The Reality of Illusions:
Research Analysis of Theme in Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie
Reflective of the depressed age it was written in, Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie, reveals a host of antisocial personalities, each with their own psychosis and methodology of self-medicating. This glimpse into the lives of the Wingfield family’s dysfunction is both sobering and memorable. When brought to the stage as was originally intended, William’s play articulates each character’s quirkiness and in doing so, bears witness to the different illusions, delusions, and fantasy they use as coping mechanisms. These recurring behaviors exhibited at different intervals and scenes of the play form a patterned motif and accentuate one the plays most prominent themes; the struggle between illusion and reality for each present member of the Wingfield family.
The plot contains several varieties of illusion and methodical breaks from reality. Each one is important to understanding the dynamic struggles the characters have with their own circumstances and how they choose to deal with them. Funk and Wagnall describe illusion as :
false sensory perception of an actual stimulus. In abnormal psychology, the term denotes misperceiving stimuli, arising from such disorders as an abnormal irritability of the sensory centers of the brain cortex, caused, for example, by drug intoxication or withdrawal, or by sleep deprivation. Such illusions, which are usually based on habits, attitudes, suggestions, and unconscious motivations, are sometimes called active illusions. In one type of active illusion, an external happening may be greatly exaggerated in a person’s mind, as when a gentle knocking at a door is taken for thunder. (Illusion)
The most prevalent tool Williams utilizes to assert this struggle as a central theme is active illusion. Because they are mildly grounded distortions of reality, this type of illusion keeps the play from becoming a fantasy. Furthermore, his use of active illusion disallows any fantasy he presents from disrupting the authenticity of the Wingfield’s inescapable reality. In addition, by using repetition of this concept as a literary element, Williams successfully aids the viewer / reader in relating the Wingfield’s struggles to one another. This keeps the multiple staggered climaxes of the plot from appearing disjointed.
In the case of Amanda, Williams utilizes illusions of the past to articulate Amanda’s difficulty accepting unrealized dreams. It is during her many exposés that she avoids her own reality by thriving in a distorted one that no longer exists. The first time this occurs, Amanda ignores Laura’s news that she will not receive any gentleman callers. Upon hearing this, she immediately begins to regale the family with stories of her own callers from another time and place. Amanda’s recalls saying “Sometimes they come when they are least expected! Why, I remember one Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain” (Williams 974). This...