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In the drama “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams presents his life experiences in a direct way. He universalizes his familiarities through the means of the stage. He makes use of some fictional characters in an attempt to develop his life experience. These characters are Laura, Tom, Amanda and Jim. They exhibit some salient contrasting characteristics in the drama. Laura have lived with a disability caused by disease, and Tom is an aspiring poet. The essay below discusses the contrast between Laura and Tom in Tennessee William’s drama “The Glass Menagerie.”

The first contrast between Laura and Tom is that Laura is portrayed as being innocent while Tom, on the other hand, is portrayed as being guilty. Despite her fragility, Laura is more serene than the other members of her family. She leaves quarrels to her mother Amanda and her brother Tom. The only companion of hers is the glass menagerie that she takes good care of. In contrast, Tom is portrayed as a selfish person when he fails to take any obligation for his sister’s matrimony. This is evident in the last scene when Amanda angrily reprimands Tom as, “…selfish dreamer!” (Scene 7). Another instance where his selfishness is portrayed when Jim exhausts himself financially and Tom says, “I paid my dues this month, instead to the light” (Scene 7). These instances display Tom’s selfishness that depicts that he has no sympathy inside himself.

The second contrast between Tom and Laura is that he values independence whereas Laura is presented as an overly fearful and sensitive person. Tom had run-away from Amanda’s irritating Inquisition and orders and went to movies almost every night. Afterward, Tom realized that in such of freedom, he had fallen in love with movies and thus became his adventure. He thus used this adventure to compensate for his dull life and move away from Amanda’s nagging reminders of his daily life. He never liked her instructions on how to eat, what to eat, when to eat, how to improve his life, how to quit smoking, what to read among other directives. This is a clear depiction that Tom was an independent person who valued self-rule more than taking other people’s directions.

On the other hand, Laura is presented as an extremely sensitive person who is very nervous to an extent of becoming so sick when she attends business school. She only owns a “glass menagerie” that she takes good care of and handles it with tenderness this is evident when Tennessee writes, “She is washing and polishing her collection of glass.” (Scene 2). She becomes frightened when Tom and Amanda quarrel. She also has withdrawn from the world a symbolic from reality into a make-believe world. She thus is incapable of being independent because of her overly sensitive nature, and this is why he withdraws from the real world.

The third contrast between Tom and Laura is that he is ambitious whereas Laura is not. Tom commits himself to negate Amanda’s directives because he has an ambition of making his life better. Conscious of the “boiling” in himself, Tom recognized that he was obliged to act fast or be muffled by his immediate environment. He is also portrayed as an aspiring poet. On the other hand, Laura does not have too much ambition. His ambitious nature leads to his escape plans. She retreats from the reality, and the only best adventure she likes is spending her days visiting the zoo, playing records or cleaning her glass.

The fourth contrast was that Tom was a realist, but Laura was not a realist. Tom’s realism is evident when he recognizes his sister’s plight. He also understands that his mother’s visions of gentlemen callers are false. Additionally, he recognizes that there is no future for him with the warehouse and thus acts void of pity other than getting destroyed if he becomes a sensitive person. Aware of Amanda’s and Laura’s illusion, withdrawal and deception, Tom opts out or else be swallowed by their words. On the other hand, Laura is not real to herself. Because of her overly sensitive tendency, she thinks that everybody is critical of her physical disability. She thus opts to live in an illusionary world of withdrawal.

The sixth contrast between the two is that Laura is purely compassionate whereas Tom is portrayed as a cruel brother. This is evident from Scene four when she sheds tears because of Tom’s unhappiness. On the other hand, Tom proves to be cruel to his mother and sister when he deserts them. Another instance that displays his cruelty is when he knocks down his sister’s glass menagerie.


In conclusion, there are several evident instances in the Tennessee’s drama that highlights the contrast between Laura and Tom. Some of the contrasts between the two are that Laura is innocent while Tom is guilty, Laura is compassionate while Tom is cruel, and Tom is realistic while Laura is unrealistic. Also, Tom is ambitious while Laura is not. All these contrasts have been discussed in details in the essay above supported with the relevant quotes from the play.

Works Cited

Ardolino, Frank. ‘Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie’. The Explicator 68.2 (2010): 131-132. Web.

Elliott, Kenneth. ‘The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams’. Theatre Journal 65.4 (2013): 584-585. Web.




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