Feminism theory is a diverse collection of several other theories such as social, political movements and moral philosophies. The feminism theory usual revolves around gender and sexuality. Of particular interest here is the gender equality as pertaining to women rights and sexuality particular in areas of political, social, economic and law rights. The theory aims to understand the nature of inequality and pay close interest on how to enhance the same. The advocates of new feminism include Mercedes Gutierrez, Janne H. Matlary and Mary Anne Glendon (pâ€¦â€¦).
Playwrights such as Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams among others have captured some aspects of gender related issues in their works. Most of the universal themes they explore include patriarchy, stereotyping, objectification, sexual objectification, and oppression. In this essay, the focus is on The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. This play demonstrates some gender sensitive issues particular in choice and use of characters, symbols and their hidden meanings, figurative language use among other literary devices.
Feminism theory will focus on how female characters are impacted by male characters, or how their interaction helps us understand women’s position; any sign of a patriarchal society; look for symbols, imagery or other literary elements related to the gender issues.
In the play The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams use both male and female characters which exhibit some forms of gender related issues particular in feminism perspective. Three main characters used in this essay which will help us understand the play from feminism point of view are Amanda Wingfield, Laura Wingfield and Tom Wingfield. Other characters are equally important in development of feminism theory in the play, but will focus on the above.
Amanda Wingfield is the mother of Tom and Mary. A single mother raising her kids through the help of Tom. She is a woman who is stark in past memory of her childhood and upbringing and unable to adapt to the modern world. She is financially unstable unlike in the past and must rely on the support of her son, Tom to support them having been abandoned by the husband. This demonstrates female relying too much on the male in the society to provide for them and the family. Amanda also shows that women are weak and unable to move on and adapt to modern realities, rather they live in world of fantasies and illusion clinging to the good past. Tennessee also portrays women as nagging. This shown when Amanda constantly nags Tom to bring a suitor for Laura (pâ€¦â€¦.).
Amanda believes that only a man can take them out of their painful reality. She nags Tom to bring callers to marry Laura. She believes that a man’s role is to support a woman. This will guarantee her daughter’s future. In patriarch society, women believe that it’s the male who dominate, and therefore it is their responsibility to take them out of it. When this fails to happen, women will withdraw to fantasy and illusion.
Laura Wingfield is the daughter of Amanda and a sister to Tom. She is the center of the play and very important for feminist approach to this play. She has a pure compassion to everyone. Amanda describes her has not selfish and grudging. She is selflessness (pâ€¦â€¦..).
Several symbols in the play allude to Laura. She is better placed to bringing out the elements of feminism in the play. She is portrayed has delicate and fragile just like the glass. To this, Tennessee shows that women are delicate just like objects and can easily break more so where their emotional feelings are involved. Jim calls Laura the “Blue Roses”, to show her unusualness and attractiveness. Roses are attractive yet very delicate flowers. Men refer to women as attractive things and highly delicate (pâ€¦â€¦).
The glass unicorn is Laura’s valuable collection. This shows her unusualness. Jim tells Laura that unicorns are long extinct. Laura too is unfit to live in her present world. The unicorn is short-lived during the dance. Jim kisses Laura and the unicorn breaks and remains without horns. She gives it Jim (scene 7 pâ€¦..). This scene demonstrates the dependency of women especially when their hopes are shattered by their potential suitors. It like Jim destroyed Laura’s life emotionally. Men are capable of shattering women’s dreams.
Laura’s glass menagerie is the most important symbol used in the play. Her collections are delicate, strange and almost out of fashion just like her personality. The glass displays different colors when light is subjected to it. This depends on how you choose to look at it. This portray of women in different views shows that women mean different things to different people depending on how you look at them. The menagerie is colorful which serves as escape route to fantasy. Both Tom and Jim think that Laura is more unusual to the world. To them, Laura can be anything they want her to be. This is how men view women (pâ€¦.scene five).
Tom Wingfield is the most important male figure in the play. Tom is a brother to Laura. Tom will be used to demonstrate the male patriarchal society views on their female counterparts. Tom is a poet and a very difficult character to understand. He is the character whose play is told from his recollections. He sometimes engages the audience directly. Amanda says that he is not a budding businessman. He normally escapes to movies at night. He is the male figure of Wingfield household and responsible for their welfare. He wants to escape this role and eventually does it, but this action haunts him because of the love he has for Laura, Amanda and his job. Women burden men with the roles of taking their care. Tom departure from his home causes emotional turmoil to Amanda and Laura, whom some critiques argue that he could be in love with them creating moral implications. When Amanda discovers that Jim has a girlfriend, he accuses Tom of playing a joke on them. This shatters her hopes of ever getting a suitor for her daughter.
Tennessee Williams shows that women are really concerned about snagging things and the society is male dominated. Women have to depend on men for their social, economical and emotional well being. The play reveals that women tend to escape their predicaments by resorting to nostalgia of childhood memories or escapism through collection of delicates things which they consider very much valuable. The feminist struggle has still much to achieve in their quest for gender equality. This play can also reveal that women are not always actively oppressed, and for the most part women are part of a lot of the actual oppression. The unequal treatment of women in society originates not in men, but from underneath the obvious surface, where social structure dwells.
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