The Glass Menagerie is a play by Tennessee Williams that was first performed in 1944. The play is set in St. Louis, Missouri, in the 1930s. The story revolves around the Wingfield family: Amanda, the mother; Tom, the son; and Laura, the daughter. Amanda is a Southern belle who is living in a time when the South is no longer fashionable.
Tom is an aspiring writer who longs to escape his stifling life. Laura is a shy young woman who has a collection of glass animals. The family’s lives are turned upside down when Tom brings home Jim O’Connor, a co-worker from the warehouse where he works.
Jim is polite and handsome, and Amanda immediately begins to plan for Laura to marry him. However, Jim sees through the family’s elaborate fantasies and pretenses and recognizes that they are running away from reality. The characters in The Glass Menagerie all long to escape their circumstances and enter a world of their own making. Ultimately, however, they are forced to confront the harsh realities of life and accept who they truly are.
The other two, Laura and Amanda, are never going to be able to break away and will always be defined by their home. The glass menagerie is a symbol of Lauras fragility and her inability to escape. The only time she ever leaves her house is when she goes to the movies, which is another form of escape. The characters in The Glass Menagerie are all searching for a way out, but only some will find it.
Every person has a method of escaping their reality, although none are particularly successful at it. Whether by dreaming or actually walking away, everyone succeeds in breaking free. Tom is without a doubt the biggest dreamer among all his friends. Tom looks up to his father, who had the bravery to walk out rather than paying his light bill (1295). When Amanda asks him if he’d be where [the father] is if he was in her place, Tom answers Motherly Thank you for asking! (1277). Tom would pay his Merchant Marine dues this month instead of the light bill if given the choice (1295).
The problem was, Tom did not have the ability to do that. The plays setting is in a small apartment, which does not allow for much movement out. The only way to escape would be through flying or teleportation. The characters cannot physically leave their world and so must rely on flights of fancy to help them cope with what they truly want.
Amanda also escapes her reality through her stories about times long past when she was young, single and sought after by many men (1256). The fantasy Amanda creates helps her deal with the loneliness of being married to a man who doesnt care about anyone but himself. The glass figures represent all the people Amanda uses to create this alternate universe where she can escape into a better time.
Her son, Tom, is the only one who seems to be aware of her problem. When he confronts her about it, she breaks down and tells him that its all she has (1284). The glass menagerie is Amandas way of escape and it allows her to live in a world where she is happy and content.
The character Laura also escapes into her own world. Unlike Amanda, Laura does not use stories or anything physical to create her fantasy land. Laura escapes into her own mind, where she is safe from the outside world. The outside world frightens Laura because she feels like she does not belong there. The only place she feels comfortable is inside her own head. This is evident when she says, I dont want to go back there. I dont want anybody to see me (1291). Laura is content in her own little world and does not want to come out of it.
While all three characters use different methods to escape, they are all successful in breaking free from their reality. The Glass Menagerie allows the reader to see how each character deals with their own problems and how they find their own way to cope with them. Tennessee Williams gives us a glimpse into the lives of three people who are struggling to find a way out of their difficult situations. The play shows us that even though we may be stuck in our current situation, we can always find a way to escape into our own little world where everything is perfect.
Tom would rather take responsibility for his family than think of himself and allow his mother and sister to sit in the dark alone. When business is slow in the warehouse, Tom goes to a cabinet in the bathroom to work on poems (1289). Tom also despises or has an issue with his mother in some way. Tom refers to Amanda as a hideous babbling old woman when he calls her (1278).
Amanda is not a witch, but Tom’s way of distancing himself from her. He does not want to be associated with someone who is considered unattractive and annoying. The audience can see that Tom is looking for any way possible to escape the life he has been dealt.
Laura, on the other hand, seems content in her own little world. She is content with living inside her head and spending time with her glass menagerie (1281). Laura does not seem to mind that she doesn’t have many friends or that she cannot leave the house by herself. She is perfectly happy existing in her own little world.
This is likely because Laura does not have to deal with the same level of responsibility as Tom does. She does not have to be concerned with supporting a family or paying the bills. The reality of her situation has not fully set in and she likely does not see the need for change.
Overall, The Glass Menagerie is a story about characters who are actively escaping from reality in different ways. Tom and Laura both do this as a way of coping with their unhappy lives and difficult circumstances. Despite their differing approaches to escape, they share a desire to leave behind the harsh realities of their world and find happiness elsewhere.
Tom’s nightmares continue to follow him after he escapes them. Every time Tom sees a piece of transparent glass (1310) or hears a familiar tune, he is reminded of Laura. As a result, Tom isn’t successful at escaping his realities in the end. Amanda and Laura are the most pathetic characters in the play because their attempts at escape rely on what goes on inside their minds. Her menagerie allows her to escape (1303).
The glass figures give her a reason to escape into fantasy. The menagerie provides Laura with something tangible, something she can touch and feel. The pieces of the collection allow her to be certain that should these individuals never come alive, they will still exist – if only in a collection of objects (1303).
While Amanda escapes through memory because it gives her hope for her future. Amanda is hopeful that any day now one of Lauras gentlemen callers will arrive and take them away from their world in downtown St. Louis…(1324). The memories that haunt Amanda are ones where she was young and beautiful.
She remembers when she had “companions who were worthy people not yet grown old or hopelessly crippled or deprived” (1327). The memories are able to keep Amanda hopeful. The play The Glass Menagerie explores the theme of escape through various characters realities. In Williams’ play, The Glass Menagerie, Tom is a character that cannot seem to escape his reality from his family and works as a warehouse worker at night.
Overall, the characters in The Glass Menagerie are constantly seeking ways to escape from their realities. For Laura, this means escaping into her menagerie of glass figurines, which provide her with a sense of fantasy and security. Meanwhile, Amanda escapes into her memories of her youth and beauty, allowing herself to hold on to hope for a better future.
Finally, Tom struggles to find an escape from the pressures and responsibilities of adulthood, eventually leading him to abandon his family altogether. The play examines the various ways in which people deal with their own personal realities, and how escape can sometimes be more harmful than helpful.