Tuesday, 3 September 2013

THE GLASS MENAGERIE – Tennessee Williams, 1944

Now the broken unicorn looks just like all the other horses. Laura’s suitor is clumsy but tender; the most heart-breaking point is when he tells her that he already has a sweetheart.
This play is an example of something which is introduced to you in your youth and remains with you until you are ready for it. This is a prime example of why English Literature matters. But not just that, it is an example of why GOOD English Literature matters.
I was talking about this to my friend the other day. We were at school together in the 1980s and we are still appreciative of the way in which really good literature was placed before us. We can both remember enjoying a challenge at the time and are conscious of the feeling that something special had been stored up for us in the future. Nowadays, modern literature seems to be so innocuous and synonymous with grime or crime but Kes would have been a waste of time for us. The poetry of John Cooper Clarke, whilst holding a special place in the heart of someone dear to me, and now on the recommended GCSE reading list, would have fallen short for us; laughed at for a while but then forgotten and replaced by something more meaningful.
Tennessee Williams was and IS meaningful. In The Glass Menagerie, he somehow conjured up the ability to express the emotions of a girl who was scared of life. For grammar school girls in the 80s he was spot on. How, I do not know, as we were certainly not his intended audience. We did not even know it then. But, looking back and reminiscing in a pub converted from a church in Nottingham, both about 350 miles from the place where we were educated, J and I could talk about how a teacher we both loved plonked 30 copies of the play in front of us and introduced us to a world which would sustain us from then on.

This play is a masterpiece. It encapsulates the emotions of a young woman, made to behave like a girl, caught in a trap, expected to behave as her mother would when her whole world has fallen like Atlanta during the American Civil War. 

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