Illusions of Escape in The Glass Menagerie
Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie gives readers a look into a truly dysfunctional family. At first it could seem as if their lives are anything but normal, but Amanda's "impulse to preserve her single-parent family seems as familiar as the morning newspaper" (Presley 53). The Wingfield's are a typical family just struggling to get by. Their problems, however, stem from their inability to effectively communicate with each other. Instead of talking out their differences, they resort to desperate acts. The desperation that the Wingfields embrace has led them to create illusions in their minds and in turn become deceptive. Amanda, Tom, and Laura are caught up in a web of desperation, denial, and deception, and it is this entrapment that prevents them, as it would any family, from living productive and emotionally fulfilling lives together.
Amanda Wingfield's life has not ended up as she would have wished. She states, "I wasn't prepared for what the future brought me" (Williams 720). According to Delma E. Presley, "If Amanda appears desperate, she certainly has a legitimate reason" (37). First of all, she has a daughter, Laura, that is dependent upon her for everything. She is afraid that Laura will end up a "little birdlike [woman] without any nest-eating the crust of humility" for the rest of her life (Williams 700). She also has a son, Tom, who goes to the movies almost every night, or so he says. Amanda knows that the "movies don't let out at two A.M." (Williams 703). When he finally does come home, Tom is "stumbling" and "muttering to [himself] like a maniac" (Williams 703). Amanda desperately fears that he is beginning to take after his father's ways. She is caring for "a fragile menagerie composed of two children" (Presley 24).
The desperation of her situation leads her to become controlling, and she takes this control to the extreme. Amanda constantly bombards Tom with commands in almost every scene. She begins her direction by reminding Tom how to eat properly. First he is pushing the food wrong and then he is chewing improperly. After they manage to finish supper, she then criticizes him for smoking. Things continue on like this throughout the entire play. She decides to return his books to the library because she believes that they are "filth." Tom cannot do anything right in the eyes of his mother. She even tells him how to comb his hair. Amanda also directs her daughter. She sends Laura to Business College and then decides to find her a man. Amanda tries to decide all of the directions in which Laura's life turns. Because of her desperation for her children to succeed, Amanda turns into a dictator. She "manipulates her children's lives through an almost constant barrage of criticism and guilt" (Jolemore).
Amanda's desperation leads her to deny reality. This coping strategy is called a defense mechanism. ...