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The Theme of Escape in The Glass Menagerie

The Theme of Escape in The Glass Menagerie

In Tennessee Williams’ play, The Glass Menagerie, Amanda, Laura, and Tom have chosen to avoid reality. Amanda continually attempts to live in the past. Laura’s escape from the real world is her glass collection and old phonograph records. Tom hides from the real world by going to the movies and getting drunk. Each character retreats to their separate world to escape the cruelties of life.

Living in the past is Amanda’s way of escaping her pitiful present reality (Knorr). She never forgets to tell Laura and Tom about her receiving seventeen gentlemen callers in Blue Mountain when she was young: “One Sunday afternoon-your mother received-seventeen!-gentlemen callers! Why, sometimes there weren’t enough chairs enough to accommodate them all” (Williams 26). She talks about how all her admirers turned out and even though many became successful and could have been better choices, she had chosen their father. It seems that she wants her children to know that she was different before her husband left her. She wants them to know that she was a “catch”. The truth remains that she had been economically dependent on her husband. Since her husband left her, her dependency transfers to her son Tom.

She not only transferred her dependency to her son and her hopes for a gentleman caller to her daughter, but also her need of the past and her memories of the past. To Amanda, the past stands for the carefree life she led in Blue Mountain. This affects Tom and Laura greatly. Tom despises this situation and can’t stand being at home. He goes to the movies and writes poetry to escape his home life and his disheartening job at the shoe factory. He believes that his home life and job affect his …

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…t forget her. “Ironically, though the rainbows seemed to be positive signs, they all end in disappointment”(Knorr).

Even though Tom tries to escape his past, it remains with him for he is the one who tells the story of The Glass Menagerie. Though Amanda, Laura, and Jim are not real they are part of Tom’s memory which reveals his pain and suffering in his ironic and humorous tone. All of the characters escape their reality that never changes.

Works Cited

Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. Ed. James Laughlin. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1970.

King, Thomas L. “Irony and Distance in The Glass Menagerie.” In Modern Critical Views: Tennessee Williams. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987, 85-94.

Knorr. Home page.

Essay on Symbolism in The Glass Menagerie

Symbolism in The Glass Menagerie

Symbolism plays an integral part in Williams’s play, The Glass Menagerie. Examples of the use of symbolism include the fire escape, as an escape from the family, the phonograph, as an escape from reality, the unicorn, as a symbol for Laura’s uniqueness and the father’s photograph, representing something different to each character. Through regonition of these symbols, a greater understanding of the play’s theme is achieved.

Throughout the play, Tom Wingfield was torn by a responsibility he felt for his mother and sister and the need to be his own man. He used the fire escape most in the play. He went outside to stand on it when he smoked, to escape the nagging from his mother, and to make his final independence from his family.

Tom didn’t like being responsible for his mother and sister, working day-in and day-out at a job he hated. He wanted to escape down those stairs and never come back. In scene V Tom speaks to the audience about what he observes from the fire escape, Paradise Dance Hall. The dance hall to him was what he wanted, everyone was living exciting lives “hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars and movies, and sex that hung in the gloom…” Tom longed to live a more exciting life. In the final scene Tom says “I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space.” Tom wanted to be free and to him the fire escape was the exit into freedom.

Movies were also an important part of Tom’s life. He went to the movies when he and his mother argued or when he felt he needed some excitement. In scene IV Amanda asks “Why do you go to the movies so much, Tom?” and…

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…nger; anger that he’s abandon them and is doing what he wants.

The symbols used in the play are a means of escape. For Tom it’s the movies and the fire escape, for Laura it’s the Victrola and her glass and for the father, it’s his picture. He’s escaped from the responsibility of raising and paying for their family.

Works Cited and Consulted

Beattie, Elisabeth L. “The Glass Menagerie.” Masterplots, ed. Frank M. Magill. Revised Second Ed. Vol. 5. Pasadena: Salem Press, 1996.

Bigsby, C. W. E. “Entering the Glass Menagerie.” The Cambridge Companion to Tennessee Williams, ed. Matthew C. Roudane. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Williams, Tennessee. Conversations with Tennessee Williams, ed. Albert Devlin. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1986.

Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1995.

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