Tom Wingfield as the Tragic Hero in “The Glass Menagerie”


In the play, The Glass Menagerie, Tom, Laura, and their mother live in a simple apartment after Mr. Wingfield abandoned them. Tom works in a warehouse and assumes the role of the family man. He pays rent and all family expenses but still has to endure the life frustrations of his mother and Laura, his sister. Tom hates working in the warehouse and wants to live and pursue his dreams. At the end of the play, Tom leaves his family to pursue his dreams but later regrets his narrated memories. Therefore, Tom is a tragic hero because he sacrifices his family to follow his dreams without considering later consequences.

Giving up his Family

Tom decided to leave his family besides being the family breadwinner and pursue his interest. The protagonist is not happy in his warehouse job hence he yearns to quit the job and finds a better future. He mentions that he cannot see his life in the next 55 years from his current settings of life. He explains to Amanda, his mother, “You think I’m love with the continental shoemakers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that –Celotex interior…” (Williams 9).

Later, Tom settles on the decision to leave his family and goes to meet his interest. The act of giving up family relationships was not a small decision for Tom. Indeed, he knew that his mother and sister depended on him for a living yet he left them. At this point in life, he abandons a paying job and risks being unemployed. Furthermore, Tom knows that there is no certainty in being successful in whatever he yearns to do yet he gives up everything. Therefore, Tom becomes a tragic hero because of leaving everything behind to focus on his vision without a guarantee for success.

Regrets in his Memories

Tom shows hamartia character whereby his poor judgment leads him to a downfall. The play does not necessarily mention that Tom later failed to achieve his dreams but shows regret when he remembers how he treated his family. Tom remembers that he left his widow mother alongside a crippled, shy and unemployed sister all by themselves. Tom left them without anyone to feed them or even to deal with their life insecurities.

Furthermore, he remembers how he rudely spoke to and treated his mother. Although Amanda was sometimes unbearable following she was still his mother and deserved some respect. Tom feels guilty for calling his mother, “ugly bubbling witch” during a heated argument between the two of them (Williams 10). The protagonist is also guilty of abandoning his emotionally and physically disabled sister who needed him for survival. He also linked her up with Jim, an engaged man for a gentleman caller; an action which frustrated her and her mother. Therefore, even if Tom had achieved his dreams, he lost his family.


Tom is a tragic hero because his judgment unknowingly affects the fate of all the characters in the play. He leaves his family who depends on him for existence to follow his interest. Tom makes such huge decisions of leaving his family and quitting his job without a guarantee for success. Furthermore, he later regrets giving up on his family at the time of need. He also finds fault in how he treated his mother and sister. Thus, for making decisions that lead to falling apart with his family, Tom is a tragic hero.

Work Cited

Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie.” pp. 1-16. Web.

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