A director of 'The Glass Menagerie' has written: "All four characters invite compassion and sympathy from the audience". To what extent do you agree with this opinion?

Essay by reposCollege, Undergraduate January 2003

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The Glass Menagerie's small cast effectively allows the audience to feel a higher amount of emotion for the characters as they move through the play with them. All four characters in this play invite compassion and sympathy from the audience, but all to varying extents due to the situations they find themselves in and the personalities that they hold.

The most sympathy and compassion that the audience feels is towards Laura. Her disability is the fundamental reason for the sympathy she receives from the audience as they see that she is 'crippled' and are reminded of it when she moves around the stage. Her disability is a taboo subject for the Wingfield family and the fierce rejection by Amanda of Laura's acceptance of her condition allows the audience to feel a deep sense of compassion. Due to Amanda's almost constant pestering and fussing over Laura, the audience do not necessarily feel sympathy for Amanda's position straight away, but grow into the feelings that they will hold by the end of the play.

Her shyness, possibly as a direct result of her disability, is portrayed by Williams through the effective use of language. This is especially seen when Laura is involved in conversations with the other characters. Her short answers and the lack of interjections can be easily recognised as shyness, including the inferiority complex that Jim explains to her in the final scenes. Her responses such as 'Please don't stare at me mother' show she is comfortable around her family, but her responses to Jim are quite different: 'I-yes, I-did, too-'. This broken sentence structure or short answer is typical of Laura and can be seen throughout the play whenever she is with Jim, or is uncomfortable with a subject that is being discussed. This can best be seen when...