Escape from reality because of the impossibility to accept it seems to be the only right choice for the characters of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (1944). This play is often discussed as autobiographical because such characters as Tom and Laura reflect the features and qualities characteristic for Tennessee Williams and his sister Rose.
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The play focuses on Tom’s recollections about the previous events with the help of which he tries to analyze his life with the family before abandoning his mother Amanda and his sister Laura. Furthermore, the psychological depth of the play is accentuated with references to Tom’s communication with the audience which can be discussed as the passive participator in the play.
In his play, Williams demonstrates the efforts of three characters to escape from reality because of its sufferings and their lost hopes. Although the characters of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie are different in their perception of the world and their actions, all of them prefer the world of illusions instead of reality in order to cope with the life difficulties, and the false nature of such a choice is reflected in Williams’s depiction of certain symbols and images which are used to emphasize the theme of abandonment and escape in the play.
Tom Wingfield, the protagonist of the play, is the most controversial character, and the audience can perceive the events depicted in the play only through the eyes of Tom because all the discussed situations are the products of Tom’s memory. While working to support the family, Tom feels that this reality cannot be his desired life.
He suffers from the pressure of the consequences and from his mother’s tension. He yearns for the world of poetry, but he is rather inconsistent in his actions. Tom cannot choose the right way, and he can be rather cruel in relation to his family in spite of the fact that he accentuates his love for mother and Laura. The inner contradiction results in Tom’s feeling of guilt after abandoning the home which was perceived as the jail for his hopes and dreams.
Providing Tom’s monologue and the elements of his communication with the audience, Williams pays attention to the fact that Tom’s feeling of guilt is caused by the act of his betraying Laura. Tom’s sister is the most interesting character of the play because she chooses to escape from the reality in her inner world due to the impossibility to do so in the real life.
Laura is depicted as a ‘fragile’ and naïve girl who cannot live in the cruel reality. Laura’s inferiority complex and concentration on her inner considerations are explained with references to her limp. Laura focuses on her collection of glass figurines because she sees herself in these delicate statuettes. Williams concentrates on associating Laura with the figure of a unicorn because of her uniqueness and innocence.
The only situation when Laura feels her uniqueness from the positive perspective and has a chance to change her life for better is when Tom’s friend Jim kisses her. However, the reality quickly breaks Laura’s fragile hopes because Jim is engaged. As a result, Laura cannot escape from her inner world of sufferings.
If Laura cannot imagine herself communicating actively with people and feeling comfortable in the society, Amanda Wingfield, her mother, cannot forget the times of her glorious youth the recollections about which do not always reflect the real events. Amanda tries to control all the aspects of her children’s lives in order to compensate her lost hopes.
The problem is in the fact that Tom and Laura only pretend to share their mother’s ideas. That is why, Amanda relies on her recollections as the escape from that reality which does not satisfy her because Tom is not prominent, and Laura is not successful in personal relationships.
In Williams’s play, the characters suffer from the fact that their intentions and hopes were not realized. As a result, Amanda, Tom, and Laura choose the ways to abandon the reality with references to the ways which are closest for them. The real life becomes the challenge for the play’s characters, and they cope with it according to their possibilities.
Williams emphasizes this problem through depicting symbolic figures of animals and the statuette of unicorn. The characters’ illusions are as fragile as these figures which can be easily broken by the representatives of the real society who can successfully adapt to the world. From this point, Jim is the opponent to the other play’s characters because he overcomes his unsuccessfulness in sport and lost hopes easier than Amanda, Tom, and Laura who have to live in the world of broken dreams.
Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie is the play about the escape from reality and the problem of lost hopes which are closely associated with the motifs of betrayal and selfishness. Moreover, the play cannot be discussed as the completely realistic because of references to the protagonist’s recollections as the device to represent the depth of the characters’ emotions.