Question: Discuss “The Glass Menagerie” as a memory play.
A memory play is a kind of play in which a lead character reveals the events of the play, which are drawn from the character’s memory. The idea of creating memory play derived from Tennessee Williams (1911-1983). His “The Glass Menagerie” is a fine example of a memory play. In this kind of play, the audience enjoys the story that happened in the past as remembered by the narrator, and the images represent the characters, thoughts, fears, emotions, and recollection of memories.
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“The Glass Menagerie” as a memory play
Yes, “The Glass Menagerie” is a memory play. The features of a memory play are having been injected in the play by Williams. Let’s discuss broadly to prove the play as a memory play.
Memory-based style and contents
This play is a memory play because its writing style and contents are based on memory from the past. The narrator of the play Tom himself says in the play that it is a story from memory-
“The play is memory”
Tom, as a narrator, explains to the audience that the playwright usually provides the audience with a fantasy that resembles the truth. That means the creator of a play creates an illuminative environment that the audience takes seriously. But here, in front of the audience, Tom will not act like the usual dramatist. He will tell a true story under an illuminative shade. He will tell his own life story from flashbacks.
Centers on the past
A memory play basically focuses on the past. The characters of a memory play come from the past. Tom starts his story with their family-tale that of how they lead their life in the past. Gradually his mother Amanda also recollects her youth from the past. She says that she was once a gorgeous and attractive lady, popular in the youngsters; many of the men begged love from her-
“My callers were gentlemen- all! Among my callers were some of the most prominent young planters of the Mississippi Delta- planters and sons of planters!”
Collections of individual’s memories
Besides the memories of Tom and Amanda, the play also reflects the memory of Laura. Laura, daughter of Amanda and elder sister of Tom, is like a little girl who lives in her own world of imagination and illusions. From her nature, she is bashful and delicate. Being a cripple, she feels hesitation facing people of the outside world.
It is a recollection of the memory of the couple- Jim and Laura. They studied in high school together. Since then, Jim has had a crush on Laura. They again gathered and recollect their past story.
Another memory is Tom’s father’s. He left them many years ago. He never came back to them. The phonograph and records that he left behind become part of the fantasy world of Laura. His photograph on the wall is a steady token of happiness in the past.
Memory becomes a weapon
In a memory play, memory works as a weapon to the characters. In this play, the narrator Tom is so depressed about what his father did. His father left them about 16 years ago and Tom uses that memory as his strength to bear his family. Amanda still recollects her youth and uses that memory to enrage her children to the way of success.
The play “The Glass Menagerie” is a kind of non-realistic drama. It has several non-realistic elements in it. Use of narrator, transparent fore wall that the audience must imagine, the addition of screen images, use of music to conclude a scene- these are the non-realistic elements that have been used by Williams in this play.
Here, the other features that prove this play as a memory play are the playwright’s infrequent freedom of convention, dialogues that echoes the personal views of characters, sentimental drama, etc.
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After the above discussion, we may proceed towards the conclusion. To conclude, it can be said that the play is created by memory from the past. For Tom, Amanda, and Laura memory is the devastating power that keeps them from discovering bliss in the present.