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The two plays ‘The Glass Menagerie’ and ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ brings out the features of American society. The two plays bear many similarities in terms of the content. They both have a similar setting in Chicago. In both cases, the idea of racism comes out clearly. For a long time, plays have been used to express real-life concerns.
Poets and play writers have used plays, poems, stories, and songs to express the values and events in society. This is what the two plays are addressing. Both were written in the late forties when the American society was on the verge of changing from a purely patriarchal society to a more liberal society with all members having equal rights.
The plays bring out the American culture in a very systematic way. It is during this time that men started neglecting their duties as breadwinners of their families. Because of this, women were forced to take responsibilities in their families. Because they could not run away from their children, women had no otherwise but to transform themselves to be family heads. The plays bring out the two possibilities that lead to women taking charge of their families during this period.
The first reason that led to this was the world war, which was ending during this time. Many men lost their lives, leaving their families with no proper care. The play ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ brings this out. The father of the family is portrayed as someone who was responsible, but unfortunately, he passed on, leaving the family with little inheritance, without a dream to realize. On the other hand, the play ‘The Glass Menagerie’ portrays the American men who ran away from their families to evade the responsibility that is usually associated with the father of the family.
The Play Analysis: Family
The two plays are entirely based on family issues. Both are based in Chicago hence expressing the new concern that was on the rise in the region. For a long time, families were intact in the region. In many occasions, both parents would be available for their families and they would take their respective responsibilities in caring for their children unless one or both lost their lives prematurely. However, this was changing during this time.
Men were becoming less responsible as regards to their families. There was a rise in single parenthood, something that was not common before. Both plays express the difficulty that these families had to undergo such new structures. One fact that comes out is that when such families were left without the father, financial problems would be unavoidable.
In Wingfield’s family, Mrs. Amanda is left with the two children to take care of. The family has a big financial challenge and it forces the eldest son of the family to work so that the family can earn a livelihood. However, following the footsteps of his father, Tom runs away from his family in order to keep off from the responsibility left by his father.
This particular play expresses the agony that families would be forced to undergo simply because fathers refuse to take their responsibility as men. Mature men, Tom and his father Mr. Wingfield whom we meet in this play, have this habit of running away from their families when they are needed most.
On the other hand, Younger’s family expresses the agony that families of American soldiers underwent following the Second World War that claimed most of their lives. Most of these individuals were very responsible fathers who cared for their families. Mr. Younger insured his life to ensure that in case of any negative eventuality, the family would have a basis to begin life once more.
The two plays try to express the same family scenario of living without a father. However, both give different reasons for this. In America during this time, a number of men perished during the war. Some men grew irresponsible having realized that even women could take care of the family.
However, both plays share in argument that women still believed that they could not make a decision on their own without the support of a male figure. Amanda believed that the solution to help her daughter Laura to get a suitor lay with her son Tom. Similarly, Mrs. Younger believed that the entire family members, especially the eldest son, would determine the way their inheritance could be spent.
Although she was tough enough and managed to insist that her will had to prevail, it is also evident that she gave in to the son’s poor decision of investing in the liquor business. She allowed him to have some amount. Beneatha, Walters’s sister, lays no claim on the money, leaving all decision-making processes to the mother who believed that it was hard to make a decision on her own.
This trait is also seen in Laura who left her life to fate. She was completely despaired believing that one day, she would come to meet a suitable man to marry her and take her away from the confines of her house. Although Beneath was a little more social and was able to identify a Nigerian suitor, she was more less the same as Laura when it came to issues of decision-making.
This is a real expression of the American culture by then (Aragón 54). American culture has dramatically changed over the past half-century. The society by then was patriarchal and men were very responsible to their families. This has changed and the current American society has women playing important roles as those of their male counterparts.
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Both plays express dreams that families had as they started out or as they were about to start. This was in line with what came to be popularly referred to as the American dream. Immediately after the Second World War, there was a spirit to reconstruct America. The American dream was the driving force that encouraged people to work hard in the nation by the time the war was nearing its end.
The American dream was a summation of the dreams of American families (Angelo 46). Each family had a dream that it wished to realize within a specific period. This dream helped America to come up with a national dream that would see to it that the state remains the super power and self-sufficient.
In both plays, family dreams are expressed. In Wingfield’s family, we see Amanda recalling the illusions she had as a young girl. She was thinking about the kind of the family she wanted in her life. She yearned for comfort that she imagined she would get in her family. Upon realizing that she could not achieve this comfort, she was heartbroken. However, as is evident in this play, she is still hopeful that one day this dream would be realized.
Since she was parted ways with her husband, she saw herself realizing this dream through her son Tom and the daughter Laura. Although the daughter seemed to be a little shy to achieve the objectives set by the mother, Amanda still believed that she could make it if given little support. She therefore exerted pressure on Tom to help her sister find a suitor who would make her life comfortable. She also had a dream of finding her long lost husband. This would help her live a comfortable that she had admired for years.
Not all American dreams were successful. Some failed and their failure could be traced at the family level. Wingfield’s family was a symbol of this failure. Within this period, some Americans set targets that were too high to be achieved or some just did nothing to ensure that their dreams were realized (Irvine 2008).
As would be expected, such dreams failed. Amanda expecting Laura, who was too shy and physically and mentally impaired to find a suitor in their house, was a dream that was unrealistic. The expectations she had towards the son were also unachievable given the prevailing state of affairs. It was also not easy to find her loving lost husband. Therefore, with this illusion of happiness, she would most certainly live without fulfilling her dreams under normal circumstances.
On the other hand, Younger’s family is a symbol of America’s realized dreams. During this time, America was a strong powerhouse in terms of the economy, military, technology and world politics. It had an influence in the international system, forcing other states to respect its decisions and actions. Mr. Younger and his wife shared a dream of owning a house in a rich neighborhood.
He worked hard to realize this dream but unfortunately, he passed on before seeing its realization. However, because he had planned for any eventuality and insured his life, his family was still able to live in the dream house. Unlike Amanda who never had a shared dream, the Younger family shared their dream, a fact that ensured that in case one was not available, the other would be there to realize the dream.
The American dream was also realized because it was a shared vision, with each individual American having the feeling that he or she had a role to play in the realization of the dream. Younger’s daughter, though not very aggressive in life, had a bright future with her Nigerian fiancée. She had struggled to ensure that she was successful in her medical school but due to financial constrains, she had to cut short her studies.
However, good things were in store for her because her fiancée was ready to pay for her studies. In such successful families, there would not miss elements that would be destined to failure. Younger’s son, Walter, was a symbol of this. His dream of starting a liquor firm was peculiar in the first case. His style of investment was also poor and therefore his failure was easy to predict. Therefore, the two plays converge and diverge at some points but their main agenda was to bring into focus the nature of American character in the 20th century.
Angelo, Timothy. “A vision worth working towards: Assessment in support of learning communities”. Assessment updates 12.2 (2012): 3-5. Print
Aragón, Francisco. The wind shifts: new Latino poetry, Chicago: University of Arizona Press, 2007. Print.
Irvine, Colin. Teaching the Novel across the Curriculum: A Handbook for Educators, New York: ABC-CLIO, 2008. Print.