Classic Pieces of Literature The Writer Explores Term Paper

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classic pieces of literature. The writer explores the primary texts, and secondary sources to develop a critical analysis of the characters and their dysfunction and how escapism is used in both situations. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and The Sound and the Fury are compared and contrasted while at the same time being individually analyzed for the purpose of exploring dysfunction, escapism and how it affects the family dynamic. The writer details several examples of each from each story and discusses why they are important to the story development and plot analysis. In the end the paper concludes that escapism for the purpose of these two stories is a product of the family dysfunction.

There were 15 sources used to complete this paper.


America seems enamored with the word "dysfunctional." Comedians make fun of the commonality that dysfunctional people and families have. People spend countless dollars each year on therapy trying to get past the dysfunction they were raised in and shelves in the book stores are filled with self-help manuals for every type of dysfunction imaginable. While dysfunction is a common word in current society, it was not something easily recognized in the 1940's and 1950's when renowned playwright Tennessee Williams provided the world with The Glass Menagerie. In this play as well as the Sound and the Fury dysfunction is a common theme running through the plots. The dysfunction is deep and long standing enough to become almost a character of its own in the story lines. The characters in the stories interact in such ways that dysfunction is inevitable. The family dynamic is deeply impacted by the dysfunctional family interaction. One of the thing that is caused by the dysfunction, or the dysfunction causes it to happen is escapism. Escapism in the cases of these works is used to illustrate the extreme dysfunction of the family dynamics that are involved with the story.

The family dynamic is negatively impacted in both works of literature by escapism of one or more characters.


Before one can effectively analyze the family dynamic of the Glass Menagerie one must first have an understanding of the story itself. The Glass Menagerie is a story that takes place with very few scene changes. It is concentrated on the Wingfield family and its members. The play was produced for the first time in 1944 when family dynamics and feelings of responsibility were much stronger than they seem to be today. In the play the characters take on what used to be considered traditional family roles which plays into the entire family dynamic and dysfunctional situation.

The Glass Menagerie revolves around the family members of Amanda Wingfield, who was supported by her husband before the play begins. Amanda loves her children, who by the time of the play have all reached young adulthood, but she tends to love and smother them, which after a lifetime of doing contributes to their dysfunction (Williams, 1945).

Tom is Amanda's son and Laura's brother. Tom is forced into the position of supporting the family after his father abandons them. He is angry and resentful as many men would be in the same situation, but he goes to work each day and he does it (Williams, 1945).

Laura is the sister to Tom and daughter to Amanda. Laura is extremely fragile by all intents and purposes. She is protected by her mother and her brother as if she cannot handle the outside world. One of the interesting things to analyze about this character is whether her upbringing made her like this or if she was like this from birth which prompted the protective upbringing that consequently occurred.

Laura is slightly handicapped during an era where handicaps were things to hide and be ashamed of. This adds to the total family dynamic of the Wingfield family in the play (Williams, 1945).

Escapism is obvious in Tom's character. He comes home each night to watch movies of adventure. The movies he watches each night are filled with the type of life he wants to have. The adventures that occur in the movies take Tom to a place in his mind that let him escape from the mundane and trapped existence that he leads. He dreams of escapism to the style of life that he sees on the screen each night, His escape into the movies each night is escapism in and of itself. It provides Tom with an avenue or outlet to use so that he is able to keep going to work each day and performing so that he can support his family.

Another recurring theme of escapism is in the fact that Tom drinks, at times quite heavily. He drinks to escape the mundane and mind numbing existence of his life (Williams, 1945). He works, comes home and works. He wants a different life, but is trapped by the family dynamic of his dad leaving and his sister and mother being unable to take care of themselves without his help and income. The drinking provides escape for him while he is drunk.

In Tom's case the escapism is more mental than physical. He is mentally transported out of his family existence when he watches the movies or gets drunk.

While escapism is obvious in the character of Tom, it is also present in the characters of Amanda and Laura too.

Amanda's character is laced with escapism in the newsletter she runs. Her newsletter allows her to escape emotionally by providing her with the imaginative life she wishes her children could have. While working on the newsletter she can daydream and wish wonderful things for her children without having to face the impossible nature of those dreams at that time.

Laura also displays signs of escapism. She has a glass menagerie of figurines that she coddles, cares for and actually believes care for her in return. Her escapism is so deeply imbedded in her mind that she does not come back to reality like the other two do, and realize it is not possible. Tom knows he is watching movies, and Amanda is aware the newsletter does not reflect the real lives of her children, but Laura, because of her emotional and mental issues is not aware that the menagerie presents an escape for her and is not real.

Laura also uses music as a form of escapism when she listens to her records over and over again. The music allows her to go places in her heart and mind that she never really goes (Williams, 1945).

Out of the three family members, Laura's escapism habits are the most disturbing to the family. They impact the family dynamic the most. Her inability to function in normal society and her desire and insistence on staying in her world of make believe cause severe stress not only for Tom, who sees a future of constant support for his sister, but for their mother who wants nothing more than to have her daughter find a suitable husband and get married.

Tom is prone to outbursts of temper because Laura's escapism drive home to him the fact that there will never be an out for him to live his own life.

"What do you think I'm at? Aren't I supposed to have any patience to reach the end of, Mother?[8] (Williams, 1945) "

While the Glass Menagerie is almost entirely about emotional escapism, there are elements of physical escapism as well. When Laura goes out on the fire escape in scene four, it displays physical escapism and also underscores the family dynamic of dysfunction because her doing so disrupts the entire family.

Later when Tom leaves the family unit to live alone there are escapism themes in that as well. He knows he has the right to a life but his escape is not guilt free.

In scene 4 the prison becomes a coffin when Tom tells Laura about a stage show he saw in which Malvolio the Magician performed "the wonderfullest trick of all": "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!" (45). If he can escape, he plans to live life on his own terms. As he explains to Amanda, "Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse!" Amanda, the outspoken enemy of instinct and adventure, thinks that Tom is simply rationalizing his selfishness: "Self, self, self is all that you ever think of!" (52-53). She returns to this point in her climactic argument with Tom: "Don't let anything interfere with your selfish pleasure (Williams, 1945)!" (114) (Fordyce, 1998) (Williams, 1945).

In the Sound and the Fury the theme of escapism is laced throughout the work. This work is more difficult to understand and interpret than The Glass Menagerie. In TGM it is chronologically…

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