Critical Essay Sample on Tom's Decision in the Glass Menagerie

Published: 2023-01-08
Critical Essay Sample on Tom's Decision in the Glass Menagerie
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Character analysis American literature
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1822 words
16 min read


The chosen play for this essay is "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams, 1944. It is literary work that presents the story of a man, mother, and sister whereby all of them are faced with disappointments in life. The struggles of life and the need to escape from reality make the characters in the play to make the ultimate decision to change their past. The reason for choosing "The Glass Menagerie" play is because the reader can identify the meaning of the text through the experiences and behaviors of the characters including Tom, Amanda, and Laura among others. The play gives the reader mixed reactions of disappointment and hope at the same time. Based on this background, it is necessary to explore one of the characters in "The Glass Menagerie" to understand their decisions and how that affects the individual and the other family members. The essay argument aims to prove that Tom did not make the right decision to leave the family.

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In the play, Tom is the narrator. Qiao and Miao (168) regard "The Glass Menagerie" as the story that talks about Tom. While reading through the play, it is evident that a character is a young man against the views and wishes of the other family members, Amanda and Laura. Tom is determined to explore life in different ways. The decision at the end of the play demonstrates Tom going to seek adventure at the Merchant Marines after leaving the house and dismissing work at the factory. Earlier in the play, Tom explains reasons for wanting to leave the family by stating that "I like an adventure" (Williams 31). However, the mother resonates differently to the son that young people should find adventure in their work and Tom should also be finding the same in the warehouse. However, the son is not convinced of achieving the dream of exploring a new life when working in the warehouse. Remaining in one place would make Tom an unhappy person. Leaving home is the only chance for Tom to fulfill the dream of adventure in another part of the world. Therefore, Tom's decision to leave the family was right to achieve the fulfillment of life desires.

Tom's love for adventure and the need to fulfill the dream was the only choice to make and leave home. Tom was right in making such a decision to do away with the unprivileged life led within the family environment. The mother, Amanda was always in Tom's neck and trying to take control of any idea that comes to the mind of the son. Amanda wanted Tom at home or the warehouse all the time while the son had different plans about life. The only way to deal with such a stressful situation is by leaving home and stay in a distant place. Tom says that "I go to the movies because - I like an adventure. Adventure is something I don't have much of at work, so I go to the movies" (Williams 30). Tom wants to breakdown the boredom within the family life. The environment at home was depressing, and a need for change was necessary to achieve a new trend and live differently from the life of the other family members, Amanda and Laura. Since Tom could not change things at home; the only option was leaving the family and seeking a vibrant life of adventure. Therefore, Tom was right by moving to get a new and better experience away from home.

The responsibility placed by Amanda to Tom is suffocating, and this explains some of the reasons for the desire to stay away. Amanda is an annoying mother with nagging behavior towards Tom regarding eating, spending of time and money. Tom feels like a slave in the house, to the warehouse job and the mother. Williams (16) presents Amanda and Tom quarreling because the mother does not want to give the son space to live a healthy life. Tom is angry with Amanda for returning the books to the library and feels that there is nothing to own within that home by stating "In my life here that I can call my OWN! Everything is..." (Williams 17). The mother makes a life for Tom in the house unbearable and leaving home is the right decision for Tom. The fact that Amanda works, the mother does not take responsibility to pay the house rent. Tom is not happy because of the overdependence by mother and sister. Most of the time, the son is escaping from a hostile environment at home by going to the movies. However, going back home is a must an escape to the film is not an actual journey away from the family. Even though Tom understands the responsibility to care for mother and sister, traveling the world and joining the Merchant Marines is a desire that will cover the life frustrations and leaving the family was a right decision for Tom.

When looking at the other side of the decision, Tom's decision seems to affect the other family members, Amanda and Laura negatively. Amanda, Tom's mother worries about the son's choice of leaving the house. In a conversation with Tom, Amanda says that "But not until there is someone to take your place" (Williams 33). In this scenario, Amanda is worried about Tom's decision to leave home as no one is there to fill the gap that will remain. It seems that the idea of going away from the family is not the right decision for Tom. Amanda and Laura will be left without anyone to care for them and especially for Laura who is young and dependent. The mother is old and not able to care for the daughter well and thereby to need assistance from Tom. At this instance, the play presents Tom as the sole breadwinner in the family. However, the desire to leave and seek adventure burns deeply in the heart but Tom is not privileged to move with life as desired. Therefore, the pursuit of a dream and adventurous life is held stuck due to the essential family responsibilities that Tom must meet towards the mother and sister. By leaving the family, it means that Laura will be left without a brother and someone to look up to, while the mother will lack a helper with the family responsibilities.

There are instances when Tom's decision to leave is hindered by the thought of not leaving to go and seek a different lie outside the home. Tom would think of becoming like the father who left the family and abandoning responsibilities as a parent. Qiao and Miao (169) describe the character of Tom like that of the absentee father by finally deciding to forgo the family. It was not the right decision for Tom to follow the father's footsteps and leave the family where the mother is penniless, and the sister has a disability and emotionally drained. Most of the times in the play, Amanda is worried of the son becoming like the father who was always out for many hours without an explanation and later left for good. Tom notices that the decision of going away will result in similar effects to those of the father. This is evident when Tom says that "I am like my father. The bastard son of a bastard! See how he grins? And he's been absent going on sixteen years" (Williams 68). Tom feels the harm of leaving to the other family members. Leaving the sister Laura, and mother Amanda will mean disserting the loved ones forever just like the father did. Boxill (62) calls Tom's father an absentee dad and the primary cause of the depressive moments in the family. Tom wants to be different by acting in the right manner, unlike the father who left them and now it is sixteen years. Going home to seek the adventure will mean that Tom will become a bastard just like the father who is regarded as a bastard in the play because of not owning up to the family responsibilities.

Before going away, Tom is regretting because of making that decision to leave the sister, Laura alone. Tom says that "Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be" (Williams 116). Tom is much haunted by the decision to leave Laura behind but ultimately leaving is not a choice but the only thing to do to achieve sanity in life. Roy (585) compares Tom's decision of going away to work for the marines and earn better money to care for the family as an illusion of life. Even though Tom will achieve the dream of life, staying away from the beloved sister will be haunting all the days not knowing about the whereabouts of Laura. Based on this aspect of regret for the rest of the life after Tom leaving home, one would say that it was not the right decision to go away from the family as leaving the memories of Laura behind is a big challenge.

The reading "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams was useful in learning about making compelling arguments. Fulwiler (19) states that developing a response to the text is a necessary step to creating an effective argument. Responding to the reading guided the development of the case for the essay by learning how to read the text several times to capture new ideas, and evidence to support the claim. Making a compelling argument requires developing a thesis for the essay. According to Gebhart (202), the writing process requires an individual to make a summary of the text for his benefit. This idea helped me to brainstorm the primary purposes of the reading and came up with an arguably thesis-driven statement to follow in the entire essay.


In conclusion, Tom's decision to leave the family may have been encouraged by the desire to fulfill a life desire of seeking adventure and wealth. However, this achievement would be attained at the expense of compromising the care of loved ones. Even though Tom had pressure from mother Amanda, and the need to cater to the sisters' needs, it is not justifiable to decide between leaving the family. After going away, mother Amanda earns little money and will experience challenges in paying rent. It will also be challenging to care for the disabled Laura alone at an old age. Therefore, Tom did not make the right decision to leave the family and following the father's footsteps.

Works Cited

Boxill R. "The Glass Menagerie" 1944. In: Tennessee Williams. Modern Dramatists. Palgrave, London. 1987.

Fulwiler, Toby. "The Working Writer." 5th Edition. Pearson. 2006.

Gebhart, Richard. "Writing: Processes, and Intentions." D.C. Heath. 1989.

Qiao, Danqiu, and Liyao Miao. "Offstage Characters in Tennessee Williams' Plays." International Conference on Humanities Education and Social Sciences. 2018.

Roy, Sukanta. "Breaking of Illusion: A Journey of Symbolic Realism to Expressionism in Tennessee William's The Glass Menagerie. Social and Humanities Journal, Vol. 2, 2018, no. 8, pp. 584-588.

Williams, Tennessee. "The Glass Menagerie." 1944.

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