Essay on the Illusion of Escape in The Glass Menagerie

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The Illusion of Escape in The Glass Menagerie

  In The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, the characters exhibit a state of delusion that originates from their dissatisfaction with their lives. Tom seeks adventure in the movies. Amanda reminisces often about her days as a Southern Belle. Laura sits in a dream world with her glass collection, and Jim basks in the praises of his high school glory. In their respective ways, they demonstrate their restlessness. The quotation from Thoreau, "The mass of men lead lives of the quiet desperation," applies to the characters in that they are all unhappy, but take no action to improve their situation in any significant way.


Tom, as the narrator, explains to the audience the progression of the play and allots this with "the pleasant guise of illusion." When he speaks to the audience, the events he relates are in the past, and he has realized how distanced his family had been from real life. Through the play, he is angry and bitter because of his duty to his sister and mother. His father absconded, leaving Tom as the sole provider, a title neither wanted. Tom is not prepared to settle down and feels as though he "makes a slave of himself." Whether or not he had the ability to create a separate life for himself, Tom feels placed in a "nailed up coffin." He is tortured by boredom in the warehouse and aches for his own vision of life. He remarked to Laura that he did not know how anyone could "[get] himself out of a coffin without removing one nail." A primary source of his desperation is the fact that he know that if he leaves he will destroy Laura, and he does not want that. He is inactive on his own behalf for a long time, feeling enclosed by a life he cannot stand. He is...

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... They scurry around trying to end their suffering, but they impede each other's efforts through their individual ones. These people seem doomed to their fates: to run away, to live in the past, or to exist continually in a intangible world.


Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, Harold. Introduction. Tennessee Williams. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 1-8.

King, Thomas L. "Irony and Distance in The Glass Menagerie." In Tennessee Williams. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 85-94.

Levy, Eric P. "'Through Soundproof Glass': The Prison of Self Consciousness in The Glass Menagerie." Modern Drama, 36. December 1993. 529-537.

Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. In Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, 4th ed. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995. 1519-1568.

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