The Glass Menagerie and Aristotle’s Poetics Essay
Madeline Caughey 4 April 2013 Professor Wivlagg English 102 “The Relationship of Aristotle’s Poetics to Modern Dramatic Tragedy as Exhibited in Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie” Aristotle’s poetics were created by Aristotle himself and they were a literary work of his dramatic theory. “The Glass Menagerie” is a play written by, Tennessee Williams, that exemplifies Aristotle’s opinion of poetry being an imitation of life or a mythos. It is also a tragedy because it follows Aristotle’s poetic guidelines. Aristotle said in order for a plot to be a tragedy it must always involve
some sort of undone or done deed. An error must also occur on behalf of the hero in order to be a tragedy. “The Glass Menagerie” is a tragedy because Laura’s shyness led her to not being with the only man she ever wanted to be with. “The Glass Menagerie”, is a story based on the misfortunes of Tom, Amanda, and Laura. It is set in St. Louis, during the year 1937. Amanda is the overbearing mother of Tom and Laura. Tom works in a shoe warehouse, but longs for adventure and prefers to spend his time watching movies and reading literature.
Laura is her crippled and awkwardly shy daughter who needs a “suitor”. After her mother, Amanda, discovered Laura had been skipping classes at college she decided it was time for Laura to find herself a husband. Laura doubted ever finding a man because of her painful timidity and leg brace. Tom then tells his mother of a man named, Jim O’Connor, who would suit his sister. Tom quickly invites Jim over for dinner. Amanda went overboard with her ostentatious dress and outgoing spirit, while Laura hid nearly the whole time. Due to a power outage, Laura and Jim were forced to spend
some time with each other. Their conversations started out awkward and quick, but Jim’s warm and gentle personality broke through Laura’s shell, opening her up to Jim. Laura confesses her love she had for him back in high school, but how she unfortunately never told him because she was to shy to even have a conversation with him. Jim then proceeds to kiss her, but quickly draws back, with a haste response of how he has a fiance. Laura understands and offers him the unicorn as a souvenir to cover her disappointment. Jim then leaves, and Amanda reprimands Tom and comforts Laura.
Tom finds that not long after Jim’s visit he is fired from the shoe warehouse and moves on with his life, but Laura still haunts his feelings. Aristotle’s poetics retain the guidelines for what makes a piece of literature a tragedy. Aristotle splits the important parts of tragedy into these: plot, characters, thought, diction, melody, and spectacle. In order for a literature work to be a tragedy it must contain: plot unity, an intelligent use of the elements, a hero going from happiness to misery, true character, misery due to the error or flaw of the hero, and a
tragic deed which can be left done or undone. Character is an important part of tragedy, and Laura’s character is the hero who makes the story a tragedy. The hero, according to Aristotle, must go from happiness to misery. Laura, in the beginning of the story, was satisfied with the way her life was going. She enjoyed skipping her classes and going to the movies, the park, or the zoo. Laura did not have a care in the world and enjoyed her life, until Jim came along and her ending became lonesome and miserable. Laura’s life became miserable because of her hamartia or “tragic flaw”.
Shyness is why she ends up alone. If Laura had not been terribly quiet in high school, she may have had a chance with Jim. Jim clearly has feelings for her when he visits her house for dinner, but it was sadly too late because he was engaged. Laura’s flaw was shyness, and shyness is why she ends up miserable. Since Laura ends up alone and miserable is why “The Glass Menagerie” is a tragedy. “The Glass Menagerie”, can be considered a tragedy, because it contains diction. Laura uses her glass animals to escape from the real world and the everyday difficulties and unfortunate realities she
faces. Due to her slightly crippled leg it has effected her emotionally and made her an introvert. Just like the glass, that shattered, Laura is also fragile and can lose control. Laura relates to the glass figurines because she is also weak and cannot escape the realities in life completely Laura is the caretaker of the glass menagerie, and they represent her mental and physical states. The main reason “The Glass Menagerie” is a tragedy is because of the plot. It is a series of actions and events that lead up to Laura’s fate. Courage is what Laura lacks, and if she had not been too timid
to tell Jim her feelings towards him her ending may have turned out different. Her apprehensiveness in college is also what prevents her from moving onward in life. Laura’s timidity and demure personality inhibit her from her full potential. Her choices and insecurities dictate her future and are sadly unfavorable for her destiny. One could argue “The Glass Menagerie” to not be classified as a tragedy according to: “Aristotle’s Poetics”, because it does not contain spectacle or song. Spectacle and song are two of the six important parts to make a tragedy, and are both not involved in,“The Glass Menagerie”.
Spectacle refers to special effects. “The Glass Menagerie”, does not contain too much detail in the story that involves special effects. Song is another element the play is missing. There are no choirs or singers involved in the play. Song and spectacle are two elements required to make a tragedy, therefore “The Glass Menagerie” could be not defined as a tragedy. Everyone in life has a part of themselves they wish they could change, whether it is their body, hair, eyes, skin, teeth, or even their own life, we all make room for change. Improvement is how one enjoys
to view their wanted changes, but sadly some let their wants turn into simply unfulfilled dreams. All of us contain a little bit of Laura inside of us. Insecurity is something all humans struggle with and we all have something that we fear to do. Timidness was Laura’s struggle, but there are many other insecurities humans have as well. Insecurities range from: fear, failure, appearance, and many others. One can learn from this story to not be afraid to reach out for something one desires because if you do not, it could be a regretful action.