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.

Book Review: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury - Wikipedia

The Sound and the Fury follows the family tragedy of fallen landowners the Compson family in the South. Old Compson loafed and drank too much. His wife is selfish and cruel and complains about everything. The eldest son Quentin desperately clings to the so-called old traditions of the South because his sister Caddy’s liberal approach to sex is seen as a disgrace to the identity of a southern lady. The second son Jason is cold and greedy. The third son Benji is mentally disabled he has the intelligence of a three year-old at age thirty-three. Through the inner monologue of the three sons, the whole novel starts around Caddy’s depravity, and finally it is supplemented by the limited perspective of the black maid Dilcey Gibson. Faulkner adopts a multi-angle narrative approach in this book.

The relationship between children who live without love and warmth in a family is full of contradictions and discord. Jason was a victim of his parents’ cold war. His mother’s preference for Jason caused him to be isolated from the other children. While in childhood Caddy, Quentin, and Benji played together, Jason was far away alone. In order to protect the interests of Benji, Caddy rankled Jason. Growing up in isolation, Jason lacks a sense of security and trust in others and becomes callous and cynical. After taking charge of family affairs as an adult, Jason curses, sneers, and blackmails Katie as a kind of revenge. In the absence of maternal love in the family, all these problems potentially led to the decline of the Compsons.

As for Benji, Mr. Compson showed no love and care because of his mental deficiency. With Jason, Mr. Compson took a cold and dismissive attitude. Mr. Compson was partial to his daughter Caddy but neglected her proper guidance, letting her go as she pleased. Mrs. Compson as a mother exhibited the least care and love for her children and never thought of their welfare. She saw her mentally retarded son as a punishment from God, believed that Caddy had been hostile to her since childhood, and that Quentin’s suicide was an act of revenge against her. From The Sound and the Fury, we can also see Faulkner’s high level of understanding and summarizing ability of life and history. Although his work is confusing and sometimes dreamlike, it actually presents a side of historic change in the American South through the disintegration and dying of an old family. As you can see, the old South has indeed collapsed irretrievably. Its economic base has long since deteriorated, and its remaining superstructure is crumbling. Caddy’s fall implies the downfall of the Southern code of ethics. Benji had limbs but no ability to think, while Quentin had complicated thoughts but lost the ability to act. The other brother Jason saw only money in his eyes and simply abandoned his old values.

-Coreen C.

Movie Review: Taare Zameen Par

Taare Zameen Par (2007) - IMDb

For Ishaan, an 8-year-old boy, the world is a kaleidoscope of surprise and happiness. He is communicating with this strange world in every way he can think of, and at the same time fully enjoying the generous gifts of the earth. However, this Ishaan is a problem child in the eyes of adults. His grades are poor, he is low in the class, and his mind is full of all kinds of weird and evil ideas. After he makes another disaster, his parents send him to boarding school. Ishaan’s new life doesn’t change much, but inside, he’s unhappy about being separated from his parents, when an art teacher named Ram Shankar Nikumbh comes into his life. Different from the rigid teachers we have seen in the past, Ram Shankar Nikumbh advocates that students should retain their own personality and ideas and develop freely.

By exaggerating social order and school rules, Taare Zameen Par shows the audience that each child has his or her own unique talent and is a role that cannot be replaced by others. We can see from the film that every child has something to offer until we find it. Through the example of Ishaan, the film Taare Zameen Par illustrates that the important role played by parents in the education process determines that parents should pay more attention to the real psychological needs of children. Taare Zameen Par directed and performed by Indian superstar Aamir Khan takes a plain approach and lets people listen to the beautiful songs, plus the animation full of children’s interest, allowing the audience to enter the dyslexia world of the young boy Ishaan. With the eyes of the little boy Ishaan, Aamir Khan looks at the deficiencies in the education system, but he does not complain about the incompleteness of the system and the absence of parents in learning. Instead, he provides different thinking perspectives on family affection and education with sincere and inclusive writing.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The young adult novel, Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell, is a heartwarming, but the soul-wrenching story about two sixteen-year-olds in Omaha, Nebraska from 1986 to 1987. The unique red-haired girl catches the heart of Park by merely sitting beside him on the bus. Their slow love sparked when she secretly reads his comic books, believing that she was sly enough to not get caught. Over time, Park noticed and decided to allow her to borrow his comic books.

However, at home, the young girl finds herself dealing with family issues revolving around poverty, so she ends up keeping to herself. She is terrified by her abusive stepfather and fears for her future to end up like her mother’s. Her thoughts are mostly clouded with judgment about her weight, which affects the way she thinks about her relationship with Park.

On the other hand, Park is trying to get through high school by being popular enough to not get teased but also finds it hard to fit in. He becomes an outsider, like Eleanor, but within his own house. His father and brother both have a liking towards sports and trucks, however, Park feels himself attracted to music and books.

The book duals between the narrative of Eleanor and Park, thus allowing the reader to connect with both of the characters. Teens can deeply connect to both characters, from the way they think to the way they act. The duo rides an emotional rollercoaster, taking the reader with them every step of the way.

Rowell does an exquisite job in taking in the attention of the reader and leaving them wanting more with this romantic, light read.

-Anyssa P.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive