The Glass Menagerie Questions and Answers
by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
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In The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, what is the psychology of either Tom or Laura? What internal conflict is the character dealing with? How does that conflict inform the character’s actions?   

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Laura's conflict is that she wants to be loved, but she also fears interaction with the world. She is emotionally fragile, as fragile as the glass collection she is always washing and polishing. She suffers from something akin to a social phobia and a form of anxiety, as she can't even stand going to the business class she was attending and instead prefers walking by herself. She blames her social isolation on being crippled, but her mother insists that Laura is not crippled. Instead of trying to connect with other people, Laura prefers, like the glass she cherishes, to be put on a shelf by herself. She looks back nostalgically on high school and one boy, Jim, who she used to like. 

When Jim shows up at the door with Laura's brother, Tom, Laura feels sick and refuses to open the door, again showing her retreat into social isolation. When Jim and Laura finally speak, he diagnoses her with an "inferiority complex," which is his way of saying that she needs more confidence in herself and needs to interact with the wider world. While dancing, Jim breaks Laura's glass unicorn, which is symbolic of the way that he convinces her that she isn't so fragile and can get out in the world. She refers to this accident as "a blessing in disguise" because for one moment, the unicorn, who is much like her, is just a normal horse and fits in with other creatures. At the end of the play, Laura's anxiety and social phobia cause her to probably always stay with her mother, Amanda, or to live a socially isolated life, after her brother Tom has left. 

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