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Which character in "The Glass Menagerie" could be considered a tragic hero?

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loreotwist | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 7, 2008 at 12:12 PM via web

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Which character in "The Glass Menagerie" could be considered a tragic hero?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 8, 2008 at 6:26 AM (Answer #1)

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Tom is a tragic hero in The Glass Menagerie.  He is trapped in a situation that he cannot get out of, his position in the family as breadwinner. He can't get out of this situation without dramatically damaging his relationship with both his mother and his sister.  He is particularly flawed when it comes to his sister.  He is asked by his mother to bring home a gentleman caller for Laura.

Instead of really looking for someone who could actually go out with his sister, he just asks Jim to dinner, not realizing the Jim is engaged.  He sets up Laura for a dramatic disappointment that causes him to feel like a failure.  Even though he felt like a failure before the fiasco with the gentleman caller, he still went to work at the shoe factory, trapped in a job he hated.  He escapes the drudgery of this job by writing poetry while he is on the job. 

We both pity Tom for his stifling life with his mother and despise him for not having more ambition to really take care of his abandoned mother and crippled sister.

Tom is a character that evokes a sense of what might have been.  He definitely lets his pride get in the way of his success both with his family and with his ability to get ahead in life.

He despises his mother, and feels sorry for his sister.  He does not have a true relationship with either of them. 

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jsmckenna | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted May 8, 2008 at 11:48 AM (Answer #2)

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Laura can be considered a tragic hero.  She has been living in a self-created shell that is hardened by her mother's constant insinuations about her abnormalities (her shorter leg, her lack of suiters, etc).  She is content in this world of fantasy until she must face reality when her mother finds out she is not attending business school and is, in fact, out walking.  It is interesting that part of her escapism is the physical act of walking, something that should be difficult to do if her disability was as serious as has been ingrained into her existance thanks to her mother.  Laura's chance to overcome her supposed disabilities (the limp, the lack of gentleman callers, her shyness, etc) is tragically cut short.  Jim provided a chance for her to dance (something she physically should not have been able to do) and to be receptive to a gentleman caller (and even a kiss).  Her fall comes right after her triumphs when she learns that he is engaged and that the dancing and connection she felt with Jim can not go any further.

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