The Glass Menagerie

What feeling does the setting and the conditions convey?

what feeling does this setting and the conditions convey?

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The allusion to Guernica and the turmoil in Spain, juxtaposed to the uneasy peace in America, establishes a tense atmosphere as the play's background. The Americans of the thirties lived in relative peace, if economic hardship, but for the 1944-5 audience of the play's first production, the thirties would have been seen as the calm before the storm of World War II. The allusion to Guernica (bombed by Germany, ally of the fascist forces in Spain; the carnage was famously depicted in a painting by Pablo Picasso) serves as a reminder that before long war will be coming to everyone, the United States included.

There is symmetry between the uneasy peace of the time period and the uneasy peace in the Wingfield house. Just as America stirs restlessly with the uneasy peace before the Second World War, Tom seethes with the need to escape his home and set out into the world, as his father did before him. The fire escape, a visually prominent part of the set, is an important symbol for the imprisonment that Tom feels and the possibility of a way out. In his stage directions, Williams characteristically imbues the fire escape with symbolic weight, saying that the buildings are burning with the "implacable fires of human desperation." Tom addresses the audience from the fire escape, and his positioning there, standing alone between the outside world and the space of the apartment, points to the painful choice he makes later in the play. In order to escape, he must escape alone and leave his mother and sister behind.