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The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

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In The Glass Menagerie, how does Tom's Scene III speech use verbal irony to develop humor and bitterness?

Quick answer:

Through verbal irony, Tom's speech becomes humorous and ironic as he describes his actions in a "fantastic" manner. However, the humor turns to bitterness when he describes how his mother will go up on a broomstick, a symbol of witchcraft and magic. This article is from the English II Companion created by K12 Reader .

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In the scene, Tom's anger and frustration boil over in a confrontation with his mother about his activities. Amanda believes that Tom has been "doing things that you're ashamed of." When he says, once again, that he is going to the movies, Amanda accuses him of lying, which leads to Tom's speech at the end of the scene.

Through verbal irony (sarcasm) Tom makes fun of Amanda's suspicions. In contrast to the mundane daily life Tom lives working in the warehouse, his wild exaggerations are humorous as he explains what he "really" does instead of going to the movies:

  • He goes to opium dens with criminals.
  • He's a member of the Hogan gang, a hired assassin who carries a Tommy gun in a violin case.
  • He's known as "Killer Wingfield" and "El Diablo."
  • He's a "czar of the underworld" who loses fortunes in gambling casinos.
  • Sometimes he wears an eye patch and a false mustache.

Tom's speech becomes very bitter, however, when he tells Amanda that his "enemies" plan to blow up the Wingfield apartment with dynamite:

They're going to blow us all sky-high some night! You'll go up, up on a broomstick, over Blue Mountain with seventeen gentlemen callers! You ugly--babbling old--witch . . . .

Tom's allusion to Blue Mountain expresses his frustration with Amanda and her tiresome, endless romantic stories of her youth. In saying his mother is ugly, a "babbling old witch," Tom's contempt and hatefulness show his deep anger and resentment toward her. He despises the life he is forced to lead in St. Louis, and Amanda's behavior makes it even more unbearable.

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