Characters in "The Glass Menagerie": How do you feel about them?Which characters in the play earn your sympathy? Do you harbor unfavorable feelings toward any of them? Why or why not?
What a great question. I think I sympathize most with Laura. She lived in a day when allowances were not made for differences or handicaps. Since I am an educator, the scene that I especially connect with is when Laura describes going to choir class and having to "clump up" all the stairs because her that's where her assigned seat was. Each time I see or read the play I think, "What was wrong with that teacher?" Laura lives in a world that does not understand or want to cope with her disability. Her father left her. Her mother simply ignores her disability and the lack of self-esteem that her handicap causes. She simply yells at Laura for not trying hard enough. Tom, tired of dealing with his mother, leaves her. Most hurtful is Tom's rejection of her. He is so fixated with himself, his dreams and "Betty" that he never probably realizes the hurt he has caused. This leaves Laura without anyone to help her learn to cope with the real world and she ends up like one of the broken pieces of her glass menagerie.
I have a great deal of sympathy for Tom and Laura. I can summon sympathy for Amanda, even though she is frequently insufferable. However, I find it difficult to feel much sympathy for Jim O'Connor.
I don't like Jim. He appears to be gentle and supportive of Laura, but in truth he can focus on no one but himself. He is in love with the sound of his own voice. His insensitivity is bottomless. He launches into his flowery dissertation on the power of love without noticing that he is destroying Laura, word by word.
When he thinks he is bringing Laura out of her shell, he does not feel happiness because she is rejoining the world. He feels happy because he is so wonderful that he can have such an effect on her.
Jim harbors as many illusions as Tom, Laura, and Amanda cling to, but unlike them, he remains totally oblivious to the pain of others.
I do feel some sympathy toward Amanda. It's true she's annoying and clingy and nagging--obnoxiously so. I understand where she's coming from in all of that, but it's still a little outrageous. What I do feel sympathy for is the fact that she's doing what most women in her day were not. She has raised two children on her own. Amanda works two jobs to ensure her daughter is able to attend college. It doesn't happen, I know, and I feel some sympathy for her when she discovers it. In fact, I feel as if her "what will become of us" speech reveals her true despair at the future for her and her daughter. She's hard to take, at times, but she's doing her best in a less-than-perfect situation. For that, I appreciate her.
I do feel some sympathy for Amanda, but only when I view her as a character who is bound by time and circumstance. She is dependent on Tom for financial support, and she fears that he will one day leave the family (which he does). She wants Laura to be cared for if this situation were to arise, so she does everything she can to find a suitor for Laura. Although her methods might be a bit despicable, Amanda's intentions, in this way, are good.
I sympathize with Tom because of the pressure that was put on him unfairly by his mother. Tom was forced to take on the role of supporter and provider and has to neglect his own wants and desires. He has not had the chance to grow up and progress into adulthood normally. He has always had expectations placed upon him that are beyond what he should have. I can relate to his frustrations with having these roles forced upon him.