Undeniably, all the characters in The Glass Menagerie play a significant role. The role of a character is not only to act as the protagonist or the antagonist. Generally, a play has main and supporting characters, and all of them complement each other to portray the main message the playwright wants to deliver (Jacobus 44). Characters can be symbolic, mythic, nonhuman, and also fantastic. In some plays, a group of characters may have the same role at the same time. Others appear in specific scenes, but their actions always relate to the main picture of the play. Therefore, the characters’ possibilities are infinite; and different ways can define the characters. In the play ‘The Glass Menagerie’, all the characters have different roles that make readers understand the author's main message (Williams 35). The gentleman caller, Jim O'Connor, symbolizes the expected hope for the Winfield family, although he comes to a bad end, suffering shipwreck of his hopes. Thus, the essay deals with Jim’s character that portrays him as the expected hope the Wingfield family wants to achieve and realize in the real world.
Jim O’Connor comes to the Wingfield family from a warehouse of Continental Shoemakers owing to Tom. Jim is a clerk and does engineering and public speaking classes at part time. Jim has visions to work at the television industry, since he foresees a big future in this field (Jacobus 55). Being in high school, Jim had the alluring beauty, and he attracted many young girls. Jim attended the same choir class as Laura, and referred to her as Blue Roses. Laura had a crush on Jim, but his status in high school could not allow her to approach him. After the reunion in Laura’s home, Laura’s anxiety arose, and she imagined marriage with Jim (Scharnhorst, and Quirk 44). Her anxiety arose when Jim encouraged her to be confident. Emotions overcame Laura and lastly, they kissed.
As the play continues, the gentleman caller presents himself as a future spouse for Laura. Laura’s mother, Amanda, gains high hopes for her daughter. Amanda sees the prospective marriage as a chance for Laura to become independent and stop relying on Tom for support (Williams 50). The gentleman caller also becomes a symbol of hope for Tom because of the same reason, and Tom certifies the hope, when he confesses of having a great weakness for symbols. Tom goes on describing Jim as a realistic character, compared to the others, therefore, representing the fact in the real world (Jacobus 66). Jim comes from the outside world, from which the Wingfield family excludes itself. Jim is different, because, before he appears in the play, the Wingfield family appears as an isolated lot; the play even describes them as the Wingfield life. The family spends most of its time dreaming and longing, therefore, proving they are lonely. Jim appears, and there comes an opportunity of a prospective marriage between Laura and Jim (Williams 64). The family, accordingly, takes advantage of the opportunity to link to the outside world and society.
Jim also has an illusion of how the future America will look like judging by the present. The illusion is an optimistic assessment if considering that, at that time, there was World War and, consequently, economic depression. Preceding the play, the author describes Jim as a young, nice and ordinary man. The description proves that Jim plays a very critical role (Jacobus 84). In the play, the audience has some information about Jim, when Tom informs Amanda of a gentleman caller, who would arrive soon. Tom goes on to refer the gentleman caller as plain explaining, why the family should have no cause for alarm. Tom also says that Jim earns almost the same salary as him, although it is slightly higher, and that he is not different from the previous gentleman callers that Amanda had. Jim’s actions portray his plainness. Firstly, he becomes interested in sports and explains to have no understanding of Tom’ ambition to move away from the warehouse (Williams 109). Throughout Jim’s conversations with Tom and the rest of the family, he shows his plainness. However, despite the other family members seeing Jim as an ordinary person, Laura sees him as a prize and a glimmer of hope.
The nature of Jim’s character is exposed, when they have a discussion with Laura. His ordinary nature presents what Laura needs. Laura knows Jim from high school, where he was describing himself as an all-American boy, and the personality hindered Laura to make advances on him (Jacobus 98). Despite the nature, Laura had special feelings for Jim, and she saw him as the ideal man. During a conversation with Laura, Jim recalls their history and describes his time in high school. However, the egotistical nature of Jim portrays itself, when he brings back the past to claim how he attracted girls. After Laura finds out that Jim has not changed, her hopes and dreams of the future with him fade (Scharnhorst, and Quirk 66). However, the role of Jim in the play outdoes his ordinary character. The difference between Jim and Laura consists in the fact that Laura lives in a fantasy world, while Jim lives in the real one.
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