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Feb 26, 2019 - AP Literature    Comments Off on Key Scenes in Othello

Key Scenes in Othello

othello's lamentation

Consider/review these scenes as you complete your Major Works Data Sheet for Othello and prepare for the seminar:
Act I, Scene 3 – Othello and Desdemona’s stories of their love; The Duke’s and Brabantio’s warnings to Othello; Iago’s advice to Roderigo; Iago’s final speech
Act II, Scene 1 – Iago, Emilia, and Desdemona speaking of men and women; Iago’s speeches regarding his developing plan of revenge
Act II, Scene 3 – Cassio’s downfall and Iago’s advice to Cassio
Act III, Scene 3 – Iago plants and waters the seed of jealousy
Act III, Scene 4 – Othello confronts Desdemona about the handkerchief
Act IV, Scene 1 – Iago “proves” Cassio’s betrayal; Othello and Iago make plans
Act IV, Scene 3 – Desdemona and Emilia talk of men and women
Act V, Scene 1 – Iago puts his final plan into action
Act V, Scene 2 – Othello carries through with his part of the bargain; Iago’s plot is revealed and tragedy befalls the cast

Othello’s Lamentation by William Salter, 1857, from the Folger Library Collection

 

Jan 9, 2019 - AP Literature    Comments Off on Lit Circles: Novel Choices

Lit Circles: Novel Choices

In preparation for Literature Circles, please review the following information about the books. You will select a book of your choice and join in a circle with 3-5 members of your class. During class Friday, we will review lit circle procedures, deadlines, and assignments. You will receive a copy of your book at that time, so have your first and second choices in mind.

1984 by George Orwell

1984Published in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life–the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language–and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Orwell’s vision of a future in which truth is fluid, privacy is gone, and even your thoughts can be enough to send you to prison ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaidOffred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…everything has changed.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

bnwThe 1931 debut of Brave New World reflected the fears European society held after the Great War and how the explosion of technology and industry would impact individual identity. Huxley’s darkly satiric vision of the future envisions a “utopian” world of tomorrow in which capitalist civilization has been reconstituted through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order–and what happens when a “savage” asking questions about humanity, society, and love shows up.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

cuckooBoisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Turning conventional notions of sanity and insanity on their heads, the novel tells the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the story through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them all imprisoned.

Nov 12, 2018 - AP Literature    Comments Off on The Glass Menagerie Interview

The Glass Menagerie Interview

 

Since its debut in 1945, The Glass Menagerie has been revived on Broadway seven times, in 1965, 1975, 1983, 1994, 2005, 2013, and most recently in 2017. PBS commentator Charlie Rose featured the 2013 revival cast of The Glass Menagerie on his October 4, 2013 show, including actors Cherry Jones (Amanda), Zachary Quinto (Tom), Celia Keenan-Bolger (Laura), and Brian J. Smith (Jim). The production received a total of seven 2014 Tony Award nominations for the run, including Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (Jones), Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Smith), Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Keenan-Bolger), Best Scenic Design of a Play, Best Lighting Design of a Play (winner), and Best Direction of a Play. The production was also nominated for three Drama Desk Awards.

In the interview, the actors discuss Williams’ text, their approach to the roles, and the enduring appeal of The Glass Menagerie in American theater.

The most recent revival premiered in March, 2017, starring Sally Field as Amanda, Joe Mantello as Tom, and Finn Wittrock as Jim. The stripped-down production also featured actress Madison Ferris, who has muscular dystrophy, as Laura, prompting a wider discussion of disability in the theater. In the interview below, Sally Field discusses the role of Amanda and its importance in American theater history.

Madison Ferris was featured in a March 23 article in People magazine discussing the new production of The Glass Menagerie and how she pursues her ambitions despite the challenges her MS creates for her. Read the article, which includes a video interview, here.

Nov 8, 2018 - AP Literature    Comments Off on World Café Discussion: The Glass Menagerie

World Café Discussion: The Glass Menagerie

unicorn

The following questions were considered during the World Café discussion in class today. Selected responses are recorded below.

Is Amanda a good mother?

  • YES –> good intentions toward her children, works to support the family, invests time and money into finding Laura a husband, stays with her children despite trouble, genuinely thinks her way is best, stays (unlike their father), tries to help her children advance, won’t allow “crippled” as a descriptor for Laura, comforts Laura at the end
  • NO –> very pushy, doesn’t understand Tom’s dreams because she’s worried about Laura and her own situation, overcontrolling, lost in a dream world of the past, actions reflect her desires rather than children’s needs/wishes, superficial, unkind to Tom because he reminds her of her husband, seems more focused on her children’s success than happiness

The Glass Menagerie is a play about _____ because _____.

  • Selfish desires – Tom’s and father’s choice to leave, Amanda’s controlling nature
  • Regret – Tom regrets leaving Laura
  • Misunderstanding – Amanda doesn’t understand either of her children’s wishes
  • Appearance vs. Reality – setting of apartment, Laura hiding her disability,
  • Deception – Tom’s explanation about where he’s going and why, playing happy family for Jim when they’re not, Laura shrugging off the broken unicorn
  • Love and betrayal – characters lying to protect other characters’ feelings, Laura hiding what she’s been doing instead of going to school
  • Family – Amanda expecting Tom to be a better man than his father
  • Dreams – character’s dreams unspoken to each other, expectations for other characters
  • Finding yourself – Tom rejecting the warehouse to write, Amanda clinging to the Southern belle she used to be, Laura retreating into her world of glass
  • Illusion – Amanda lives in the past, Laura lives in her glass world, Tom wants to escape to adventure
  • Abandonment – Jim abandons Laura (hope), the father abandons the family, Tom abandons Amanda and Laura

Who is the most important character in the play? Explain.

  • Amanda – she is the most present of all the characters (appears in most of the scenes), she drives the play and determines the actions of the other characters, she acts as the rock/glue for the family, she presses her desires on her children, she sets the whole play in motion, themes relate back to her relationship with everyone else
  • Tom – play is told from his perspective, all conflicts relate back to him, he carries the emotions from the events, when his character leaves the family ceases to exist, focal character, his choice to bring Jim invites the play’s climax, he ends the action on his terms
  • Laura – the main action of the play concerns plans for her future, the other characters’ focus in on Laura, the lighting asks the audience to pay attention to her, she has the most emotional development of the characters,
  • the father – he’s the reason for their current situation, characters’ choices are viewed in comparison to his, he’s always watching (figuratively) the fallout his leaving created, his absence is the catalyst for both Amanda’s and Tom’s characters

Name and discuss the significance of an important symbol in the play.

  • glass menagerie – Laura’s fragility and her hopes/dreams
  • father’s picture – constant reminder of his abandonment, foreshadowing of what Tom will become,
  • Victrola – Laura’s unwillingness to move and how her life is painfully repetitive
  • typewriter – both Tom’s ambitions and Laura’s failed attempts at success,
  • merchant marine uniform – Tom’s desire for adventure and foreshadowing of his eventual choice to leave
  • blue roses – Laura’s peculiarity and attractiveness,
  • fire escape – escaping the family to pursue dreams, when called the “terrace” it romanticizes their reality
  • movies – Tom’s escape, further heightening of illusion vs. reality theme
  • fancy lamp – illusion that the family is more than it appears to be (happy and comfortable)
  • glass unicorn – Laura’s uniqueness, when its horn is broken it shows Laura trying to fit in and be accepted, broken relationship with Jim, her nervousness (when it breaks, she feels more open)
  • Amanda’s dress – her clinging to the past, compares her wealthy past to her poorer present
  • Jim – the “very ordinary young man” who contrasts greatly with the flawed family

How does the setting function to reveal character and provide insight on theme?

  • Gloomy apartment – contributes to bleak and depressing tone, current lifestyle contrasts with the past and reinforces idea of “memory play”
  • Living room – one set highlights Laura’s isolation from the world, same set throughout play heightens sense of characters being trapped in their circumstances
  • New furnishings – reveals how things aren’t usually as they seem (deception; appearance vs. reality), illusion that they are more than they appear to be, shows Amanda’s wish to be like she was–genteel, Southern, and rich–than what she is
  • Fire escape – Tom escaping the family
  • St. Louis/South – reinforces traditional roles for women (security, marriage), enhances Amanda’s mentality that Tom and Laura do not share,
  • Open windows – lets in music and other pleasures not available to the people in the apartment, reinforces Tom’s wish to escape

Do the images on the screen enhance or detract from the play? Explain.

  • ENHANCES –> contributes to the idea of a “memory play” because they are dreamlike like memories, adds to visualization, helps with background knowledge not presented through setting and text, provides insight into what characters are thinking, provides symbolic meaning, reflects how things are remembered, provides comic relief, clarifies possible ambiguities in the dialogue, sets the mood for scenes, adds diversity and interest in the confined setting
  • DETRACTS –> pulls attention from what the actors are doing, takes away element of suspense, can be unnecessarily distracting, can dictate opinion of the audience
Sep 18, 2018 - AP Literature    Comments Off on The Seminar Process

The Seminar Process

Mention a Socratic seminar to students, and often the response is just like the one portrayed in “Oh God, Teacher Arranged Desks in a Giant Circle” from The Onion. In other words, uncertainty, anxiety, and even panic. But if you enter a seminar prepared, you’ll find your fears allayed and, I hope, your knowledge of the work we’re discussing extended and deepened.

The first thing you need to understand is that a Socratic seminar is not a debate. The point is not to win an argument. Instead, a Socratic seminar aims to deepen understanding through discussion and questioning. A more detailed explanation can be found here: Dialogue vs. Debate. Seminar participation will be graded like a test, and there are three keys that will help you do your best.

PREPARATION
Come to the seminar prepared. Students should have their Six Pack Sheet for the work completed as fully as possible, including their ideas on motifs and symbols, references to important scenes/conversations, and character information. Crafting thoughtful questions can also provide you with something to share. Remember that your questions should explore WHAT IS in the work (cause and effect, character motivation, etc.) and not WHAT IF (speculation based on something that occurs). We’re discussing the work as presented, not writing fanfic. The ultimate goal is to discern an appropriate meaning of the work as a whole (MOWAW) that can be supported by textual evidence.

PARTICIPATION
Most seminars will be conducted over two days. On the first day, we will open with a question round. Everyone present will share one of the questions they have prepared on their Six Pack Sheet. We will then select a question to kick off the day’s discussion.

During the discussion, your job is to listen and connect. One person should speak at a time. Comments should be directed to the class as a whole rather than to the teacher, who acts as a facilitator rather than a leader. Comments should ADD something new to the conversation, REFER to the text to clarify or support, or EXTEND what another student has introduced. Please take notes on what you hear using the appropriate field in the Six Pack Sheet. Day 2 of the seminar will begin with a comment round, with everyone sharing something interesting from the first day that they found thought provoking or wish to discuss further. Six Pack Sheets with their seminar notes will be submitted to Canvas at the end of Day 2.

While you are speaking, I will be observing and making notes on your seminar input and behavior. Positive behaviors that will earn you points include the following:
     • offers new idea
     • asks a new or follow-up question
     • refers to the text
     • paraphrases and adds to another’s idea
     • encourages others to speak
Please avoid interrupting others, side conversations, and dominating the conversation—the best seminars allow everyone a chance to speak and respond. Conversely, don’t sit in silence. Have a question or quotation ready to go if you don’t feel confident expressing yourself off the cuff.

FOLLOWUP
To extend the conversation and provide a record for review later, we will also conduct a followup discussion using Canvas. All students will be expected to contribute to the online discussion even if they spoke in class. The online discussion will be open for a few days after the in-class seminar is concluded. Once the online discussion closes, seminar grades will be finalized.

Seminars will be graded based on both your contributions to the discussion (speaking in class and posting to the discussion board) and the quality of those contributions (specific text references rather than general comments). The fewer comments you make and more general your input, the lower the grade, and vice versa. If you wish a high seminar grade, you will need to contribute thoughtfully and precisely both during the class and online. Ultimately, your seminar participation should reveal your understanding of and thinking about the work in question.

If you are absent from class on a seminar day, you will be expected to increase your participation in the online conversation. In addition, you will have a separate written assignment to complete.

Sep 17, 2018 - AP Literature    Comments Off on Oedipus Rex Socratic Seminar

Oedipus Rex Socratic Seminar

In preparation for our final discussion and writing on Oedipus Rex, please review the following:

Review the Oedipus the King analysis post on the website.

Complete your MWDS for Oedipus Rex. Be sure to include plenty of apt text references to aid your discussion! Think carefully as you complete the MOWAW and question boxes on the second page; these will be very helpful to have handy during the discussion.

Consider the Aristotelian definition of a tragedy and a tragic hero and consider how they apply to the play and the character. Aristotle believed that plot was the primary element in tragedy, and the plot must follow these four principles: 1) The plot must be a whole, with a beginning, middle, and end; 2) The plot must be internally whole, with incidents relating to each other and not interrupted by a deus ex machina or completed by a coincidence; 3) The plot must reflect a serious treatment in terms of its complexity and universal appeal; and 4) The plot should not only include a change of fortune for the central character, but also some reversal or surprise and a recognition within that character of his/her changed status that brings about knowledge.

Consider how the character of Oedipus fits Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero: 1) neither completely good or bad; 2) of high stature; 3) suffers a change in fortune due to a tragic mistake (hamartia) of some kind–most often through hubris; and 4) has a “moment of truth” or insight into his tragic flaw and what it has taught him. The following questions will lead you to deeper thinking about the play and AP’s main focus, the MOWAW, or Meaning of the Work as a Whole. You do not need to prepare answers for them, but do think about how they apply to the play, the development of Oedipus as a character, and the MOWAW. You may wish to incorporate some of these ideas into your Major Works Data Sheet:

1. Is Oedipus a helpless victim of fate, or were there ever times when he could have acted to prevent his downfall? Was Oedipus made to do what the oracle had prophesied, or is he responsible for his own destiny?

2. Discuss the meaning of power and powerlessness as it applies to Oedipus. Consider the following questions: What is his blindness symbolic of? Is he powerless by his blindness, or is his newfound blindness a powerful means for him to finally understand his own fate? Which Oedipus is more powerful: the one who didn’t know his fate (at the beginning of the play), or the one who now knows (by the end of the play)?

3. In what sense may Oedipus be regarded as a better, though less fortunate, man at the end of the play? What has he gained from his experience?

4. In many works of literature a character has a misconception of himself or his world. Destroying or perpetuating this illusion contributes to a central theme of the work. Which characters in Oedipus Rex could be examined through this lens? Discuss what the character’s illusion is and how it differs from reality, and then explain how the destruction or perpetuation of the illusion contributes to the meaning of the work.

Our discussion will not be text-specific in that you will not be expected to support your ideas with exact quotations from the Roche translation. However, you will be expected to mention appropriate occurrences within the play that can back up your conclusions. Free downloads of Oedipus Rex are widely available, as are links to the text. Check this post for a list of possibilities.

Finally–and this is really important!–be prepared to speak. Your active participation is required for you to receive top marks on the seminar discussion.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

BONUS: Tom Lehrer, a professor of mathematics at Harvard University, is best-known for a catalogue of songs written in the 1950s and 60s, which discussed art, politics, and current events in humorous and satirical ways. This song is a rather irreverent (and funny) take on the most tragic of Greek dramas. Enjoy!

Aug 17, 2018 - AP Literature    Comments Off on Learn as You Go: How to Succeed in AP Lit

Learn as You Go: How to Succeed in AP Lit

There’s a kitchen principle known as “clean as you go” that suggests that if you keep a sink full of hot, soapy water available as you’re cooking, then drop in your messy tools and bowls as you finish using them, the cleanup afterwards goes much faster. The same is true of learning. If you do a little as you go along, there’s much less effort right at the end, whether that means studying for test, writing a paper, or preparing for a seminar. Here are some “learn as you go” principles that will help you be a successful student in AP Lit.

Plan Your Reading – Senior year can become great practice for college. A heavy class load, lots of responsibilities, extra activities like college and scholarship applications, and the usual demands at home and work can really eat up your time. Plan your reading so you don’t get behind. Divide the number of pages you need to read by the number of days available, and read a little every day. It’s okay to schedule in breaks as long as you maintain your pace.

Take Note – In college, you’ll be able to mark up your books, since you’ll probably be buying your own copies. With plays and novels, you have two primary options: sticky notes or directly on your Six Pack Sheet. When you come across something in a book that makes you go “Hmm…” or “Aha!” or “I wonder…”, that’s something to note. Poetry notations will go directly into your journal.

Once Is Not Enough – You always notice new details when you watch a movie for a second time. Why should reading be any different? Rereading is okay. In fact, it’s encouraged! If you’ve read one of our class selections before, don’t decide you can skip it this time. You’ll gain more from the rereading and probably make some insights you missed the first time.

Connect – Read everything with a question mark in your head. How does this sound familiar? Why does this image keep recurring, and what could it mean? Where have I seen characters like these before, and what happened to them? What were people like during this period of history, or how did this event change people’s lives? Connection is the way human brains make ideas stick. The more you connect what you read with something you already know, the more you’ll be able to recall and analyze later. 

Check the Website – When in doubt, check this website. Background information on the author or the context of the book can sometimes be a key that unlocks an idea in a play or novel.

Keep thoughts thoughts bubbling. Happy reading!

 

Nov 29, 2017 - AP Literature    Comments Off on Lit Circles: Play Choices

Lit Circles: Play Choices

In preparation for Literature Circles, please review the following information about the plays. You will select a play of your choice and join in a circle with 3-5 members of your class. During class Wednesday, November 30, we will review lit circle procedures, deadlines, and assignments. You will receive a copy of your play at that time, so have your first and second choices in mind.

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

Norwegian-born Henrik Ibsen’s classic play about the struggle between independence and security still resonates with readers and audience members today. Often hailed as an early feminist work, the story of Nora and Torvald rises above simple gender issues to ask the bigger question: To what extent have we sacrificed our selves for the sake of social customs and to protect what we think is love? Nora’s struggle and ultimate realizations about her life invite all of us to examine our own lives and find the many ways we have made ourselves dolls and playthings in the hands of forces we believe to be beyond our control.

Equus by Peter Shaffer

EquusAn explosive play that took critics and audiences by storm, Equus is Peter Shaffer’s exploration of the way modern society has destroyed our ability to feel passion. Alan Strang is a disturbed youth whose dangerous obsession with horses leads him to commit an unspeakable act of violence. As psychiatrist Martin Dysart struggles to understand the motivation for Alan’s brutality, he is increasingly drawn into Alan’s web and eventually forced to question his own sanity. Equus is a timeless classic and a cornerstone of contemporary drama that delves into the darkest recesses of human existence.

Fences by August Wilson

From August Wilson, author of the ten-part “Pittsburgh Cycle” of plays dramatizing the African-American experience in the twentieth century, comes this powerful, stunning work that won the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. The protagonist of Fences, Troy Maxson, is a strong man, a hard man. He has had to be to survive. Troy has gone through life in an America where to be proud and black is to face pressures that could crush a man, body and soul. But the 1950s are yielding to the new spirit of liberation in the 1960s, a spirit that is changing the world Troy has learned to deal with the only way he can, a spirit that is making him a stranger, angry and afraid, in a world he never knew and to a wife and son he understands less and less.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

raisin2Set on Chicago’s South Side, the plot revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis and matriarch Lena, called Mama. When her deceased husband’s insurance money comes through, Mama dreams of moving to a new home and a better neighborhood in Chicago. Walter Lee, a chauffeur, has other plans, however: buying a liquor store and being his own man. Beneatha dreams of medical school. The tensions and prejudice they face form this seminal American drama. Sacrifice, trust and love among the Younger family and their heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world is a searing and timeless document of hope and inspiration.

Nov 3, 2017 - AP Literature    Comments Off on Light in August Foldable Instructions

Light in August Foldable Instructions

foldables2Foldables (as anyone who’s ever has Mrs. Parm for a class would know) can prove to be a very helpful study aid. We’ll be using a simple foldable to collect textual support for your seminar on Light in August.

First, consider some of the motifs Faulkner has been tracing throughout the novel. Obviously, race is a primary motif—how the races interact, what the common attitudes were at the time, how different characters react to questions of race, etc. Next, there is isolation. In what ways are the characters isolated from others? From the larger Jefferson community? Is this isolation self-selected or imposed upon them? Identity forms a core idea in the novel. How the characters identify themselves, or push against the identities placed on them by others, reveals much about their choices and actions. Finally, as in much of Faulkner, there is the role of religion. How does religion—the moral expectations of practitioners, the language, and its traditions—impact the morals, choices, and viewpoints of the characters?

The foldable will help you gather evidence about these motifs and help you create strong questions to use in our seminar when we conclude our study of Light in August. Create your foldable this way:

  1. Fold paper in half cross-wise (hamburger style).
  2. Draw a line down the center fold, both the front and the back.
  3. Label each section as follows:     1-5     6-10     11-15     16-21
  1. In each section, you will be recording two kinds of information:
  • Quotes, examples, and instances illustrating one or more of the major motifs of the novel: race, isolation, identity, and religion.
  • Connect each quote/example/instance to one or more of the characters.
  1. You will continue to add to your foldable as you read. This foldable will substitute for the character and scene pages of the Six Pack Sheet for Light in August.
Oct 17, 2017 - AP Literature    Comments Off on World Café Discussion: The Glass Menagerie

World Café Discussion: The Glass Menagerie

unicorn

The following questions were considered during the World Café discussion in class today. Selected responses are recorded below.

The Glass Menagerie is a play about _____ because _____.

  • Confinement – Amanda trapped in the past, Tom in the city/apartment, Laura in her defect
  • Guilt/Regret – Tom goes back after everything that had happened; he regretted leaving his sister, Tom tries to leave but his memories catch up with him
  • Illusion – Amanda lives in the past and thinks too much of everything, Tom’s distorted perspective about everything that happened, Tom dreaming of adventure, Laura living in the glass menagerie, everyone has big dreams but doesn’t work at them
  • Deception – The facts we know from the play come from memory so they’re affected by Tom’s emotions, everything is altered/exaggerated so it’s deceptive, Amanda creates a reality for her children to adhere to
  • Escape – The father’s picture represents “family” to Amanda (she hasn’t moved on), Tom knows his father got out so it gives him hope/inspiration to escape as well, Amanda wants Laura to escape through marriage, Laura escapes into her menagerie, Jim escapes by taking night classes
  • Escaping reality – Tom wants adventure, Amanda is stuck in the past, Laura lives in her own world, Tom goes to the movies, Tom tries to escape his memories of Laura, Amanda in denial about her actual life
  • Abandonment – Tom leaves Amanda and Laura like their father did
  • Family hardship – Laura feels as though she’s crippled, Tom doesn’t want to work at the factory, Tom’s leaving makes it harder for Amanda, Tom always fighting with Amanda, Laura does not fulfill what Amanda wants
  • Obstacles – Laura is crippled, Amanda wants to find Laura a husband, Tom can’t get along with his mother
  • Isolation – Laura keeps herself isolated because of her disability, but Jim sees that and tries to bring her into the normal world when he kisses her

Who is the most important character in the play? Explain.

  • Amanda – she plays a bit part in every situation, she is the reason for the split, she pushes her children (Tom into escaping, Laura into anxiety), she keeps the family together, she wants Laura to succeed in life and for Tom to live up to his responsibilities, she’s manipulative and tries to get the family to do what she wants, tries to live a different life through Laura
  • Tom – the story itself is his memories, he had to do all the work for the family including finding the gentleman caller, his memories bring emphasis to certain characters and their feelings, he brings in the conflict and ends it
  • Laura – the play is Tom’s reflection and regret about how he treated her, she is the center of the play, she’s protected by her family because of her fragility, Tom does everything for her, she is always on Tom’s mind
  • Jim – he’s the catalyst for the destruction of the family, his actions create the final break between Amanda and Tom, he builds up and then “breaks” Laura, wake up call to reality, crushes dreams of family
  • the father – he’s the reason for their current situation, characters’ choices are viewed in comparison to his, he’s always watching (figuratively) the fallout his leaving created, his absence is the catalyst for both Amanda’s and Tom’s characters, he’s the first domino, the only realistic character

Name and discuss the significance of an important symbol in the play.

  • glass menagerie – Laura’s fragility and her hopes/dreams
  • father’s picture – constant reminder of his abandonment, foreshadowing of what Tom will become, represents memory of him and family’s situation because of his absence, what could have been
  • Victrola – Laura’s unwillingness to move and how her life is painfully repetitive, Laura clinging to her father’s memory
  • fire escape – Tom can leave anytime he wants and escape from his life, wish to escape current lifestyle, Laura tries to use the fire escape but stumbles every time (shows how she can’t escape Amanda’s expectations), freedom
  • unicorn – symbolizes Laura’s difference, Laura’s innocence breaks when Jim kisses her just like the horn of the unicorn breaks off, Tom and Laura’s relationship breaks after it does, it isn’t real–when Laura opens up to Jim, she becomes like everyone else
  • movies – Tom’s need for adventure and freedom
  • blue roses – roses mean love, but blue roses don’t exist; shows how Laura believes in a relationship that doesn’t exist, uniqueness
  • music and dancing – what they can’t be
  • candle – Laura blows out hope
  • Amanda’s dress – Amanda’s old life
  • typewriter – both Tom’s ambitions and Laura’s failed attempts at success

How does the setting function to reveal character and provide insight on theme?

  • Cramped apartment – reinforces ideas of entrapment (Tom escapes through movies, Amanda through memories, Laura through her glass menagerie), small set forces us to focus on the events at hand, this house is their whole world, maintain decency of setting to feign order/normality of family, interior as nice as Amanda can make it to show what they used to be, reinforces that they are living in the past
  • Dark surrounding apartment – nothing really out there for the Wingfields, apartment is their only common place to go, isolates the family
  • Great Depression – everyone is poor and wants a form of escape, women dependent on men for financial support, women expected to be pretty and good homemakers to attract a good husband
  • Living room – Laura sleeps here/keeps focus of play on her, everything Laura cares about (Victrola, glass menagerie) is here
  • Fire escape – Tom escaping the family, Tom can leave whenever he wants but Laura can’t, reality outside the apartment
  • Music – Laura winds Victrola to calm herself down, enhances the drama
  • Light – provides intensity/focus (Amanda nagging Tom, Laura’s state of mind when the gentleman caller arrives, lights going out shows Tom’s irresponsibility and selfishness
  • Screen images – emphasizes dreamlike state of play, keeps things foggy/unclear, reminders that this is a memory
  • Southern setting – gives Amanda strong family values which makes her pressure her children to succeed

For a previous discussion, see the post here.

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