Anti-Realism in Glass Menagerie and Endgame
In this paper, we will be discussing the anti-realistic devices used in the plays Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and Endgame by Samuel Beckett. Anti-realism is often defined as a reaction against the traditional values of realism. In an anti-realistic play, the aim is not to represent reality but to question, subvert or challenge it. Samuel Beckett is considered to be one of the key figures of absurdist theatre and his plays are often seen as prototypical examples of anti-realism. In contrast, Tennessee Williams is not usually associated with absurdism or anti-realism, although Glass Menagerie has been described as an Absurdist play by some critics. In this essay, we will argue that both plays make use of anti-realistic devices in order to create their own unique theatrical world.
2. Absurdist Devices in Glass Menagerie
There are a number of ways in which Glass Menagerie can be seen as an absurdist play. One of the most obvious is the use of language. Throughout the play, language is used in a non-naturalistic way. Characters speak in monologues, soliloquies and asides which would never occur in real life conversations. They also use exaggerated or poetic language which heightens the emotional effect of the play without necessarily representing reality. For example, when Tom speaks about his father leaving the family, he says:
“He didn’t just walk out on us-he blew! The great big blowhard blew himself right out of our lives.”
This use of language creates a sense of distance between the characters and the audience, making it clear that we are watching a play and not reality. Beckett also makes use of refrained repetition throughout his work, which further emphasizes the artificiality of the play. In Glass Menagerie, this takes the form of characters constantly repeating certain phrases or actions. For example, Tom repeatedly talks about wanting to “blow” or “get out”, while Amanda repeatedly talks about her days as a debutante and her desire for her children to find suitable husbands. This repetition creates a sense of time standing still or characters being trapped in a loop from which they cannot escape. It also highlights the ways in which characters are misunderstood or misinterpreted by those around them.
3. Absurdist Devices in Endgame
Like Glass Menagerie, Endgame makes use of artificial language, heightened emotion and refrained repetition. However, it also contains additional elements which can be seen as absurdist or anti-realistic. One such element is the use of tableaus. A tableau is a static scene which does not involve any movement or dialogue from the characters. It is often used to create a striking visual image which conveys a particular mood or idea. In Endgame, there are several prolonged tableaus which emphasize the isolation and loneliness of the characters. For example, near the beginning of the play, Hamm and Clov face each other silently across a stage littered with garbage and debris. This creates a feeling of hopelessness and despair which is reinforced by the empty space around them and their lack of communication with each other.
Another absurdist device used in Endgame is constant misunderstanding between characters. For much of the play, Hamm and Clov argue with each other without ever really understanding what the other is trying to say. This creates a sense of frustration and absurdity, as it is clear that they are both trapped in their own perspectives and unable to see things from the other’s point of view. This is further emphasized by the use of refrained repetition, as characters often repeat the same phrases or actions without ever resolving the conflict between them.
In conclusion, we argue that both Glass Menagerie and Endgame make use of anti-realistic devices in order to create their own unique theatrical world. While Glass Menagerie uses language and repetition to emphasize the artificiality of the play, Endgame goes one step further by adding tableaus and constant misunderstanding between characters. However, both plays ultimately achieve the same goal: to question or challenge the traditional values of realism.