Book Review: The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

The Glass Menagerie is a play by Tennessee Williams, an American playwright. It tells the story of an ordinary family in St. Louis during the Great Depression and how to escape the harsh reality and the painful memories that always haunt them. At the time of the story, the father of the family is long gone, but a photograph of him hangs in the center of the stage background. The mother Amanda was preoccupied with the memories of her girlhood visits. The son Tom loved writing and was a worker in a shoe factory. His sister Laura, who was born disabled, is crouched at home and likes to play with her glass animals. Mother asked Tom to find someone to marry for his sister, Tom took his colleague Jim home for dinner. Jim is warm and cheerful, and his visit awakens Laura’s pent-up enthusiasm and temporarily takes her out of the glass world. However, The sudden news that Jim is engaged forces Laura back into her closed world. Amanda blamed her son for this and eventually drove him away in anger.

Amanda, Tom and Laura in The Glass Menagerie are representatives of a struggling Southern culture. Amanda came from a southern plantation owner’s family and was deeply immersed in southern mythology and culture. In the blooming years of her youth, she had many choices, but she fell in love with her husband the poet because he had a charming smile. Abandoned by her husband shortly after their marriage, Amanda spent her struggling life reminiscing about her ladylike days. In the industrial cities of the time, Amanda could find no place of her own. As a victim of a lost era, all she could do was frantically cling to it. Although Amanda knew that the south of the past had gone forever, she could not get rid of her attachment to the southern culture. She instilled her southern lady values into her daughter over and over again, stubbornly clinging to her beliefs regardless of the progress of time and the development of society.

Amanda’s son Tom and daughter Laura have been living under the shadow of her mother’s declining southern plantation culture, entangled in the contradiction between reality and ideal, until their characters become distorted. Tom’s menial labor was the main source of family income, and in southern culture, such work that was supposed to be done by slaves was not respectable. Nicknamed Shakespeare, Tom has inherited his father’s poetic temperament, a restless heart constantly called from afar, and the only way to cope with a boring shoe factory job, a stressful living environment, and his mother’s nagging is to spend night after night at the cinema. Tom knew that he was responsible for his family, but his dream of being a poet was incompatible with the reality, and his desire to break free and realize himself was so strong. Laura’s plainness and slight deformity of the leg were not a problem, but in a southern culture where women were supposed to please and cling to men by their looks, her disability was a major drawback. It was her mother Amanda’s implicit message to her daughter that led to Laura’s extreme low self-esteem and psychological disorder. The pure and fragile Laura is unable to communicate with people normally, has a pathological fear of the outside world, and is unable to survive on her own. She can only find comfort in a group of delicate and fragile glass animals she has collected. But her spiritual home, The Glass Menagerie, may disappear at any time.

The evil of slavery eventually led to the Civil War, and the defeat of the war was a fatal blow to the proud and confident southerners. Guilt, failure, poverty, and moral depravity became shadows of southern moral consciousness. Southerners consoled themselves by reminiscing and imagining the good old days. Hence the magical southern myth was born, an important part of the southern cultural tradition. The south, with cotton as the main product, enjoyed a stable and prosperous economy, and the people in the south were happy and harmonious. Even black slaves in plantations continued to breed under the protection of white people. There are even some southerners who believe that the mythical south is the real south. Yet conscience-conscious southerners were deep in their hearts torn between love and hate, memories and dreams, pride and fear, clinging and doubt for the sins of their forefathers, slavery, and lynchings.

-Coreen C.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Paperback ...

Biff, Mick, Copeland, and Jake, four people living in a small town in the south of The United States, all have their own ideas and goals. However, they fail in their attempts to communicate with the people around them, leaving them in a lonely situation that no one understands. Everyone is afraid of loneliness and unwilling to live alone but is lonely every day. Biff runs a cafe, and one of his favorite things to do is observe the diverse clientele sitting in the cafe. The marital life between Biff and his wife Alice is not harmonious and they seldom talk. Mick is a masculine little girl who loves music and painting and wants to get out of town and become a musician. But her dream was not supported by her family, and her parents only thought it was whimsical.

Copeland was a black doctor. He always had a strong sense of responsibility and mission. He made it his solemn mission to save the whole black race. He sacrificed his family for his ideal, leaving his wife and children behind. Jake was an active organizer of the workers’ movement with his own political views. He felt disappointed at the failure in his work and helpless at the whole social system. His heart yearned for someone who would understand him. To many in the town, Singer is the perfect man. He generously helped everyone in need. He was a patient listener who listened to their chatter with great interest, so everyone looked to him as a confidant and a source of support.

There are many legends about him in the town, and some people regard him as the incarnation of God. Biff, Mick, Copeland, and Jake all think that Singer understands what they are saying and agrees with the way they think and act. In fact, the irony is that Singer never understood them at all. Mr. Singer just needs them to cope with his loneliness. In the same way, they cannot really read Singer whose loneliness is so deep and hidden. As a child, Singer yearned for love and belonging. Singh and his best friend Antonapoulos lived together in the town for ten years.

Deep love for Antonapoulos was the backbone of his life. After a serious illness, Antonapoulos became irritable and was no longer content to stay at home quietly at night. When he went out, Singer followed him closely, and they went into a restaurant and sat down at a table, while Antonapoulos secretly pocketed sugar cubes or some silver. Singer always picks up the tab after him. Antonapoulos is eventually sent to an alien psychiatric hospital, and Singer’s life is filled with memories of their happy past and the prospect of a brief vacation together. Without him, Singer moves to a new house where he spends his boring time with Biff, Mick, Copeland, and Jake. When he went to see his companion for the third time, he received news of his death. Singer was then so desperate that he shot himself.

-Coreen C.

So B. It by Sarah Weeks

I was looking through my bookshelf, pondering which book I could write a review for next and my eye wandered over this lovely novel I read as a fifth-grader. Six (seemingly long) years ago, I read this book and was touched. My reaction remains the same even as I read this book again in 2018. Wikipedia labels So B. It as a children’s novel and yes, based on its reading comprehension levels, the label makes sense. But on a deeper, emotional level, the book holds a number of truths.

A twelve year old girl, Heidi, lives with her mentally disabled mother, whose name is practically unknown, and Bernadette, an  agoraphobic neighbor, Bernadette. Their lives are built around these obstacles and uncertainties for as long as Heidi can remember but as she starts to grow up, she becomes aware of the gaping holes in her history. Wondering more about her and her mother’s past lives before meeting Bernadette, she embarks on a cross country journey to answer her questions: Who is her father? How did she and her mother end up at Bernadette’s door step all those years ago? What does the mysterious word “soof” mean? Her search for the truth begins with her mother’s list of 23 word vocabulary and an old disposable camera, starts in Reno, Nevada and ends in Liberty, New York.

Along the way, Heidi meets various strangers from different paths of life and she learns important lessons that ultimately make her wonder if it’s always worthwhile to uncover the truth and realize how uncomfortable or undiscoverable the truth is. Heidi balances tragedy and luck, love and loss, hope and defeat on this coming-of-age journey.

Week’s novel may be a children’s novel at surface level but I definitely believe that the audience gains perspective after reading this book. The characters in this book are easy to love and the plot is simple to follow, making for a quick read. There ought to be no excuse for you not to check this one out!

-Jessica

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

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Imagine being caught in a prison like setting, treated by people who should be treating you better. You often see things that shouldn’t be there more than often because of it. Believe it or not, this was the setting for a mental hospital in the 1960s, which is where One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest is set, with the narrator Chief Bromden. He is just trying to stay under the radar, not trying to leave the hospital despite its abuses. That is, until he meets McMurphy who teaches him and the other men in his ward how to live.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. If you have watched the movie, it is quite different, as the narrator in the movie is McMurphy while in the book it is Chief, in which we find out from the beginning that Chief is pretending to be deaf and dumb instead of in the middle like in the movie. Despite knowing this, Chief and McMurphy are still enjoyable characters. McMurphy is very charismatic and like the best friend in our school that we all know who manages to make the teachers mad by laughing in the back of the class and making fun of their lessons. Additionally, we see Chief as he goes through a period of growth in his life, as we as the reader see how he changes because of McMurphy, and I see this change as something amazing, and it is remarkable how much Chief changes from the first page to the last page.

Additionally, Ken Kesey has a very interesting view of motion, especially around this time. This book was made during the 1960s, just fresh out of the fifties and its idea that women should stay in the home and do domestic work while the men did the “real” work. However, the women are not as sweet as they are often portrayed in other media to be. In fact, one of these women is actually considered as the main antagonist of the novel, seen as the devil by the men. From a different perspective, seeing them in this novel shows how human women actually are, which we would not usually see in a novel of this time. For example, we see how one of the women are considered mean to their husband, but only because they have been treated as a child by their husband.

Also, surprisingly, the book is very funny. For example, Kesey makes fun of every single little thing in the novel, from playing hooky to pranking the head nurse.

However, it should be noted that Kesey wrote the book to protest the real life situations that were happening to people in mental hospitals at the time, even if they were not really mentally ill. From this, he was pushing a real life problem unto us, the readers, in hopes that it would change. It may not change, as it could be happening today too, but I really appreciate an author who at least tries to make a change with a very good book.

Overall, this book was very enjoyable, and I will encourage everyone to read it.

-Meagan V.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

This book, was incredible. It follows the perspective of three teenagers, Tony, Conner, and Vanessa. All who come from different backgrounds but are connected by mental illness. Tony struggles with pills, Vanessa with cutting, and Conner with suicidal thoughts. They all meet in a mental institution called Aspen Springs where they must fight their mental illness for a better life. This book is one of the longest books I’ve ever read, 666 pages.

Although, the book is written in a poem style, I really enjoyed it. This books made me feel all kinds of emotions, happiness, sadness, nervous, and many more. This book really changed my perspective on life, and made me appreciate that I have others around me. For this book, I recommended you read it if you have a high maturity level. I would definitely read this book again and others by this author. From the moment I read the first page to when I closed the book at the end, I was obsessed. I did not think I would love this book as much as I did. This book is definitely now in my top ten favorites. I highly recommend this book, and hope you find it as intriguing as I did!

-Kyndle W.

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive