Scholars have studied shyness in various perspectives and have made quite a number of theories on the topic. Some sociologists have put shyness in cultural contexts, some psychologists have studied shyness in relation to experiences and an individual’s environment, and for some medical scholars shyness is caused by something genetic. Nonetheless, shyness has remained a very interesting topic among researchers.
Shyness as a condition is hard to categorize due to two reasons: 1. some individuals feel that “shyness” is normally and periodically felt given certain situations; and 2. ome individuals take the strains of the “shy” label seriously that it causes constant feelings of anxiousness, loneliness and frustrations, making treat shyness as a “chronic and debilitating condition that interferes with their everyday lives” (Scott 133). Hence, shyness is treated very differently depending on the field of study it is being discussed in. This paper will attempt to analyze Laura Wingfiled’s shyness in “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams using various perspectives. On Laura Wingfield
Williams’ screenplay “The Glass Menagerie” has a character named Laura Wingfield who suffers from a condition of extreme shyness due to her being a “cripple. ” In a more politically correct term, Laura is physically challenged as one of her legs is shorter than the other. The play was set in the late 1930s, a phase where America is still struggling from the remnants of the Great Depression. Laura lives with her mother Amanda and her brother Tom. She is constantly persuaded by her mother to find a suitor and settle down but her condition prevents her from looking for a suitable husband.
She, instead, focuses on taking care of her figurine collection. In scene 2, Amanda confronts Laura of why she was supposedly enrolled in Rubicam’s Business College yet one of her instructors said she missed classes since she fell ill from terrible nervousness after the first few days of classes. Laura admitted of having skipped her classes to Amanda’s disappointment. Amanda decides that since the family’s dream of having a business career is ruined due to what Laura did, the only alternative would be for Laura to marry.
Amanda asks Laura if she has ever liked a boy to which Laura admitted of having a crush in high school to a boy named Jim who has nicknamed her “blue roses. ” The nickname was because of Jim mishearing what she said when he asked her why she was away from school one time and she answered she suffered from “pleurosis. ” The screenplay progresses to Amanda then urging Tom to find a suitor for Laura. Tom brought home a friend from his workplace who, incidentally, is Laura’s Jim in high school. Amanda had to force Laura to open the door for Jim and Amanda retreated to a corner after.
During dinner, Laura fell ill (a condition that might be due to the extreme shyness she was feeling) and had to lie down on the living room sofa while Amanda, Tom and Jim eats dinner. After dinner, Amanda sent Jim to accompany Laura in the living room while she and Tom clear the table. Jim talks to Laura, put her at ease, talks to her about her shyness and how she should have more confidence. Jim danced Laura then kissed her but later chastised himself for having done what he did when he is actually involved with a girl named Betty.
Laura, instead, gave Jim a figurine he had broken while they were dancing and asked him to think of it as a remembrance. Jim left in an excuse to fetch Betty. Understanding Shyness Psychology has taken the greatest are of study on “shyness” but some researchers insists that “shyness” is as sociologically relevant as it is psychologically relevant. Scott, for instance, has argued that psychology has been restricting the study of shyness in the individual level and ignoring its sociological relevance (134).
Using Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis, she points out that when an individual is consistently subjected to the “competent other’s” indignant response, the individual develops a social identity of shyness (134). In effect, the person’s future encounter with others becomes overshadowed by the label of “shyness” and they will develop an expectation of having difficulty in social situations and becomes a social deviant (134). Shyness being placed under the label of “social deviance” has concerned society in general.
In another study by Scott, she has found that the shyness as “social anxiety” has raised concerns, particularly in the Western society, of how to socially manage it such that it does not become a “shyness epidemic. ” Hence, “shyness” has become socially unacceptable and treated through “medicalisation” (149). Some of the sites for “medacalisation” of shyness that Scott has pointed out are: “in pharmacological remedies and genetic theories, in the therapeutic regimes of shyness clinics, counseling and CBT, and in the disciplinary practices advocated by self-help books and internet resources” (149).
This tells us that the idea of shyness being cured is not completely impossible given that we have developed the resources for it courtesy of a society that has viewed “shyness” more of a medical condition than a sociological one. Shyness and Self-Concept Self-awareness has played a great role in framing “shyness” as something that comes naturally from a white middles class woman during the mid-nineteenth century.
In the traditional sense, “shyness” was only regarded as a problem when it is suffered by white middle class men and it was regarded as something “normal” in women as a recognition of their subordination in the “gender hierarchy” (McDaniel 547). In other words, white middle class women during the earlier centuries developed self-awareness that they were subordinate to men and were thus, acting appropriately by exhibiting a “shy behavior. ” In these contemporary times, however, shyness has also been attributed to the development of self-awareness.
In Lund’s study, she confirms that having a negative self-awareness has the possibility of increasing loneliness and fear of participation especially of there is no one else to help an individual “reflect, rehearse and challenge such negative patterns of self-appraisal” (393). In “The Glass Menagerie,” Laura’s mother, Amanda, demonstrates an encouraging significant other to Laura who constantly reminds Laura not to think of herself lowly and “to exercise charm. ” Socializing for the “Shy’
Shy people have been noted to have poor social skills. In Nelson’s study, individuals who are shy exhibit an internalizing behavior wherein they experience “higher levels of depression and anxiety, reported lower levels of overall self-worth, and perceived themselves more negatively in social acceptance, physical appearance, and romantic relationships than did their non-shy peers” (611). In Laura’s case, it was her physical appearance that has developed in her the shyness that, in turn, prevented her from developing her socializing skills.
Nonetheless, Laura was not completely socially withdrawn as was indicated in the screen play when it was mentioned that she finished high school though she spent only a few days in college. Is it possible for extremely shy people to socialize? Toshihiko, et. Al. suggested that shy people usually expand their social networks through what they termed as “social surrogates” (72). Social surrogates are friends who would introduce the shy individual to other people or other friends such that the social network for the shy individual expands.
The literature did not discuss much how Laura survived high school being that she’s extremely shy. However, we can theorize that Laura may have gotten through high school through social surrogates. It may be an only friend she has, her brother and his friends or even her mother’s friends’ children. It is, however, harder to find a social surrogate in College where the environment is more individualistic and less accommodating. Conclusion Laura Wingfield’s shyness can be considered as an effect of her physical appearance.
She feels conscious and insecure because she cannot contribute much to the teamwork that society demands of her. This is what Goffman was pointing out when he acknowledged that an individual can be estranged from interacting with others if they appear to be “inaccessible. ” In Laura’s case, her limp may have made her the person who would sit during gym classes or other interaction that demands the use of all body parts. She, therefore, has not developed the confidence to engage in relationships aside from the ones she has with her mother and brother.
There may be a constant fear of rejection due to the things she cannot do and how looks like. She may have feared that engaging in a relationship other than familial bond would only leave her hurt because when the persons she had relationship with decides she cannot keep up with them physically and emotionally (due to her insecurity). In the end, she momentarily broke free from the shyness when she agreed to dance with and be kissed by Jim. It was also notable that she was able to keep her emotions in check when Jim told her he was seeing someone else. In a sense, perhaps the freedom was not momentary.