The character Jim OConner in The Glass Menagerie is of the gentleman caller. Tom describes Jim in his opening monologue as the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from.” (858) Jim is portrayed as having qualities that are wonderful and without any flaws. These qualities are demonstrated by Jim up until the very end of the play when his true characteristics are fully revealed through his actions.
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Jim is an acquaintance of Tom and Laura from when they were in high school. He was very popular during his time at Soldan High School. He now works as a shipping clerk for a shoe warehouse where Tom and Jim end up become better friends. It is the same shoe warehouse Tom works for. Jim is the gentleman caller who is invited to dinner by Tom, and who Amanda is hoping will be a future husband for Laura. Tom honestly feels that Jim is different from all the members of the Wingfield family because he is facing reality instead of living in denial of it.
Jim was an outstanding success in high school “He was shooting with such velocity through his adolescence that you would logically expect him to arrive at nothing short of the White House by the time he was thirty” (879) and everyone thought he would succeed in life. He is currently working as a shipping clerk, which is only a slightly better position than Tom’s. However, Jim is a cheerful, optimistic young man, who is determined to get ahead in life. He is studying public speaking and radio engineering at night school, and wants to go into the fledgling television industry. “I believe in the future of television! I wish to be ready to go up right along with it. Therefore I’m planning to get in on the ground floor. In fact I’ve already made the right connections and all that remains is for the industry itself to get under way! Full steam – Knowledge – Zzzzzp! Money – Zzzzzp! – Power! That’s the cycle democracy is built on.” (894)
When he has dinner with the Wingfield family, Jim tries his best to draw Laura out of her shell. He ends up being the only character able to break through into Laura’s secret world. He seems to be the most sincere person in the play and seems to be very honest and friendly. The reader is made to feel they can trust him. Jim’s character seems to come to life in his conversation with Laura. Even though he is ordinary, it is contact with the ordinary that Laura needs. It is not surprising that ordinary seems to be magnificence to Laura. Since Laura had known Jim in high school when he was considered the all-American boy, she could never bring herself to look on him now in any way other than exceptional. He is the one boy that she has had a crush on and he is her ideal dream.
In the candlelight conversation Jim has with Laura he becomes wrapped up in reliving his own past. He seems to once again think that he is that high school hero who swept the girls off their feet. Due to the fact that Jim has become engrossed in playing the role of high school hero and also amateur psychiatrist, he failed to see what emotions he was building up in Laura. Jim simply had an honest desire to help Laura with her shyness. He is obviously very drawn to Laura in a romantic sense as well. He admits this to her while describing her beauty” In all respects-believe me! Your eyes- your hair- are pretty! Your hands are pretty!” (896) how she makes him feel different than any other girl does. “I wish that you were my sister. I’d teach you to have some confidence in yourself. The different people are not like other people, but being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Because other people are not such wonderful people. They’re one hundred times one thousand. You’re one times one! They walk all over the earth. You just stay here. They’re common as – weeds, but – you – well, you’re – Blue Roses!” (896)
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To Laura Jim has always been and still is wonderful and exceptional. He is so different from her world that he appears to be the prize she has been longing to win. Since Laura lives in a world of illusion, he is her knight in shining armor. Jim’s desires run away with him and he makes the mistake of kissing Laura. He makes her heart swells up with romance only to pierce it with the disclosure that he is engaged to be married.
Laura is like a piece of her glass menagerie. She is fragile and needs to be treated very carefully. When she states “Glass breaks so easily. No matter how careful you are” she is giving foresight into the events that will unfold. Jim has broken her without realizing it. “You think of yourself as having the only problems, as being the only one who is disappointed. But just look around you and you will see lots of people as disappointed as you are.” (891) The most accurate description of Jim comes near the end of the play when Jim refers to himself as a “stumble-john.”(897)
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