In Tennessee Williams's play The Glass Menagerie, Tom, the narrator of the play, is considered to be the central character. How does Williams develop Tom's character in the play? How does Williams...

In Tennessee Williams's play The Glass Menagerie, Tom, the narrator of the play, is considered to be the central character. How does Williams develop Tom's character in the play? How does Williams gradually reveal Tom's character by things he says or does or by how other characters relate to him?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Tennessee Williams's play The Glass Menagerie, one place in which Tom's character is significantly developed is during the quarrel between him and his mother in scene III. During this quarrel, we learn just how trapped Tom feels. As he expresses it, he has not one thing "no single thing-- ... [he] can call [his] own."

What's more, he feels he slaves away at the shoe factory just to pay rent and provide for his mother and sister, which is why he gets so angry when his mother calls him selfish. We also learn that Tom has ambitions; he wants to be a writer but doesn't feel he can be when he has to provide for his family. He also feels influenced by his father; there is nothing better he would like than to do as his father did--leave and pursue his own desires, as we learn in his important following lines:

I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever! And you say self--self's all I ever think of. Why, listen, if self is what I thought of, Mother, I'd be where he is--GONE! (I.iii)

The cinema is also a significant symbol for Tom. Tom frequents the cinema because he can watch other people accomplish things in movies, things that he would like to accomplish himself. Therefore, the cinema symbolizes the illusions Tom has of what his life could be like instead of what it is now.

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