In his critical essay “The Green Goddess of Realism,” Sean O’Casey solicits what it entails to create “a real play about real people” (295). O’Casey believes playwrights embellish and emphasize their imaginative works in order to create a connection with the audience and evoke a specific reaction. Thus, the more realistic and similar to actual life a play is, the further it deviates from being a real play. According to O’Casey, theatre “is not[…] the locus of real life but an artistic presentation of stories that serve the narrator’s purpose” (293). In his play The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams attempts to convey, through characterization and expressionism, the human tendency to allow the past to control one’s present actions and thoughts.
William’s tragic life created the framework for The Glass Menagerie. Aside from the obvious similarity of Tennessee’s name being Tom, he also felt responsible for his disabled sister, Rose, who was eventually institutionalized. His mother arranged a lobotomy in an attempt to cure her; however, Rose spent the remainder of her life in the mental institution (Shute). Laura represents William’s sister, Rose, with her nickname being blue Roses and her physical and mental disabilities. The blue roses are an allusion to their frail nature and inevitable death (Cardullo). Williams’ acknowledgment of human’s imminent ending hints at a line in “The Timeless World of the Play,” his critical essay: “we are all haunted by a truly awful sense of impermanence” (275). Humanity’s fear of death and insignificance is the root of human’s tendency to allow the past to intrude on the present and future, and to, either intentionally or subconsciously, escape reality.
The characters in The Glass Menagerie all have escapist tendencies. Amanda is probably the most delusional as she constantly lives in either the past, or an idealistic present or future. She dwells in her past as a beautiful Southern belle because she cannot accept being old and alone, which is exactly what she does not want her daughter to become. She obsesses over finding a suitor for Laura and Tom being successful. Rather than accepting her solitariness, she relives her happiest times as a girl who received an absurd seventeen callers. Amanda appears to merely be reminiscing as she retells her romantic past, but from Tom and Laura’s reaction:
TOM. I know what’s coming!
LAURA. Yes. But let her tell it.
LAURA. She loves to tell it. (The Glass Menagerie. Scene I)
Williams makes it clear to the audience that this is a recurring story of hers. She also cannot accept her daughter’s physical condition and the effects it has on her mentally, calling it “a little defect—hardly noticeable, even!” (The Glass Menagerie. Scene I). She evades real things that are not ideal in her life.
One could argue Amanda...