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The Impact of Inferiority Complex in Laura’s Behavior Problem as
Depicted in Script of Tenessee Williams ‘The Glass Menagerie’
Agita Nurul Arofah
Student Number (NIM): 18020154022
Drama Appreciation and Criticism
Class of A
Everyone in this world is born differently with their strength and also their weakness
respectively. From this difference it also raises a society to have ideal standards and create
stereotypes between community groups. Whereas every human being has different
characteristics and habits from one to another, this difference can be caused by genes,
environment, and habits. These differences make life more colorful. However, when we take
a deep look in this difference can also be studied based on the psychological aspects of
humans. One aspect of the psychological condition of a person that I will discuss is regarding
with the inferiority complex.
One of the writers who raised the issue of the inferiority complex is Tennessee
William in his play entitled the glass of menagerie. This memory play was first shown on
March 31, 1945. This drama script was not only displayed on the theater stage but also
adapted again into film, radio, and also on television. This drama also won the New York
drama critics circle award as best American play. The story in this drama is an
autobiographical experience of the writer.
The glass menagerie tells a story of Wingsfield family in 1930 consisting with a
mother named Amanda, and her two children called Laura and Tom. In this family each
character has different characteristics. At that time, during the extremely severe economic
period known as the great depression, Amanda was a widow who was left by her husband so
she relied heavily on her son to overcome financial problems in her family. Tom works as a
warehouse worker, who always nagging of being bored with his work. Meanwhile, Amanda
also hopes that her daughter will be immediately proposed by some men like when Amanda
was young. Whereas Laura was still not sure to be able to interact with a man because she felt
insecure with her imperfection physical appearance. In addition, her mother also said that a
woman would be respected by a man not only from their beauty but also in ability at how
good their public speaking. This contrasts with Laura's quiet and shy nature so that she has an
inferior feeling according to the stereotype of her mother and society in general.
Based on the story of the script, here I decided to analyze the impact of inferiority
complex in Laura’s behavior problem as depicted in script of Tenesse Williams in the glass
of menagerie.
This psychoanalysis study will focus on the psychological aspects experienced by Laura,
especially discussing the inferiority complex that exists in her characteristic. The first source
of data from this analysis is of course star with the glass menagerie script, several research
journals of the inferiority complex, and also research on the analysis of the inferiority
complex that exists in other literary works. After that, this analysis was explained
sequentially by discussing the problem formulations from what is inferiority complex and
how it is portrayed in the glass menagerie, secondly the cause of inferiority complex
experienced by Laura Wingfield, and the impact caused by Laura’s inferiority complex. The
method of collecting data in this analysis is not explained with numbers or tables but with
descriptive sentences of the problem formulation explanation.
1. Inferiority complex
Inferiority complex is a psychological condition when someone feels inferior than others and
feels that he/she did not reach the applicable standards in society. The Feeling of inferiority is
a psychological condition experienced by human being. People might feel less worthy, less
capable, helpless, self-pity as a form of compensation from failure to achieve superiority
(Adler, 1997; Brachfeld, 2001; Feist & Feist, 2011; Feldman, 2012; Friedman & Schustack,
2008). Inferiority complex has generally been experienced by someone when he/she was a
child, but as time goes by, of course someone should be able to control their inferior feelings
so that they are not used as a benchmark to be stuck thinking about their shortcomings. This
inferiority complex often occurs in the adolescent phase, because in this phase adolescents
usually experience unstable periods. Inferiority complex is a kind of psychological obstacle
that occurs usually in puberty and its reasons are complicated and its effects are negative
and harmful (Kabir 2018). Inferiority complex is a kind of psychological obstacle that occurs
usually in puberty and its reasons are complicated and its effects are negative and harmful
(Jing 2012). According to Adler, Inferiority complex arises when a person finds himself in a
situation where his abilities and attitudes are denigrated or rejected by other people
(Ansbacher & Ansbacher 1964). According to Hall (in Santrock, 2007), adolescence whose
age ranges between 12 up to 23 years were colored by upheaval. ‘Storm and stress’ concept
from Hall which states that adolescents are a period of turmoil that is filled with conflict and
mood swings. According to these various thoughts, feelings, and actions of adolescents vary
between arrogance and humility, good intentions and temptations, happiness and sadness. At
one time a teenager can be very unpleasant towards peers, while in other times they can being
nice, sometimes they require privacy, but a few seconds later wants togetherness. Adolescent
development is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood. The period in which the
individual in the process of growth (especially physical growth) has reached maturity. In the
process of development, adolescents experience various problems in adapting and adjusting.
Teenagers tend to be unstable and immature emotionally and spiritually, so that through this
process of development, adolescents experience some various problems.
2. Inferiority complex in the glass of menagerie
-Brief story of Laura
Laura is the first child of Amanda. Her mother is a widow who is struggling with the
financial situation in her family. Laura has a younger brother named Tom. Laura is a shy girl
who has a crippled leg. She likes to play with her glasses menagerie, one of the glass that she
obsessed is unicorn, since the unicorn has the same characteristics as herself, which has
meaning that she is different from the others, unique like a unicorn. As time goes by, of
course, someone will get older like Laura who will be twenty-four years old. at that time a
woman would be considered bizarre if she did not have gentleman callers at an increasingly
mature age. Therefore, Amanda always expected that men would queue to propose Laura like
when she was young. But in fact, there is no one man who come to Laura, so Amada has
ambitions to introduce her daughter to one of Tom's friends, Jim. Jim was unexpectedly a
man who had been loved by Laura since high school, but she was not confident enough to
love him. She felt unworthy to love Jim until they finally met at her house and have a
conversation. It turns out that Jim's hospitality towards Amanda and Laura was only because
he was invited to dinner party by them, he could not fulfill Amanda's expectations because
actually Jim already had a fiancé. After knowing this statement, Amanda and Laura felt sad
until they became speechless in front of Jim.
2.1 The factors of Laura’s inferiority complex
Inferiority complex experienced by someone can certainly be caused by several things. The
following section is an explanation of what factors that cause the inferiority complex which
experienced by Laura
a. Different ability (diffable)
Richard et al. (Papalia et al., 2011) suggest that adolescents tend to dislike seeing
themselves. Teenagers will have many assumptions that may feel they are less impressive
than their counterparts. Feelings of dissatisfaction with their body image can lead to
inferiority (Muhsin, 2014a). The study of Ekbote, Shimpi, Rairikar, Shyam, & Sancheti (2017)
in India found that 15.25% of the adolescent population had concerns about body image.
Laura has an imperfection body because she has crippled leg. The story doesn't explain why
she got into that condition. It could be that this has been experienced since her birth or it
happened because of an accident. But clearly, Laura felt insecure about her physical
deficiencies. She feels different from other people. This feeling makes her not want to
socialize with other people especially with men. Her mother expected Laura to get married
soon and expected she would be approached by many men like her mother's experience when
she was young yet she dismissed her mother's expectations by saying that she had a crippled
leg that distinguished her from her mother. Thus, she felt it was impossible to be visited by
men. Moreover, her mother also did body shaming to her because Laura did not have big
breasts until her mother tried to fake the size of Laura's breast is just to lure Jim. Even though
Laura felt uncomfortable with this. Her mother seemed doesn’t care with what was felt by
Laura. Amanda just wants to follow the standards of a woman in general without considering
how her daughter’s felt.
b. Parental demands
Excessive expectations and requests from parents can have an effect on a child's psychology.
For a child who feels inferior, he/she may become increasingly anxious and experience an
inferiority complex. High degree of parental demands and expectations may lead to
inferiority feelings. Inferiority complex is an exaggeration of normal inferiority feelings and
individuals with an inferiority complex display a tendency towards overcompensation and
overreaction (Heidbreder 1927). High degree of parental demands and expectations may
lead to inferiority feelings. Children reared in households who were constantly criticized or
not live up to parents' expectations may also develop this (Adler 1907). Laura is a woman
who lived in the 1930s where at that time a woman is considered ideal if visited by gentleman
callers. So, her mother wished that Laura can get dozens of gentleman callers like her mother
used to be. Her mother wanted Laura to get her partner as soon as possible without she
realized that Laura actually still didn't want to because she felt unable and unsure.
Moreover, Laura's mother also made Laura into a business college that laura might be had no
interest in that department since it shows that she ended up dropping out because she often
skipped classes. Amanda requests and expectations that her daughter must do as soon as
possible make her feel more inferior and shackled by feelings of anxiety about her own
c. Dysfunctional families
Laura is a girl who lacks affection from her father because her father left for sixteen years for
no apparent reason. The word ‘leaving’ here is not in the sense of divorce or death, but
indeed her father left his responsibilities as a figure of father in his family. This made
Amanda a single parent and become a mother who likes to control the lives of her children.
Besides, Amanda also had high expectations for her children, one of that childern was Laura.
Dysfunctional family that occurs in Laura’s family can affect the personality related with the
psychological aspects of their children. Dysfunctional families, more often than functional
ones, experience anxiety, conflict, hostility, and often marked by sense of inferiority in
regards to their family. Children from dysfunctional families suffer from a number of fears
that do not correspond with age norm. It reveals their tendency to infantilization and natural
ageing process slowdown. It reveals their tendency to infantilization and natural aging
process slowdown (Minullina,2018). This can be proved according to Laura because she is a
girl who is getting older but her mind is still like a child. She did not think to concern about
his future life later. All she knows is that she only likes to play with her glass menagerie
collection. Conflict relationships in dysfunctional families trigger children's anxiety,
increasing and perpetuating their fears (Minullina,2018). Laura experienced anxiety and
panic when her mother began to control herself and insisted on having dinner and bringing
Jim to Laura.
d. low connected
If a person is unable to make friends then that person might feel that nobody likes him/her
and that he/she lacks the qualities of having good friends. Also, if a person, compared to
others, is confused about his/her goals in life then he/she might begin to feel insecure and
think that he/she is good for nothing. This continuous feeling can cause an inferiority
complex. Likewise, with what happened to Laura since she was difficult to get friends
because she felt inferior than others and shy so she was not adept at communicating and
getting some friends.
2.2 The impact of Laura’s inferiority complex toward her adverse behavior problem
Inferiority complex is a psychological condition where someone feels inferior than others and
feels that he/she does not reach the standards that apply in society. A person who experiences
an inferiority complex is caused by several factors and can have some unfavorable impacts on
his/her behavior and personality. Alfred Adler identified an inferiority complex as one of the
contributing factors to problem child behaviors (Alfred 2013).
A. Low grade in academic
Inferior feelings experienced by Laura affect her education in college. It could be because
Laura felt that she did not master or had no interest in the department chosen by her mother.
Furthermore, she felt insecure about her appearance and hardly to get friends. So that the
inferior complex she experienced affected her bad behavior like skipping class and preferred
to take a walk to the park and museum. Adolescents who consistently fail or repeat classes
are found to develop the inferiority complex and non-progressive attitude towards school and
peers (Esfandyari, Baharudin, & Nouzari 2009). When her mother knew this, it made her
shocked that her daughter had been lying to her every day. Education is usually seen as
affecting society by socializing individuals. It is an established fact that any type of progress
and development in the world is the direct corollary of education (Bregman & Muhammad
B. Socially awkward
Laura is always encountered with awkward feelings if she has to connect or socialize with
other people except her family. She did not even dare to communicate with other people in
order to get some friends. Therefore, she does not have friends at all because it is very
difficult for her to get along. Become socially awkward is caused by the inferiority complex
that she experienced which makes her fear of talking to others or to the public and
furthermore she also does not want to get acquainted or fear to speak towards the opposite
sex. So fear of public speaking, fear of approaching the opposite sex and stage fright can
sometimes is symptoms of inferiority. In the Solid Self-confidence program, a person with
inferiority complex has a real hard time dealing with criticism. We all hate criticism but for a
person who feels inferior criticism is considered a successful attempt at discovering his real
flaws and that’s why he can never handle them (Syed,2018).
C. Low self esteem
When an inferiority complex is in full effect, it may impact the performance of the individual
as well as impact the individual’s self-esteem. An inferiority complex is a lack of self-worth, a
doubt and uncertainty, and feelings of not measuring up to standards. It is often subconscious
and is thought to drive afflicted individuals to overcompensate, resulting either in
spectacular achievement or extreme a social behavior. The term was coined to indicate a
lack of covert self-esteem (Syed,2018). Laura's inferiority complex had an impact regarding
to low self-esteem because she still could not appreciate herself. Laura devalues herself and
believes that she will not be able to do something. Laura feels worthless and she thinks she
doesn't deserve better. She had no sense of pride of her own abilities. Her inferior feeling is
the result of Laura's excessive imagination. She is hard to believe in her abilities while
actually it could be that Laura has a talent or ability but due to the inferior complex, she
becomes shackled by her low self-esteem. This self-esteem refers to how people evaluate
their lives. These evaluations may be in the form of cognition or in the form of effect (Nature
& Kabir 2015). As human being, we should be able to adapt and change our previous terrible
behavior or circumstances to lead us in better way so we can feel the process of development
in our lives. Besides that, it also needs to takes self-confidence and self-respect of our own
abilities and efforts to do this.
D. Used their delusions as defense
The inferior feeling which undermines Laura's mind made her unable to overcome difficulties
in life and furthermore she has inability to carry out her responsibilities. Laura doesn't want
to deal with new things or new challenges that she has to face. She was only stuck in her
comfort zone. Instead of continuing her education she chose to take a walk in the park and
she skipped school, she also did not want to get married. Laura did not think about the
responsibilities she had to plan and carry out for her future life. Inability to carry out these
responsibilities made Laura run away from the responsibilities to her delusion to play with
her glass menagerie. According to Adler, everyone has a feeling of inferiority. But the feeling
of inferiority is not a disease; it is rather a stimulant to healthy, normal striving and
development. It becomes a pathological condition only when the sense of inadequacy
overwhelms the individual and, far from stimulating him to useful activity, makes him
depressed and incapable of development (Alfred 2013). Therefore, Laura’s mother was very
aware of her daughter’s future in spite of what her mother did it in the wrong way by
expecting too high like what she wanted. This indicates that Laura needs someone's help to
overcome this problem. These individuals have developed a form of learned helplessness and
are unable to overcome the problems of life without assistance (Adler 1907).
E. Isolation or alienation from social group
Low self-esteem and the difficulty of socializing caused by the inferiority complex continues
to the other effects which experienced by Laura that she tried to isolate herself from the
people outside. People who may have low self-esteem tend to be difficult in making decisions
for their progress, and slowly they will marginalize themselves from their communities
(Centi, 1993; Kaluzna, 2017; Kartika & Nurihsan, 2009). She prefers to be at home just
playing with her glass menagerie. It shows that the impact caused by the inferiority complex
itself can have an impact again on someone's bad habits such as trying to isolate themselves
from others. When Jim came to her house, she chose to stay in her room instead of meeting
and talking with him, until Jim comes to Laura’s room.
Laura was a girl who lived in the 1930s. She was also required to follow the traditions that
occurred in that era, and must follow the wishes and expectations of her mother. But she
could not fulfill all of those things because Laura was lacked confidence, and very shy. Yet,
her modest characteristic leads her to have a psychological condition, which is the inferiority
complex that caused by several factors such as her physical conditions, parental demands,
dysfunctional family, and low connections with others. Those factors bring the impacts or
influence on Laura’s problem behavior such as low grade in her academic, socially awkward,
low self-esteem, used her delusion as defense, and being isolation and alienation from social
groups. Feeling of excessive inferiority is bad and can lead to an inferiority complex where
this psychological condition can have an adverse impact on someone personality and habits.
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