 to 55:52

23 Plot overview When Amanda learns that Jim was engaged she assumes Tom knew and lashes out at him: ("That's right, now that you've had us make such fools of ourselves. The effort, the preparations, all the expense! The new floor lamp, the rug, the clothes for Laura! all for what? To entertain some other girl's fiancé! Go to the movies, go! Don't think about us, a mother deserted, an unmarried sister who's crippled and has no job! Don't let anything interfere with your selfish pleasure. Just go, go, go - to the movies !")

24 Plot overview At play's end, as Tom speaks, it becomes clear that Tom left home soon afterward and never returned. In Tom's final speech, as he watches his mother comforting Laura long ago, he bids farewell: "Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger - anything that can blow your candles out! [LAURA bends over the candles.]- for nowadays the world is lit by lightning ! Blow out your candles, Laura - and so good-bye." Laura blows the candles out as the play ends.

25 Plot overview After a long evening in which Jim and Laura are left alone by candlelight in the living room, waiting for electricity to be restored, Jim reveals that he is already engaged to be married, and he leaves. During their long scene together, Jim and Laura have shared a quiet dance, and he accidentally brushes against the glass menagerie, knocking the glass unicorn to the floor and breaking its horn off. ("Now it's just like the other horses," Laura says).

26 Film-clips Director: L.S. Graye Leading actor: Shari Graye Year: 2010
Showing Part: Jim broke the glasses From 04:07 to 06:20

27 Scene one The Wingfield apartment Hive-like conglomerations
Symptomatic Faces an alley and is entered by a fire escape Memory and nonrealistic

28 Scene seven The new floor lamp with its shade of rose-colored silk gives a soft, becoming light to her face, bringing out the fragile, unearthly prettiness which usually escapes attention

29 Themes The subjects and themes of the play are weighty and somewhat timeless: failures of capitalism, failures of the family structure, failures of fathers (perhaps even God), broken promises, individual failure and reconciliation. The Glass Menagerie is about tough decisions people make for themselves that affect others and adversely themselves.

30 Motifs and Symbols motifs · Abandonment; the words and images on the screen; music symbols  · Laura’s glass menagerie; the glass unicorn; “Blue Roses”; the fire escape foreshadowing  · Tom’s departure is foreshadowed by his frequent retreats to the fire escape and the image of a sailing vessel on the screen; the music from the Paradise Dance Hall across the street foreshadows Laura and Jim’s dancing; Jim’s breaking of the unicorn foreshadows his breaking of her heart.

31 Production Notes Presented with unusual freedom of convention
Expressionism Photographic in art

32 Production Notes (Playwright’s)
The Screen Device: There is only one important difference between the original and the acting version of the play --omission in the latter of the device that I tentatively included in my original script. The Music: a single recurring tune is used The Lighting: not realistic, dim

33 Critics’ Notebook A version of lonely human beings who are isolated from others and society, fail to make contact. Social irony emerges

34 Reference Interview with director Michael Bloom and scenes from The Glass Menagerie, at The Cleveland Play House Sept 12 - Oct 5,   From Oasis Theater Ensemble's January 2008 production of The Glass Menagerie. Cast: Jim Hawkins, Joe Hawkins, Sarah Rudolph, Tanya Tranberg, Joe Pfelz.

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