Glass Menagerie-escape From Reality

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade October 2001

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Question: Amanda tells Tom that he lives in dream world and manufactures illusions. To what extent do Amanda, Tom and Laura try to escape an unpleasant reality? Escape is a very real aspect of the Wingfield family. The first escapee was Mr.Wingfield, the man in the picture. He left the family sixteen years ago and has sent only one very brief post card since then. He made his escape as Tom does by going to the movies, as Laura does through her glass menagerie and victrola records, and as Amanda does through her memories of Blue Mountain. Mr.Wingfield is the ultimate symbol of escape. The reality of their lives is so depressing and tedious that each must find a way to escape from their unpleasant reality.

Amanda is desperately searching for a way to save Laura from becoming a dependant "old maid". Amanda knows that this kind of life is lonely and miserable, and she tries to give Laura the means to escape this fate by having her take typing classes so that she may later support herself.

Laura drops out of the class, and Amanda has to find another escape route for her daughter; her ambitions turn to finding a male suitor for her daughter.

To escape from reality Amanda lives in the past. She constantly reminisces about her days in Blue Mountain and her seventeen gentleman callers per day. Amanda's life had the potential to become great but she unfortunately met "a telephone man who fell in love with long distances".

Tom goes to the movies to escape the drab life he leads as a warehouse worker living with his mother and sister. He hates his life and feels trapped. He gets no recognition or appreciation from Amanda for the sacrifices he feels he makes to support the family. He could choose to abandon them like his father had, and find the adventure he lusts after which is what he will eventually do.

After seeing the Magician escape from a coffin without removing a nail, Tom is very impressed, and he believes it parallels his situation at home. He has to find some way to escape without destroying his family the way his father had sixteen years ago. Tom's job at the warehouse pays the rent and the bills; since his father left, he was forced to provide for his mother and sister. Tom cannot escape the coffin without removing a nail, until there is someone to take his place. Thus, he is also interested in finding a suitor for Laura, although he is more realistic that his mother.

Amanda mentions the letter Tom receives from the Merchant Marines. His plans for escape are exposed to the audience. What could be more adventurous than to sail far away with the Merchant Marines? The more Amanda nags, the more Tom needs his movie escapes. They take him to another world for a while, where mothers and sisters and runaway fathers do not exist. As the strain gets worse, the movie watching becomes more frequent, as does Tom's drinking. It is getting harder and harder for Tom to avoid real life. The time for a real departure is fast approaching.

Tom finally escapes and joins the Merchant Marines, but even his escape doesn't save him. He's constantly haunted by the sad memory of his lonely sister, and everywhere he goes, her image stays with him; although he escaped the apartment, he didn't really get away from her memory.

The glass menagerie is Laura's escape from the harshness of reality. Her disability and lack of confidence has led to an intense shyness. Her escape isolates her even further from society; she handles the glass ornaments to avoid interaction with others.

Laura tries to avoid answering the door, but Amanda insists that she must do it. In order to make it through the trauma of opening the door for her brother and his guest, Laura plays the Victrola to ease her anxiety.

Laura escaped from the horror of having dinner with her high school crush because she felt too afraid to face him. Instead of sitting at the table, she leaves for the living room sofa, faking sickness.

Williams uses the theme of escape throughout "The Glass Menagerie" to demonstrate the hopelessness and futility of each character's dreams. Tom, Laura and Amanda all seem to think, incorrectly I might add, that escape is possible. In the end, no character makes a clean break from the situation at hand. Perhaps Tennessee Williams is trying to send a message that running away is not the way to solve life's problems. The only escape in life is solving your problems, not avoiding them.

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