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 told often that he needs to "wake up." He tries to escape in the adventures of the movies, but it is not enough. Eventually he alleviates his distress of being in the warehouse where his creativity goes to waste by joining The Union of Merchant Seamen. Tom does not solve his problems; he runs from them. The guilt from deserting his family will always exist in his life, creating another source of eternal grief. Tom will never fully escape his "two-by-four situation."
While Amanda often regresses to the memories of better days, she is more level-headed than the remaining members of her family. A major source of irritation for her lies in her children's inability to deal with their problems. She wants good lives for them, but is rebuffed when she endeavors to help. She fears for Laura's future because the girl finds so many activities she "[can't] face." Laura becomes ill when pressured and cannot speak with people she does not know. Amanda cannot understand Laura's "silliness" over answering the door. Tom also distresses her by not taking his job and responsibility seriously. She fears that he will lose his job, and their family is already having economic difficulties. Despite all of her plans for the family,...