Farewell to Arms: Hemingway’s “Puzzling Passage”, An Analysis

by Trudy Martinez

When most males enter military service, they are boys on a quest for manhood. The same holds true for Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms. John Beversluis, however, declares, “He is a man . . . at the outset of the novel” (19). Not all critics agree that Frederic “is a man” or that he even wants to reach manhood. For instance, Judith Fetterley, a feminist, insists “Frederic Henry’s true aim . . . is to . . . [evade] . . . growing up . . . “(47). She contends that Frederic is so set on “remaining forever a boy” that he strives toward “eliminating the agent that threatens to force adulthood upon [him]” (47). In her estimation, that “agent” is none other than Catherine, Frederick’s beloved. The intent of this paper is to explore Frederic Henry’s position in relation to others within the social order of the novel. In doing so, his status of man or boy will be established and his vindictive or childish character uncovered. Both Beversluis and Fetterley support a portion of the narrative, contributing a retrospective clue. Beversluis calls the narrative “the puzzling passage”. The passage hints of Frederic’s shortcoming, disclosing his inner most thoughts, and a lesson he must learn:

“ . . . We were still friends, with many tastes alike, but with the differences between us. [The priest] had always known what I did not know and what, when I learned it, I was always able to forget. But I did not know that then, although I learned it later (14).”

John Beversluis asserts what Frederic, the man, learns is “that spending his leave in the city instead of at the Abruzzi was symptomatic of his whole way of life” because “he continually failed to do what he really wanted to do” (24). Fetterley alleges, on the other hand, what the priest “knows” that Frederic “doesn’t know” is “that sex is a dangerous and wasteful commodity and the best world is one of men without women”(52). I contend Frederic is a child on a pilgrimage toward manhood. Along the way, he learns the main difference between himself and the priest is that the “certain knowledge” the priest has: the words of truth build lasting relationships. Frederic tries to explain how wanting to do something makes it “almost all right” (13). Frederic wants to tell the truth but he also wants excitement, this is evident when he tells himself:

“There was more to it than that. Yes, father. That is true, father. Perhaps, father. No, father. Well, maybe yes, father. You know more about it than I do, father. The priest was good but dull. The officers were not good but dull. The King was good but dull. The wine was bad but not dull. It took the enamel off your teeth and left it on the roof of your mouth (38 – 39).”

The wine serves as a symbol, paralleling the lies Frederic tells Catherine. Frederic considers the wine not dull. He considers it invigorating and continues drinking, even though the wine works like a fire in his mouth, burning away the enamel. Frederic wants to be invigorated. His lies, burning like a wild-fire, bring about a similar furor in his relationship with Catherine. However, their relationship lacks truth and Frederic is left defiled. When Frederic learns not to defile himself by lying, “he was always able to forget” and continues to lie when it suits his purpose or gains him the acceptance he needs and the excitement he wants. As a result, he is made to suffer and sacrifice his beloved even though he willingly puts away his childish ways to become a man.

Beversluis supplies no evidence of Frederic, the man, failing to do “what he really wanted to do” other than his not going to Abruzzi. Then again, how could he? Frederic never “failed to do what he really wanted to do.” He “tried to explain” and the priest “understood” what Frederic offers are mere excuses that are anticipative of what he feels the priest wants to hear. He maneuvers most people like pieces on a chessboard. In other words, his strategy is similar to the strategy used in war. To Frederic, a friend is someone who accepts him unconditionally while surrendering to his stratagem. In most cases, he gets angry like a spoiled child when he doesn’t succeed by reaping an unconditional surrender. For instance, Miss Barkley slaps him because he ignores her refusals; he admits, “I was angry and yet certain seeing it all ahead like the moves in a chess game” (26). His maneuvers are planned and calculated, while at the same time, predictive of his opponent’s strategy. When Miss Barkley expresses concern she may have hurt him, he lies and says, “I don’t mind at all.” He uses his speculative power to gain her pity by apologizing. When she accepts his apology and replies, “You are sweet,” he tells the truth: “No I’m not.” As a result, of practicing the old adage: “When all else fails tell the truth,” he advances, gains consent, and ultimately seizes his objective: He positions his “arm around her as [he] had before and kissed her.” Once he considers he has won and gets to do what “he really wants to do,” he regards her as his friend (26 -27).

As Friends, Frederic and Catherine share passion in the form of romantic love. Their passion for each other is what Fetterley suggests the priest “knows” to be “a dangerous and wasteful commodity.” She ascertains “the best world is one of man without women” by way of the priest’s “asexuality.” The assumption here is because the priest refrains from sexual passion and remains asexual he is able to love and the only way Frederic can attain such a love is to live in a world without women. Fetterley attempts to justify her assertion by stating, “The priest has access to a certain knowledge and stature that the men who remain sexual do not have and secretly admire.” She assumes because the men in the mess constantly bait their priest “they are expressing’ not only “their sense of his difference and their uneasiness in face of it (51-52)” but also Frederic’s sense of the priest’s difference.  Consequently, she transfers the men’s sense of the priest’s difference on to Frederic even though he is not guilty of baiting the priest.

Although Fetterley is correct when she says, “The priest alone is able to carry out the full implication . . . ,” she errs when she implies this is justification to assume it is because of the priest’s cultural “attitude toward sex” (52). Evidence in the text suggests the priest’s “attitude toward sex” is not a determinant of the difference between the priest and Frederic. Thus, to view it as such is perverse. For example: when the priest visits Frederic in the hospital, the topic of their conversation centers on some of their differences: The priest loves God whereas, Frederic fears God “in the night sometimes.” In addition, they are opposites in personal experience: the priest knows the meaning of love even though he has not experienced passion; in contrast, Frederic knows passion but has not experienced love (72). The priest considers the nights Frederic speaks of as “passion and lust.” He tells Frederic, “When you love, you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve” (72).

In this respect, the priest not only “wished to serve” he did serve: as a model for Frederic. The priest’s acceptance of the kidding from the men in the mess makes it less difficult for Frederic not to let the men prevail upon his beliefs. The priest’s main concern is to safeguard Frederic from deterioration because the men’s words are like poison to his soul. Consider the conversation that takes place in the mess:

“ . . . The major said . . . “I am an atheist.”

“Did you ever read the ‘Black Pig’? Asks the lieutenant. “I will get you a copy. It was that which shook my faith.”

“It is a filthy and vile book,” said the priest. “You do not really like it.”

“It is very valuable,” said the lieutenant. “It tells you about those priests . . . “he said to [Frederic]. [Frederic] smiled at the priest and he smiled back . . . “Don’t you read it,” he said.

“I will get it for you,” said the lieutenant.

“All thinking men are atheists,” the major said . . . (7 – 8).

Not until the men begin divulging to Frederic where he should go on his leave, did the priest mention: “I would like you to see Abruzzi . . . “(8). Hence, the priest shows more interest in segregating the boy from the men who are without faith and who are striving to convert him to atheism.

Two characters, the priest and Rinaldi, vie to show Frederic distinct paths in life. The priest may be seen as simulating a Christ figure who is constantly being tempted through the harassments of Rinaldi to stray from the path of righteousness. Rinaldi the main instigator of the priest’s harassment, on the other hand, mimics Satan by inviting the priest to go against his morals.

Rinaldi admits he is “the snake of reason” in a conversation with Frederic (170). He says, “. . . I can say this about your mother . . . that about your sister. . . All my life I encounter sacred subjects” (169 – 170). The allusion drawn here is of the Garden of Eden. Instead of “the snake” tempting Eve (Catherine), “the snake” is tempting Adam (Frederic). Frederic is not too cooperative; he tells Rinaldi, “You are better when you don’t think so deeply,” causing Rinaldi to reflect: “You puncture me. . . But I know many things I can’t say” (170). Rinaldi is wounded by Frederic’s over protectiveness of his love for Catherine, his “sacred subject.” Rinaldi reveals he cannot maintain a friendship with a married couple “if they love each other,” suggesting he is incapable of love (170).

Later when Rinaldi tempts the priest, he shows he is unable to maintain a friendship with anyone capable of love. In addition, he builds on the “many things [he] can’t say” by drawing attention to St. Paul:

“Drink some wine, priest,” Rinaldi said. “Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake. That’s Saint Paul, you know.”

“Yes I know,” said the priest politely. Rinaldi filled his glass.

“That Saint Paul,” said Rinaldi. “He’s the one who makes all the trouble.” The priest looks at [Frederic] and smiles. [Frederic] can see the baiting did not touch him now.

“That Saint Paul,” said Rinaldi. “He was a rounder and a chaser and then when he was no longer hot, he said it was no good. When he was finished he made the rules for us who are still hot. Isn’t it true Federico?”

The major smiles. . .

“I never discuss a Saint after dark,” [Frederic] said. The priest looks up from [his dinner] and smiles at him (173).

Consequently, the treatment of the subject of wine communicates through Rinaldi that the books of Corinthians, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle, establishes “the rules” for those who are “hot”. Frederic is “hot”. Beversluis claims “Our first acquaintance with him discloses that he is a man. . . “(19). However, I Corinthians 13: 11 maintains if you speak, understand, and think like a child, you are a child–to become a man you must put away childish things. Frederic thinks, understands, and speaks, and even reacts like a child.

As a child, Frederic thinks he must lie to be accepted. For example, Rinaldi said, “Miss Barkley prefers you to me. That is clear. But the little Scotch one is very nice.” When Frederic answers in the affirmative: “Very,” the narrative uncovers the actual truth by way of his confession: “I had not noticed her” (21).

Not only does Frederic not notice things around him he also doesn’t understand. He confesses, “I did not understand the word” after his friend tells him: “You have that pleasant air of a dog in heat.” Then when Rinaldi calls him a “little puppy,” he reacts like a child: “I knocked over his candle with the pillow and got into bed in the dark” (27).

And then again, Frederic speaks like a child when Rinaldi teases him about Catherine. He tells Rinaldi to “Please shut up, if you want to be my friend” (169). In other words, he considers his friendship conditional: If he doesn’t get his way, he finds it necessary to resort to emotional blackmail. Rinaldi, however, doesn’t accept these childish maneuvers. This can be seen by his unconditional response: “I don’t want to be your friend . . . I am your friend” (169). Through Frederic’s behavior, his status of a child is confirmed. The character of Rinaldi clearly provides a contrastive view of the variation between the behavior a man and a boy.

But whether Rinaldi, the man, serves as the best mentor for Frederic, the boy is another matter. By his own admission, Rinaldi alludes to an impossibility of becoming better: “We are born with all we have and we never learn . . . “(171). Berversluis would agree “we need to be clear about the sort of person [Frederic] is . . . “(19). To determine what short of a person Frederic is may be accomplished through I Corinthians 03:13: Every man’s work shall be made manifest: the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work for what it is. The day that declares Frederic’s work is Catherine’s day of delivery and death. On that day, Frederic reminisces about the ants on the log:

“ I remember thinking . . . It was the end of the world and a splendid chance to be a messiah and lift the log off the fire and throw it out where the ants could get off onto the ground. But I did not do anything but throw a tin cup of water on the log, so that I would have the cup empty to put whiskey in before I added water to it. I think the cup of water on the burning log only steamed the ants (328).”

Consequently, through Frederic’s thought, action, and lack of action in this scenario, it is clear Frederic is selfish and his interests are only in himself; he envisions himself as god in his own thoughts.

The major said, “All thinking men are atheists” (8). Frederic is always thinking although he is not yet a man. He had thought “the night was better.” After all, there is this “. . . strange excitement of . . . not knowing . . . not caring” (13). Throughout the novel, he is constantly thinking, that is, until he is faced with the possibility of Catherine dying. Then he suddenly changes:

“. . . I did not think. I could not think. I knew she was going to die and I prayed that she would not. Don’t let her die. Oh, God, please don’t let her die. I’ll do anything for you if you won’t let her die. Please, please . . . Please God . . . I’ll do anything you say if you don’t let her die. You took the baby . . . That was all right. . . Please, please, please, dear God, don’t let her die (330).”

Frederic’s thinking stopped. But what good is his prayer? The prayer is conditional, calculating, selfish, and self-serving.

Frederic is just as self-serving when his anger is washed away in the river along with any obligation to the war. Then he said, “I was not made to think. I was made to eat, drink, and sleep with Catherine” (232-233). Here it appears Hemingway drew the words of Frederic from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes 2: 24: There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also . . . Is from the hand of God. Paul Smith points out in “Almost All is Vanity: A Note on Nine Rejected Titles for a Farewell To Arms” that the first few words of this verse, Nothing Better For a Man, was considered by Hemingway as a title before choosing A Farewell to Arms (74-75). Ironically in Old Testament beliefs as well as in Frederic’s belief, God is to be feared. The fear of God arises because man places obligations to himself over that of God. Frederic did the same when he says to God. I will do this only “if” you will do what I want. Did he envision emotional blackmail working on God?

In the prayer, he tells God it is all right that the baby died. But he did not sacrifice because of the baby’s death. The baby’s death did not matter to him. He is self-serving, living in a dream world and wishing his life away. His thoughts communicate he is a babe himself. This is reflected when he says, “. . . I wished the hell I’d been choked like that.” Then he counters his lie with the truth: “No I didn’t” (327). The admission discloses somewhere in his background there is a Christian foundation that reinforces his fear of God. By virtue of his confession, there lies a sense of “hope” for him. “But he did not know what the priest knew then” that lies are “deadly poison” that desecrate all efforts toward real love and happiness “although he learned it later” when he is faced with losing his beloved.

When he leaves the restaurant to return to his beloved at the hospital, there is an allusion to a baptism as he “walked through the rain (329).” Frederic didn’t change instantly; there is a learning process: A war is going on within him. In the war itself, Frederic said, “Well, I knew I would not be killed. Not in this war . . . “He reasoned:”. . . It did not have anything to do with me (37).” However, the other wars going on within himself and in his romantic love relationship with Catherine did have something to do with him. Fetterley recognizes “love and war appear together” as twin themes “because romantic love is a form of war” (49). Here she is right. When Frederic interjects his thought: “maybe she would pretend that I was her boy . . . (37),” his childish war-like strategy emerges.

However, Frederic is not the only one that resorts to war-like strategic maneuvers. Catherine does too. She plays the game well, knowing he will conform to her rules if he wants to play house with her:

“And you love me?”

“Yes”

“You did say you loved me, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” I lied. “I love you.” I had not said it before . . . (30).

“Say, I’ve come back to Catherine in the night.’”

“I’ve come back to Catherine in the night.”

“Oh, darling, you have come back haven’t you?”

“Yes.”

“I love you so and it’s been awful. You won’t go away?”

“No. I’ll always come back.”

“Oh, I love you so . . . . “

“. . . I turned her so I could see her face when I kissed her and I saw her eyes were shut. I kissed both her shut eyes. I thought she was probably a little crazy. It was all right if she was . . . I knew I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge . . . You had to pretend you were playing . . . for some stakes (30-31).”

Both acted like children bent on getting their way. Frederic didn’t want to go “to the house for officers where the girls climbed all over you . . . “and Catherine didn’t want to be lonely. She wants to pretend Frederic is her lost love. She acknowledges awareness of the circumstances when she remarks, “This is a rotten game we play . . . .” And then she says, “I had a very fine little show . . .” and when Frederic presses “her hand” and says, “Dear Catherine,” she replies: “It sounds very funny now–Catherine. You don’t pronounce it very much alike (31),” it is apparent she manipulates Frederic into playing the part she wants him to.

Much later, she tries to redeem herself through Frederic for where she feels she failed in her relationship with her dead lost love. She previously told Frederic:

“I wanted to do something for him. You see I didn’t care about the other thing and he could have it all. He could have had anything he wanted if I would had known. I would have married him or anything. I know it now. But then he wanted to go to war and I didn’t know . . . I didn’t know about anything then. I thought it would be worse for him. I thought he couldn’t stand it and then of course he was killed and that was the end of it (19).”

In her relationship with Frederic, she wants things to be different. She also fears being sent away from the hospital where Frederic is a resident. She said, “They’ve too many nurses here now. There must be some more patients or they’ll send us away . . . I hope some will come (103).” Catherine wants only to please Frederic. Therefore, she questions him on what he wants and how he reacts when he is with other girls. She wants to be foremost in his mind. This is evident in their conversation when Catherine asks:

“She says just what he wants her to?”

“Not always.”

“But I will. I’ll say just what you wish and I’ll do what you wish and then you will never want any other girls, will you?” She looks at me very happily. “I’ll do what you want and say what you want and I’ll be a great success, won’t I?”

“Yes.”

Because of the pain she feels when she lost her love; she relinquishes her individuality to Frederic to please him. But Frederic is also at fault because he allows her to. Consequently, she became his “sacred subject” and he became her religion. (115).

It is not until Frederic returns to Catherine’s room to tell her good-bye after she dies that he realizes the magnitude of his error. Frederic had said, “God knows I had not wanted to fall in love with her” (93). But he did fall in love with her. Unfortunately, “Nobody had mentioned what the stakes were (31)” in the little war game of romantic love. When Frederic made himself glance back into the darkness after he “. . . turned off the light . . . [he saw] . . . It wasn’t any good . . . It was like saying good-bye to a statue (332). “ He worshiped Catherine like an idol. He molded her into his own image as if she were a lump of clay. Therefore, he receives his just reward for his labor.

His just reward is not the death of the baby that leaves Fetterley with “the nagging suspicion that Frederic Henry sees himself in the dead fetus which emerges from Catherine’s womb . . . (52).” Frederic had no feeling for [the baby] . . . [The baby like the war] did not seem to have anything to do with . . . [him]. . . He felt no feeling of fatherhood (325).” Therefore, how could he see himself in the dead fetus? The image of strangulation produced by the cord around the baby’s neck merely serves as an indicator that the romantic love relationship between Frederic and Catherine has no hope of living. Catherine’s death is not “. . . the fulfillment of his own unconscious wish, his need to kill her lest she kill him (52)” as Fetterley claims. He doesn’t want Catherine to die; he begs God to let her live. Her death is Frederic’s just reward for his labor of molding her like clay into his own image. Frederic didn’t need to kill Catherine; he needs to kill his selfishness. Catherine is no longer Catherine. She had said to Frederic, “There isn’t any me. I’m you (115).” Hemingway’s portrayal of Frederic produces a mythological allusion of Pygmalion, molding the clay. Catherine is the clay; she turns “very gray” (326). Emotional Blackmail is the tool that reshaped her individuality. Their romantic love reflects what Frederic perceives love to be, selfish and self-serving. As a result, they both lose their identity: Frederic became a god; Catherine (the statue) became Frederic’s creation. Frederic obsesses with his creation, a reflection of himself, (Narcissus). Catherine is just as much at fault as Frederic. She makes the choice. She responds to him perfectly (just like Echo). But as she does, she loses her own identity. Their relationship is doomed–because in the end it is only one-sided: Catherine no longer exists. She is dead long before she dies.

Before Catherine dies, Frederic became a man because he puts away childish things. His adulthood is not forced upon him by Catherine as Fetterley alleges. Instead, his decision is his own. Their last meaningful conversation is very enlightening:

“Do you want me to do anything, Cat?” Can I get you anything. ” Catherine smiled, “No,” Then a little later, “You won’t do our things with another girl, or say the same things, will you?”

“Never.”

“I want you to have girls, though.”

“I don’t want them.”

Frederic didn’t lie when he answers her question with “Never;” he had no need to confess anymore. He is suddenly considerate of her needs because he learns what he “was always able to forget” that lies set on fire the course of nature. Rinaldi had said, “That Saint Paul . . . he made the rules for us . . . “(173). The books of Corinthians, The epistles of Paul the Apostle, establish “the rules” Rinaldi spoke of, something Rinaldi could not say. I Corinthians 7: 3-4 serve as an instruction for those wanting a lasting and loving relationship: Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. In other words, a lasting, loving relationship requires that both individuals retain their individuality. Now that Frederic is no longer hot. It is his obligation to follow “the rules: Consequently he discovers the kind of love the priest had spoken of: that “when you love you wish to do things for” your beloved. “You wish to sacrifice for” your beloved. “You wish to serve” your beloved (72). Gajdusek describes the results of the process “as an internal imperative” that harmonizes with “external actions and” necessitates “the virtue of selfless gestures” (26).

Unfortunately in their relationship, Catherine is not granted due benevolence or the benefit of selfless gestures until it is too late. In the end, the precept, “the rules,” eliminates the mythology of romantic love; the simile, “like a statue,” replaces the metaphoric allusion of the myth; and when Frederic leaves the hospital, “the rain” extinguishes the fire Frederic set on the course of nature with his lies.

Above is an edit re-posting of the original posted December 13, 2006

Advertisements

A Brief Examination of Moral Realism in Bronte’s Jane Eyre

By Trudy A. Martinez

Improvement of individuals through reading is the aim of Bronte in Jane Eyre. The novel‘s structure is a bildungsroman. In this structure, the narrator draws the reader into Jane’s world, confiding in the reader, sharing Jane’s inner most secrets and emotions as she grows as a person. The narrator conveys this sentiment by addressing the reader. For instance, “Reader, I climbed between the curtain and the window to read, cutting off the certainty of my suffering at the hands of John Reed.” The reader cannot help but be influenced by this technique as the reader tags along with Jane as her life moves from a bitter nobody at Gateshead (hiding and suffering at the hands of John Read) to her becoming a deserving and resigned somebody. The narrator proclaims, “Reader, I married him.” when she finally marries Rochester and resides at Ferndeen with him.

Jane’s Journey is not an easy one. The narrator examines the events that influence her attitude; this sets the tone of the novel along the way. The reader is made to feel her suffering and experience with her. At Gateshead, Jane is frozen; snow symbolizes her position within her immediate society in the Reed household. It is not unreasonable for her to be bitter and rebellious: John seeks her out to make her miserable while Mrs. Reed ignores her and treats her like Cinderella, unworthy of recognition.

The narrator confides in the reader, saying: “Reader, I don’t deserve this treatment.” Jane’s world is a Topsy-Turvy world where the bad are the rich and the poor are the good, suffering. Jane comes to be humble as she moves on to Lowood. Hence, the rich Mr. Brocklehurst is visibly the dark sinister figure, not worthy of his position as administrator. The reader learns just because he is a religious fanatic does not make him the best overseer of an orphanage.

The reader is shown possible avenues of life open to women and to Jane through the other characters. For instance, when Jane goes to Thornfield, it is permissible for her to experience life. She learns to love only to find herself unworthy of the love she finds because she set her love up as an idol; and his being already married exposes a sinister marriage without love, that of Bertha and Rochester, one his past and society endorse.

This endorsement is enforced, when Jane moves on. St. John affirms it when he tells her, “You are formed for labor, not love.” Jane is made to question life, to question servitude, to question her purpose, to question marriage without love. When she begins to weaken and is about to give in to St. John, the narrator informs us it is Rochester who calls out, “Jane, Jane, Jane,” giving her adequate reason to reject the offer and leave to find him, to reassure herself of his love and her worthiness.

At Ferndeen Jane resigns herself and comes to be accepting of a different type of servitude. The Topsy-Turvy world she has experienced is reconciled during her absence from Rochester. Mrs. Reed loses everything, dying poor. Jane comes to be independently rich and no longer needs to feel a burden upon Rochester. She is his equal. Rochester turns out to be humble and accepting of his station in life and free from his burden: Bertha, leaving him free to marry for love, and exposing the need for love in marriage. Consequently, the narrator’s exclamation: “Reader, I married him,” serves as a realization of the moral realism of the novel.

A Comparison between the Film, The Color Purple, and Alice Walker’s Original Work

By Trudy A. Martinez

The film, The Color Purple, and Alice Walker’s original work begins with a suppressive tone. The utterance: “You better not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy” consummates the suppressive tone. This declaration serves to qualify the guilt and shame Celie feels. Walker’s qualification of Celie’s feelings is instant, whereas the film suffers. In Celie’s first letter, when she addresses God, she writes “I am.” Then she crosses out these words and proceeds with “I have always been a good girl.” Her feelings of shame and guilt surface by way of her indecisive expression of the language. Even though Celie is not responsible for what happens because she has no control over her situation, nevertheless, she feels guilty for what her daddy forces upon her. Fear and ignorance keep her quiet, enduring her dying mother’s screams and cusses. Conversely, the film does not bestow the same impact or even make clear Celie’s personal dilemma.

The beauty of the color of purple in the first sequence as two young girls are seen happily singing and playing in a field of tall purple flowers masks Celie’s dilemma. The scene merely emphasizes the closeness of two young sisters, leaving questions concerning Celie’s pregnant condition unanswered. Consequently, the subtleness of the opening sequence renders the incident of rape exposed by Celie’s first letter to God as inconsequential. When she is seen giving birth to the baby with her young sister assisting, her father grows impatient and scorns her for taking so long.

Treating Celie with impatience and regarding her as unworthy of consideration seriously hampers her progress as a person. The actions of the father and later Mr._______ repress Celie and turn into the main hindrance to her happiness. An impatient tone exercises power over her. Celia’s ignorance and fear renders her powerless against abuse. She grows into an acceptance of her fate because she is made to feel ignorant, ugly, inferior, and unworthy of consideration; and therefore, she became a prime candidate for male domination.

While Celie is kept under male dominance, she works hard to ensure Nettie’s independence. Nettie does not feel Celie is ignorant. Nettie teaches her sister everything she learns and Celie promises Nettie she will take care of her with God’s help. In the original work, education is the key to Nettie’s independence. Later, education becomes the key to Celie’s independence as well.

In the film however, education is not an issue until after Nettie comes to live with Celie and Mr.______. When a clue arises that Mr. _______ is about to make a move on Nettie, education becomes significant because Celie needs to be able to read and write to communicate with Nettie if they are forced to separate. Celie’s life is an education process in itself. As she meets new people, she learns from them.

Celie learns from Sofia love has strength and the capability of conquering the opposition. Sofia’s vitality exposes the weakness of Mr.______- She stands her ground against him and gives Harpo the courage to stand up for himself. Sofia’s non acceptance of male dominance serves to contrast Celie’s acceptance of her inferior slave-like position. Shug Avery, Albert’s mistress, helps Celie to gain the self-confidence she lacks by encouraging her to make difficult choices while Shug serves as a living example to her. Shug says what she wants and does what she wants without fear of reprisal because she insists on her own right to pleasure. Her reason for not marrying Albert, even though she loves him, is because “he be week”.
When Celie learns through Sofia and Shug that Albert is a weak person, she does not take action to eradicate her circumstances until she learns Mr.______ took away years of joy from her life by keeping her sister’s letters from her. This spiteful action leaves Celie with the courage to speak out and act on her own behalf. As she learns from life’s experiences, she allows herself to grow and educates herself to life itself. Ironically, after her stepfather’s death, Celie gains financial freedom as well as freedom from male dominance.

Freedom from male dominance in the original work is stressed through a learning process of both Albert and Celie, this is apparent through Albert’s acceptance of Celie as a person and his acceptance of learning the backwardness of his ways as they sit together “sewing, and talking, and smoking.” The film, on the other hand, did not portray this joint learning aspect. Instead, Mr.______ is seen in the field at a distance walking a mule, a symbol of stubbornness that depicts an unwillingness to change.

A Brief Analysis of Woman as an Object in Turn of the Century Literature

By Trudy A. Martinez

At the turn of the century in both beliefs and treatment, woman is an object that is either preferred for her outer beauty and nurtured or cultivated as a servant for the pleasure or the benefit of man. Woman was expected to become an extension of her husband in all respects: to become, in a sense, “his second self.” In principle, she is viewed as a possession that he controls at his will. She has no right to question her status and divorce is only an option of the husband. Consequently, she is suppressed and losses her identity and longs for freedom as Mrs. Mallard did in The Joy that Kills; or she is victimized and retaliated as Mrs. Wright did in Trifles; or she chooses death as a means of escape as Edna did in The Awakening.

Mrs. Mallard is a repressed human spirit hopelessly controlled and nurtured for the pleasure of her husband, Brently. He calculates her every move. For example, the time schedule he places on her allows him to know what she was doing every minute of the day. Her maid serves as an observer who reports non compliance. Hence, Mrs. Mallard is like a bird in a cage that sings only for her husband and is resigned to experience life only through his eyes. Her weak heart provides him with justification. Consequently, she sees only what he wishes her to see of the outside world through pictures he supplies.

When Mrs. Mallard shares with the doctor her fantasy world in pictures, Brently becomes angry. “I never told about the light,” she said. Dissatisfied he responds, “Now that you’ve told someone—our world is over.” Defending herself she replies, “You always do the talking; I was trying to talk for myself.” Then he places his hand on her head and says, “Your mind in every thought.” In other words, you are not allowed to think for yourself. Even though the doctor advises she may now travel, her husband refuses to allow it.

Later, when new is received that Brently died in an accident while on travel, the tone changes from helpless suppressive tone to an optimistic tone. Suddenly, she is able to do things on her own, the thought of experiencing life invades her thoughts and she matters, “I am free, terribly free.” She is no longer forced to be a mere product of her husband’s desires. She approaches the front door filled with the thrill of finally being able to experience life for herself. The glow of the light from the outside world beckons her to escape. Then suddenly, the light is blocked by her husband’s form. The shock of her freedom again being obstructed deprives her of her strength of endurance and her escape is accomplished only through death.

In Trifles, Susan Glaspell used a rebellious tone to describe Mrs. Wright’s escape. Because she was not present during an investigation into her husband’s death “from a rope around his neck”, similarities to her circumstances with that of other women surface; this is achieved as Mrs. Hale, and the sheriff’s wife, Mrs. Peters, piece together and ultimately eliminate the evidence. The two women are able to sum up the situation because incidents in their lives are quite similar. Mr. Hale perceived John as a selfish man who wanted things his way. It didn’t matter what his wife wanted only what he wanted and “all he wanted was peace and quiet.” The men laughed at Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters for dwelling on the trifles such as spoiled preserves or whether Mrs. Wright was going to quilt or knot her quilt when in their estimation there were more serious things to worry about.

The women could not bring themselves to judge or condemn Mrs. Wright. Instead, they found themselves defending her when the men started criticizing the appearance of her kitchen. Her table was only half cleaned. Mrs. Hale remarked, “It’s wiped to here” in expressive recognition that Minnie may have been interrupted, thus preventing her from completing her work. As she spoke, she completed the cleaning for her. Mrs. Hale maintains a resentful tone in response to the men’s outcry, while Mrs. Peters remains apologetic of their insensitivity. Together the women find certain conditions like the nervous stitches in the quilt block to be similar to their own. The “bad sewing” irritated Mrs. Hale so she pulled it out. They reasoned: “We all go through the same things.” In essence, they dismissed that the crime was not the death of John, after all, he got what he wanted: “peace and quiet”. The crime was their absence from the scene during a time when Mrs. Wright needed a friend. When it was decided that “Mrs. Peters didn’t need any supervising because she was married to the law,” the women quickly maneuver the last piece of evidence that represented the motive (the little box containing the dead canary with the wrung neck) out of sight. When a motive could not be produced, Mr. Henderson settles for a trifle: “Well at least we found out she was not going to quilt it—she was going to–.” “Knot it,” replied Mrs. Hale.

Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, questions the motives of society concerning the rights of women. This is done through Edna who marries outside her own culture, religion, and class status against the advice of her father to a man whom she did not love. As a consequential repercussion of her marriage, she is subjected to differences that leave her out of step with the cultural norm and leave her silently weighing the emotional oppression she feels. Her husband demanded she be a slave to his whims and that she understands his predominance. For example, he was to come and go as he pleased; she was not to question his actions or authority; she was to be attentive to his desires at all times regardless of the time of day or night. In short, he looked upon Edna as his property.

Edna’s anguished feelings resulted from her husband’s infliction of criticisms; she could not explain the reasons for her feelings. But she knew that because of this treatment she was being stripped of her individuality. For instance, when she dared to discourage him through inattentive behavior, her husband immediately reciprocated with criticism, finding fault where there was no fault and judging her guilty of neglect to him and to his children. It was something he “felt rather than perceived.” Consequently, she lives a “dual life”: outwardly conforming while inwardly questioning.

Edna didn’t want to be identified as a creole wife who had no identity and who worshipped her husband and relinquished her individuality, nor did she want to be identified as a mother who was treated like an invalid. She wanted to be free as a bird and flee her controlled existence, but she was not strong enough to endure. He need to experience life with a passion was secondary to her husband. He would not consider divorce and there was this honor among men that her love, Robert, would not betray. Consequently, Edna exercised her own choice of death as a means of escaping her misery.

A Brief Note on the Perfect Ending of Dickens’ Bleak House

Posted on February 17, 2011

By Trudy A. Martinez

In Bleak House, Esther is the pill capable of curing society of its ills. Her marriage to Woodcourt is the perfect coming together: Woodcourt administers aid to the poor as a doctor. He is powerful with the capability of tolerating the poor without complaining about their disagreeable condition or any contagion they might spread.

For instance, to Joe, the doctor shows compassion; and he is gentle and patient and caring, recognizing what all the Mrs. Jellabys’ of society are too blind to ascertain: that charity begins at home, that the poor at home need the attention of the populace more than those abroad who are encroach upon with only a hope of the blind leading the blind.

Esther’s own blindness in her earlier illness reveals a sort of prophecy: “and the blind shall be made to see.” Esther is made to see. The scars on her face cannot hide the beauty within. She knows it is her duty to help others. Dickens makes it her duty to open the eyes of the public to a different attitude. Her presence exposes the ills of society.

For example, her mother marries for position, leaving love to the way side, causing her separation from her lover and from her illegitimate child, Esther. Jarndyce can be seen as a disciple, holding Ester’s hand and guiding her through society while she exposes the ills and then relinquishing her promise hand when the opportunity arises to unite her housekeeping cures with the doctor able to administer the cures necessary for the poor.

Woodcourt, her husband, remarks to her, when she looks in the mirror, that her beauty within is shining through. Esther, herself, recognizes it is not only her husband that administers an antidote to society. This reflects and emphasizes her narrative comment through the use of the uppercase “M” to express Me when she reflects the reaction of the community to her as Mrs. Woodcourt.

Esther holds the key to the housekeeping chores of society; Mr. Jarndyce gives her the key. Hence, it is only proper that with her marriage to Woodcourt, she shall come to be the housekeeper of the new Bleak House, capable of curing the ills of society.

Out of the Fog Came Life: A Stylistic Analysis of Dickens’s Bleak House

By Trudy A. Martinez

The imagery in Bleak House reveals a revelation of possibilities that petitions both a pessimistic and an optimistic existence. The beginning is the end. The end is the beginning of judgment. The words paint a picture, a warning of a possible end, giving a pessimistic view of that city coming into judgment. The four elements: earth, water, fire, and air that frame the beginning of the earth in the Holy Bible also frame the desolate beginning of Bleak House with its possible end. The middle links the beginning and the end through the characters representative of both good and evil who guide the societal participants at all levels of existence to their destination in life or death. In the end, the ending is a new beginning, mending a separation between man and woman, joining them in both love and marriage; this scene paints an optimistic view of a promise land free from destructive imagery.

Dickens inaugurates his imagery by using a verb style hypotaxis where the ranking is done for us while the all-knowing narrator informs the reader of any judgment lest we be guilty of judging. His play on words in the hypotaxis style creates an image of the beginning of the end with all of the four elements at work. For instance, the weather issues forth the mud, symbolizing corruption, where the “foot passengers . . . slipping and sliding” in and out of their faith add “new deposits” of “crust” to the earth. The retirement of the water (a symbol of the pure at heart ascending to Heaven) is seen “hanging in the misty clouds” protected from the fog that weaves in and out, spreading corruption everywhere at all levels of society and to all its classes, while at the same time, destroying the natural elements. The pure at heart are protected from the destruction and blindness created because they are housed within the structure of a prepositional phrase “as if they were up in a balloon.” Hovering above and “Peeping” down upon a pestilence in progress (Dickens 49). The fire issues forth its aftermath: the “smoke making a soft black drizzle with flakes of “soot” raining on and “mourning . . . for the death of the sun” (Dickens 49). The air, suffering from the effects of the death of the sun, produces a “haggard and unwilling look,” forming a gaseous appearance that looms “through the fog in divers places (Dickens 49)” toward those who are deserving of God’s judgment.

Period writers arm themselves with His judgment, prophesying the coming of the bridegroom who, ridding the earth of the “Megalosarus,” a dragon simulating the devil, brings about the death of the elements. Why else would “the two speechless gazers” after “justice was done” bend “themselves down to the earth, as if in prayer” in Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles? Were they not made aware of His presence? Was it just a coincidence that Adam’s occupation was a carpenter capable of winning over the priestess Dinah presented as if she was pure and innocence in Adam Bede or was it merely that the author, George Eliot’s vision blurred? I think not! After all, the all-knowing narrator allows her to confess in the novel, hinting of her defect and her judgment before God:

“The mirror is doubtless defective: the outlines will sometimes be disturbed, the reflection faint or confused; but I feel as much bound to tell you as precisely as I can what that refection is, as if I were in the witness-box, narrating my experience on oath (174).”

Others in the same period present and depict London in a similar light, exposing situations deserving of God’s judgment, while at the same time, teaching the eye to hear as if fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah (Matthew 13:13-17) while focusing on the position of woman in society. For example, Blake’s central concern was the Infants cry, pointing to the sin of man as the reason for the Harlot’s curse we hear while he hears the Harlots (plural) curse (swear) because of the tear (separation) of the Infants tear from their rightful place. Blake teaches his reader to hear with their eyes through the transparent chiasmas he creates. Similarly, one must question whether the Harlot’s curse put upon Lady Deadlock in Bleak House is actually man’s curse for allowing and bringing about her separation from her child, Esther.

Mrs. Rouncewell announces that the sound of the Ghost’s Walk must be heard when she tells a child, “I am not sure it is dark enough yet, but listen! Can you hear the sound upon the terrace, through the music, and the beat, and everything? This sound she says, “You cannot shut it out” (Dickens 141). And then again one might ask how was the blind man in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary able to see Emma’s sin and rebuke her for it when he could only hear? Could it be he is a messenger sending forth a rebuke to all of us so that we will become aware of the writing on the wall and hear with our eyes the same beat and music being played for us by God Almighty from the break of His day? Although each instance centers in on a different aspect of woman’s existence, all communicate a need for change.

Bleak House calls to mind the sin of Eve and the need for the removal of false images before the sight of God. For instance, Esther’s aunt, her godmother, assumes the role of a god, issuing forth judgment when she says, “Your mother, Esther, is your disgrace, and you were hers” (Dickens 65). Further evidence of her role as a god is given through her paralleling herself to Christ: “I have forgiven her,” she said, “I, the sufferer” (Dickens 65). But only God in Heaven can truly forgive and Christ already paid with his life by suffering for our sins. Why then is Esther’s aunt taking on such a role? Why is Esther made to suffer at the hands of another and a woman at that?

In essence, Esther asks these questions herself when she reads the book of St. John to her aunt and exclaims, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her! (Dickens 66)” At this point, an abrupt switch from the verb style Esther reads from the Holy Bible to the noun style hypotaxis where the aunt’s role is cast within a different structure. Esther is “stopped by her godmother’s rising, putting her hand to her head, and crying out in an awful voice, from quite another part of the book . . . “ (Dickens 67). Here again, there is an abrupt change; this time to a verb style as she attempts to assume a different role, deceiving the child and freeing herself from her confinement. Unfortunately, the role she attempts to assume is that of a false god, using God’s words as her own, warning Esther of destruction: ‘ “Watch ye therefore! Lest . . . he find you sleeping” ‘(Dickens 67), and forgetting that God is an angry God and a jealous God; the aunt makes the mistake of overly extending her influence, and she unthinkingly spouts out: “And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!” Consequently, God struck her down. He Judged her instantly.

At once, the verb style returns to a noun style when the aunt is spoken of by the naïve narrative of Esther, but the noun style works against its subject: Esther’s emotional plea to her aunt, the anaphora: I + kissed, [I] + thanked, and [I] + prayed, [I] + asked, [I] + [asked], [I] + entreated, failed because the aunt had over stepped her bounds by assuming the character of the antichrist and was, therefore, instantly judged.

Esther avoids an immediate judgment because she is still a child, investigating the choices available to her with the words of her aunt still ringing in her ears: “Pray daily that the sins of others be not visited upon your head, according to what is written” (Dickens 65). From this point, the novel becomes Esther’s bildungsroman as she moves from an unfavorable light toward a more favorable one. Just as Esther moves, the written word moves. For instance, noun style changes to a verb style, the hypotaxis style, where everything is determined for us, changes to a parataxis style where the choice is left up to us; and we are made able to link good to the bad as if administering a pill to cure its ills.

The change in Esther, just as the change in the written style of the words on the page, becomes apparent in Esther when she administers a pill to herself. Here, she stresses self-denial and a willingness to seek and discover the answers. The absence of prepositional phrases, the jailed structure that inhibits choice, highlights the change in the structure just as it highlights the change in Esther and favors her for her choice of thinking of others first:

“I don’t know how it is; I seem to be always writing about myself. I mean all the time to write about other people, and I try to think about myself as little as possible, and I am sure, when I find myself coming into the story again, I am really vexed and say, ‘Dear, dear, you tiresome little creature. I wish you wouldn’t!’ But it is all of no use (Dickens 163).”

It is of no use not speaking of Esther because speaking of Esther is the only way to reveal the methods and the formula for change and its reward or damnation. The others around her paint the picture of how things are going to be. For example, Mr. Skimpole is seen receiving his reward for his faith. The table was set for him: “There was honey on the table, and it led him into the discourses about the Bees. . . He protested against the overwhelming assumptions of bees.” The status the “busy bees” sold their souls for was given him by them. He stood firm and did not allow them to be a model. The station of the bees “was ridiculous:” a “position, to be smoked out of your fortune with brimstone” (Dickens 143).

Mr. Jarndyce guides Esther from the fire and smoke to discovery of the unknown and to her pleasure as if throwing water on her, baptizing her, and awakening her from a sleep. Esther tells us that the signs were “At first,” only “faintly discernible in the mists,” and acknowledges that “above them . . . later stars still glimmered” (Dickens 142). Is it just a coincidence that Esther is sent for and brought out of the mist “On the” very “day, after” her false image, the “poor good god mother, “the antichrist, “was buried,” and “the gentlemen in black with the white neckcloth reappeared,” announcing: “My name is Kenge . . . you may remember it, my child; Kenge and Carboy, Lincoln’s Inn?”(Dickens 67).

Does he not call to mind one holding the balances in his hand? He sure appears so on the page for Kenge first appears in the noun style and then abruptly switches to the verb style when he speaks. It stands to reason that just after Jarndyce announces “that Boythorn,” who was “the loudest boy in the world, and now the loudest man”, was coming down on a visit that he and his guests “observed the favorable omen” (Dickens 166). The opposite occurs on page 66 when the one that was, the god-MOTHER OF HARLOTS is struck down after trying to steal the thunder of the words of THE KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

We are told by Boythorn, “We have been misdirected” by “the most intolerable scoundrel on the face of the earth” (Dickens 166). Mr. Boythorn asks, “Is there anything for me from your men, Kenge and Carboy?” after he identifies Sir Leicester as Sir Lucifer and “calls attention to” the controversy of trespass., concerning “the green pathway” that Sir Leicester claims right away to but that is “now the property of Mr. Lawrence Boythorn”(Dickens 166-170). Did not he state: “No closing of my path, by any Deadlock!”

In contrast, Richard, thinking only of himself, “one of the most restless creatures in the world” takes a different route: He goes from what is considered a favorable light to an unfavorable one. Richard stresses self-love and a willingness to accept a different calling: “. . . The inclination of his childhood for the sea” (Dickens 163-164). Unlike Esther, Richard’s speech moves from a verb style to noun style. For example, Richard says: “So, cousin . . . We are never to get out of Chancery!” And the style abruptly changes to a noun style as he continues to say: “We have come by another way to our place of meeting yesterday, and – by the Great Seal, here’s the old lady again!”(Dickens 97) His choice was that of the easy way out as if he could change the direction the wind blows.

Finding that he has to work for his place, he places his confidence in the world whose outward appearance of luxury and fashion veils the inward corruption. The same becomes his religion and the High Lord Chancellor becomes his idol. This is evidenced when he confides in Esther:

“So I apprehend it’s pretty clear . . . that I shall have to work my own way. Never mind! Plenty of people have had to do that before now, and have done it. I only wish I had the command of a clipping privateer, to begin with, and could carry off the Chancellor and keep him on short allowance until he gave judgment in our cause. He’d find himself growing thin, if he didn’t look sharp! (Dickens 164)”

Hence, Richard becomes the kindling that fuels the wheels of corruption, thinking his dream of success lies just around the next turn as the wheels forever grind him further down toward his desolate destination of destruction and death. For example, his guide toward destruction, Mr. Vholes issues forth all manners of lies, eating upon Richard’s very flesh as if he were a cannibal (Dickens 605). And then again, he listened to the wrong voices when Mr. Vholes says, “A good deal is doing, sir. We have to put our shoulders to the wheel, Mr. Carstone, and the wheel is going round” (Dickens 607):

“I ought to imitate you, in fact, Mr. Vholes? Says Richard, sitting down again with an impatient laugh, and beating the Devil’s Tattoo with his boot on the patternless carpet” (Dickens 607).

In the beginning of the end, all the pestilence that was weaving through the streets in the fog was directed toward “the Lord High Chancellor” who having:

“A foggy glory round his head, softly fenced in with crimson cloth and curtains . . . outwardly directing his contemplation to the lantern in the roof, where he can see nothing but fog” (Dickens 50),

Let his house become desolate and unworthy of praise.

Quite the opposite of the Chancellor, Mr. John Jarndyce who converts his inheritance of a Bleak House left to him by his ancestors to a house of beauty by ridding the inside of its corruption of dirt with the application of a little water as if sent from God to bear witness of Truth.

Jarndyce compares the likeness of the former state of Bleak House to that city, burning in brimstone and the House built to fulfill the bridegroom’s coming, a promise, to the bride (earth). For what other reason would everyone at Bleak House view Mr. Boythorn’s coming as “the favorable omen,” confirming Jarndyce’s role as the Baptist when he says, “Now, will you come upstairs” and Boythorn answers:

“By my soul, Jarndyce, . . . if you had been married, I would have turned back at the garden-gate . . .I wouldn’t be guilty of the audacious insolence of keeping a lady [bride] of the house waiting all this time, for any earthly consideration. I would infinitely rather destroy myself – infinitely rather! (Dickens 166-168).”

The end is left for the reader to decide whether it is a new beginning or an actual judgment of earth. Jarndyce sums it up:

“I have never lost my old names, nor has he lost his; nor do I ever when he is with us, sit in any other place than in my old chair at his side. Dame Trot, Dame Durden, Little Woman! – all just the same as ever; and [Esther] answer[s], Yes, dear Guardian! Just the same . . . (Dickens 934).”

The hypotaxis style changes to a parataxis verb style on page 892, leaving the reader to interpret how to avoid judgment by linking back the participants in the society to see where each went wrong.

A Nail Stuck, An Analysis of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”

By Trudy A. Martinez

When reading The Glass Menagerie, one feels pity for Tom because his mother mistreat him; this is such a tragedy. She places the entire responsibility of the family upon his shoulders, as if to fulfill a fallacy: There has to be a man in the house if woman is to survive. Time changes with the World War, allowing women to enter the work force. However, Tom’s mother does not work, nor does she seek finding suitable work herself as a means of remedying their situation. Instead, she lives in an imaginary world, wanting her children to remedy the situation for her; she wants only to continue living her fantasy. The picture of the father symbolizes this obsession; it hangs in a most advantageous place: above them all–forever smiling.

The smiling father serves to remind Amanda of a tragic mistake. Yet, it is her “hawk like attention” at the dinner table, driving her son, which mostly catches a reader’s attention. How can anyone eat in peace with someone telling him or her how? “. . . Don’t push with your fingers . . . And chew—chew . . . Eat food leisurely, son” is Amanda’s dinner conversation (Williams 1464). It is surprising; Tom does not get indigestion. One might say, it is the mother’s place to correct her children; but Tom is not a child. Amanda obviously marries beneath her class structure as not many lower class bother to stress “[Eating] food leisurely” (Williams 1464). The lower classes are like slaves to the bourgeois; they are fortunate to have time to eat at all, much less leisurely. Tom refers to being a slave to his mother’s legacy during an argument with her. However, the children’s actions are a constant disappointment and never satisfying to the mother; she pre-judges them as failures. Even so, she is never discourages them from fulfilling goals for her through them.

On the other hand, the opposite is true of her offspring; both Tom and Laura are discouraged. They reject the goals their mother sets. What a tragedy Amanda cultivates through her constant search for perfection from her children. Her aggressive behavior to the fulfilling of her own goals (remaining in the past–her imaginary world– and regaining a higher status) has a reverse effect upon her children. This reflects her constant referral to “gentlemen callers” and through her fear of Tom not attaining higher money earning status and Laura not attaining a money earning status at all. She reminds Laura to “. . . study your typewriter chart . . . [and] . . . practice your shorthand . . .” While at the same time stating”, Stay fresh and pretty” [for men callers]! (Williams 1466). Knowledge is that “. . . aggression given full rein and allowed to run its course in a constant war of all against all, [jeopardizes] . . . survival. . . Clashing interests and social values underlie . . . human conflict” (Vander Zanden 370). Amanda’s clashing interest and aggression is not an exception. Her interest clearly clashes with the interests of her children. She lives only in the memory of her “social roots” where “charm” and an aggressive nature rein in the bourgeois class, a hierarchical structure she secretly wants to re-gain. Nonetheless, by seeking to regain her privilege status through her children, she becomes her own gatekeeper.

When Amanda makes herself the gatekeeper, she becomes susceptible to fate. The theme of The Glass Menagerie is one of vulnerability. What constitutes this concept? When one is vulnerable, are they not both trusting and unsuspecting? This is not the case with Amanda; she is suspicious and non-trusting. She flaunts her suspicious and non-trusting nature in the direction of her son by way of her continual interrogations, assumptions, and comparisons: “I think you’ve been doing things that your ashamed of . . . Nobody in their right minds goes to the movies as often as you pretend to . . . You remind me of your father [gone]” (Williams 1478-1492). Therefore, considering her vulnerable cannot be because of any action of Tom’s. His action only brings about the inevitable.

The inevitable came only after imagination came into conflict with reality. The breaking of the glass unicorn symbolizes the shattering of imagination by reality. Jim, the only realistic character in the play, is the one who bears a message of truth. He says, “Being disappointed is one thing and being discouraged is something else” (Williams 1498). However, it is not until the unicorn loses its horn that Laura is able to accept the Glass Menagerie for what it is: a collection of ornaments. The glass pieces represent an imaginary world where she is willfully imprisoned. At this point, her disappointment no longer discourages her. She is accepting of the realization that not only is the unicorn now like all the other glass ornaments but she is like everyone else. She is no longer a failure as her mother describes; she does not need to rely on imagination or deception to feel she is special. Her mother implies, “All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be” (Williams 1486). Laura’s perception of the situation differs. She acknowledges the difference when she says, “Maybe [breaking the unicorn’s horn off] is a blessing in disguise” (Williams 1502). Then later, she gives the unicorn that has lost its uniqueness to Jim as a souvenir.
Not long before, her brother gives Laura a souvenir, “. . . a shimmering, rainbow-colored scarf . . . Tom had told her that it was a ‘magic scarf’.” All “You [have to do is] wave it over a gold-fish bowl and they [will] fly away canaries…” (Williams 1474).

The goldfish bowl is symbolic of the life Tom and Laura live in “human desperation” (Williams 1463) under the unchallenged hierarchy of their mother. Whereas, the “fly away canaries” suggest both Tom and Laura can turn into songbirds and fly away to escape from their mother’s tyranny. All it will take to make it happen is for Laura to wave the “magic scarf”. However, had Laura waved the scarp when she emerged from her imaginary world or Had Tom flew away too soon?

Tom shares with Laura his desire to leave so she is aware of his intent; she does not become vulnerable because he leaves. Instead, Tom is the vulnerable one because he flies away like a songbird without facing reality. He does not learn that “So long as boundaries and hierarchies go unchallenged, aggression is inhibited” (Vander Zanden 371). Tom is too trusting and unsuspecting of his own purpose. Therefore, he is unable to take an aggressive stand in his own freedom. Consequently, he becomes “. . . lost in space–” (Williams 1507).

In Tom’s time space, his memories pursue him and his imagination takes control. The most amazing thing he sees is when a magician “. . . got [himself] out of the coffin without removing one nail”. Tom wants to do the same. He tells Laura, “. . . it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin . . . But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?” (Williams 1474).

There is the constant reminder of his father’s smiling face that serves as a reminder: “If there is a will, there is a way”. Even so, did Tom find the way by leaving when he did? Alternatively, does he carry on the family legacy? He appears to have a nail stuck in his heart, which keeps him imprison in a coffin (a trap) of his own making, an imaginary world where he envisions the “tiny transparent . . . ‘colored glass’ . . . bottles . . . [as] . . . bits of [his] shattered rainbow”(Williams 1507). The shattered rainbow is symbolic of the “magic scarf” he gives Laura. His mother tells him he manufactures illusions! (Williams 1507). Yet, he does not challenge her position.

Consequently, he follows in her footsteps manufacturing illusions just as she did. As a result, he makes his own tragic mistake. If this is not the case, why does he continue to search for escapes or “–anything that [can] blow . . . out [the memories of Laura] “? (Williams 1507). The memories of Laura remind Tom of his tragedy just as the picture of his father’s smiling face serves to remind his mother of her own.

Work Cited

Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie”. The Bedford Introduction to Literature.Michael Meyer, ed. Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press: Boston. 1990. 1462-1507.
Vander Zanden, James W. Social Psychology. Fourth Edition. Ohio State University. Random House: New York. 1987.