Compare and contrast Tom and Laura in The Glass Menagerie.

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! You asked about comparing Tom and Laura in 'The Glass Menagerie.'


Laura is a fragile young woman. Her disability is a source of her depression; she takes refuge in her glass menagerie. The glass figurines are symbols of her fragility and her beauty. Although she understands Tom's frustration with his life and his job at the warehouse, she is very protective of their mother. When Amanda tries to regale them one more time about her gentleman callers in past days, Laura implores Tom to humor Amanda because it makes her happy. Even though he does so, he can't help but show his irritation at his mother's constant harping about the gentleman callers that are supposed to come calling after Laura.

While Laura can't bear to disappoint their mother, Tom isn't as particular. He argues with her about reading Lawrence and going to the movies. He is frustrated that he has no autonomy at the house: Amanda returns his Lawrence novel to the library because she terms the novel a product of 'diseased minds.' He argues that he feels all he does is pay the rent and provide for their upkeep. He can't stand his job at the Continental Shoemakers and doesn't want to spend the rest of his life there. His mother is only concerned about the security of the family. These types of arguments become the catalyst for Tom to go his own way. He is so frustrated that he calls his mother an old, babbling, ugly witch. However, he feels no small amount of guilt for deserting his mother and his helpless sister.

2)Life goals

Tom is restless. He feels that his adventurous spirit is subdued by working in a warehouse. Amanda tells him he needs to cultivate 'Spartan endurance,' but he insists that "Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse!" On the other hand, Laura also feels herself trapped and sees no hope of ever marrying; it is why she seeks refuge in her glass menagerie. When Amanda accuses Tom of playing a nice trick on them by inviting a gentleman caller to dinner who is engaged, he can take no more of her oppressive accusations.

AMANDA: 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 I just go, go, go - to the movies !

TOM: All right, I 'will ! The more you shout about my selfishness to me the quicker I'll go, and I won't go to the movies !

He walks out on his family just like his father did before him. He is free, but still feels himself tied to the memory of his helpless and loving sister. Of his mother, he feels no such guilt. Laura chooses to stay with their mother, but it is evident that the light has gone out of her life. She blows out the candles at the end of the play, a fitting symbol for her heart sorrow.

3)Relationship with their mother, Amanda.

Tom does not get along with Amanda, their mother. At the start of the play she tells him how to eat his meal so that he can get maximum enjoyment out of his dinner. He is irritated with her micro-management and tells her he is going to smoke a cigarette instead. As noted above, he feels that Amanda is stifling his individuality. He feels misunderstood and smothered. He does not placate Amanda as Laura does. It is Tom who has loud arguments with his mother. She tries to manipulate Tom into finding a husband for Laura by slyly stating that he will finally be free to do what he wants in life if he fulfills his role as a brother should.

4)The relationship between Laura and Tom.

Both Laura and Tom understand each other and try to enter into each other's sorrows and hopes for the future. They confide in each other.Tom tries to bring Jim and Laura together and Laura discusses movies with Tom. Even though she begs Tom to apologize and make up with Amanda after their big argument, he is initially unrepentant. He does not see any reason to apologize to someone who makes his daily life miserable. Eventually, he does so when he sees how sad his mother is. While Tom and Amanda's relationship is both fraught with guilt and conflict, Tom and Laura's relationship is burdened with alternating pity and love.

Hope this helps. Thanks for the question!