How does gender lead to empowerment,illuminate it with examples from the play?  under the light of foucauldian new historicism and the notion of power elaborate on the feminine and masculine...

How does gender lead to empowerment,illuminate it with examples from the play?


under the light of foucauldian new historicism and the notion of power elaborate on the feminine and masculine gender roles in Glass Menagerie.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous post was extremely thorough.  The idea of men being able to possess a sense of freedom and autonomy in their actions is completely evident in the play.  The ability to define oneself and exert authority over one's conception becomes a vital component in this self definition.  Consider what Foucault says about the subject in describing what he sees as the primary purpose of consciousness:  "The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning."  Certainly, men like Tom in the play have that ability to conceive of themselves as something different, evidenced in his own desire to leave the family and go about in the nights, seeking to define a life that is not his own.  This physical aspect of power is what allows him to leave the family, like his father.  Amanda does not have this physical power, which might be why she is trapped in her own nostalgic reverie of the past, an attempt construct a notion of consciousness that is at least internally free, something where subjective power might exist.  For her part, Laura lacks this also, but can only exert some level of power in the setting of her figurines and what she defines as the one she loves the most.  Other don't see it, but she exerts power over it because it is what she perceives.  Along these lines, Foucault might have something to say about how she is treated in the play.  Laura's insistence on the unicorn that she loves the most might actually represent some aspect of resistance that she can exert against the social order that seeks to impose its own will upon her.  In not fully understanding her and seeking to normalize her narrative, Laura's insistence on the unicorn as being the prized possession in the figurine case might represent an aspect of her power being exerted in a setting that strives to make her powerless.

jseligmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Glass Menagerie, first and foremost, we find the three main characters, Tom, Amanda, and Laura, all but powerless because they are immobilized by and in the shackles of a "dissolving economy."

Laura is completely hopeless, and is lost in her own dream world. Amanda spends much of her time grieving over the lost bounty and supposed beauty of her youth. Her only hope is to find a man who will sweep Laura away and save her from a life of dependency or worse. Tom's only hope is to escape the whole mess by going to sea. The other man in the family, the father, at least had the power to escape his situation and abandoned his family years and years before.

In terms of power and gender, the equation lays itself out like this: in times of economic hardship, men have more options than women, and women with their wits about them and some physical attractiveness have more options than women who lack these qualities. In other words: when the going gets tough, the tough get going only if they can find some advantage. Being a man and having a job, is, at least, some help, and it makes matters just a bit less tough for them.

In the play, two men escape and leave the women to fend for themselves, thus weakening them even more.


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The Glass Menagerie

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