Compare and contrast Tom and Laura in The Glass Menagerie.

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

1)Temperament

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...

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

1)Temperament

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.

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The first thing to consider when analyzing characters like Tom and Laura, who are siblings, is whether the central problem of the story equally affects both, and in which ways. That is the easiest way to extrapolate differences and similarities.

The pervasive issue that permeates the Winfield family is the trauma of abandonment, which has resulted in a degree of self-confinement, guilt, and frustration. These are the first commonalities that are evident between Tom and Laura.

Tom, the narrator of the story, is Laura's brother. His nature makes him a  prolific reader, a poet, and a dreamer. Yet, he is unable to engage in any of these three behaviors because he is the main provider of the family, a role that he needs to fulfill, whether he wants to or not, after his father unabashedly abandons the family home.

Tom's precarious situation makes him engage in different forms of escapism ranging from drinking, to going to the movies, to writing poetry, and spending time alone at the fire escape. This latter behavior suggests his desire to escape his current situation. Tom's only hold is his love for Laura, his fear for her safety, and the loyalty he feels toward his mother, Amanda.

The self-confinement that comes as a result is basically the fear of moving ahead and letting go. This is what keeps Tom stuck at his job until the day when he makes the final and most important choice of his life.

Laura is Tom's sister. Just like Tom, she has been affected by the abandonment of her father. While not directly affected, she can empathize with her mother, Amanda, who is not only humiliated and hurt by such nonchalant abandonment, but is also left in a hard situation trying to fend for the family alone.

Laura has a physical condition that has been blown out of proportion by Amanda's overcompensating ways. She merely limps, but her social anxiety, her extreme shyness, and her inability to feel normal inside her own skin, make her think of herself quite horribly. Laura cannot even stand being in public, and gets sick when attending her course at business school, to the point of quitting. Like Tom, she has found a method of escape via old records and her glass menagerie.

The glass menagerie is to Laura what the fire escape is to Tom. In Laura's case, the animals represent her state of mind, fragile and transparent, and her personality, pure and rare. Laura also feels an attachment to her mother that makes her want to please her in every way possible. Just like Tom, she has a need to escape. Unlike Tom, she is too afraid to do it, and reverts to having her escapism become a normal part of her life.

Tom and Laura are essentially good children to their mother, they are good with one another, and they love each other dearly. They are both overwhelmed by their mother's abrasive behavior and by their father's disgraceful abandonment. They both would want to escape and make their realities different. However, it is Tom who takes the step and moves away trying to find himself, and some peace.

I didn't go to the moon, I went much further - for time is the longest distance between places.[...]
I left Saint Louis. I descended the step of this fire-escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father's footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space

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