The Glass Menagerie as a Memory Play

Discuss The Glass Menagerie as a Memory Play?

A memory play is a kind of play in which the story is told from the memory of a narrator or one of the characters. The term is coined by Tennessee Williams to describe non-realistic dramas, such as The Glass Menagerie, in which the audience experiences the past as remembered by a narrator, complete with music from the period remembered, and images representing the, characters, thoughts, fears, emotions, and recollections projected on a scrim in the background.

The Glass Menagerie as a Memory Play

 The Glass Menagerie is a memory play because both its style and its contents are shaped and inspired by memory. Tom is the narrator of the play. The play comes from his memory. In a memory play the playwright enjoys unusual freedom of convention. Tom as a narrator explains to the audience that the playwright usually provides the audience with the illusion that looks like truth. Here he means that the regular dramatist creates a dramatic illusion on the stage which the audience takes for the truth. But he will not follow the conventional tricks of the dramatist. He will offer the audience truth under the pleasant cover of illusion. Under the guise of dramatic illusion, he will tell the audience the story of his own life as memory flashbacks. Here it is hinted that the play is not realistic, but is being presented through the memory of Tom.

A memory play focuses on the past. All the characters in the play live in the past; they “turn back time”. Living in their memories they are trying to escape from the responsibility of dealing .with the present. Tom narrates his recent past from the chaos of ‘the latter years of World War II. Amanda is haunted by the memory of her youth. She was an extremely popular and pretty young lady but she lost her chances. Now she refuses to understand life and reality. She does not let her children face reality like adults. With this denial of the truth she prevents Tom from becoming a man. She doesn’t even ‘ accept the fact that Laura is crippled. Because of that the young girl cannot become an independent and separate individual.

The play is also a memory of Laura’s infancy. She is like a little girl living in her own world of dreams and illusions. She is very shy and fragile. Her one leg is shorter than the other. As she is a cripple, she suffers from a terrible inferiority complex. She is so nervous and ashamed that she has trouble facing people from the outside world. She rarely goes out of the house, and spends her time by listening to phonograph records and playing with her collection of miniature animals her “glass menagerie.” The beauty of the glass menagerie fascinates her and helps forget the pain of real life.

Another memory is of the father, who had left the family sixteen years ago to travel long distances. He never appears onstage but he played a significance role in the lives of Amanda, Laura, and Tom. The phonograph and records that he left behind become part of the fantasy world of Laura. His portrait is constant reminder of happiness in the past.

Thus, the play is created by memory and nostalgia. The characters in the play cannot be conscious human beings. For Torn, Amanda and Laura memory is the crippling force that prevents them from finding happiness in the present.

Read it also:  Consider Doctor Faustus’ as a Morality Play

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