The Glass Menagerie Escape Essay

Essay On The Theme Of Escape In The Glass Menagerie

The Theme of Escape in The Glass Menagerie


The Glass Menagerie, a play by Tennessee Williams, is set in the apartment of the Wingfield family, housing Amanda Wingfield and her two children Tom and Laura. The father left many years ago, and is only represented by a picture on the living-room wall. The small, dingy apartment creates a desperate, monotonous feeling in the reader. None of the Wingfields has any desire to stay in the apartment, but their lack of finances makes it impossible to move. Escape from this monotonous and desperate life is the main theme throughout the play.

The different characters in 'The Glass Menagerie' have their own individual ways of escaping from their realities. Tom Wingfield, the main character and narrator, probably has the one that most clearly relates to what we usually call escaping. His dream is to get away from the entire place in which he is currently living. He is tired of supplying his mother and sister without getting anything but remorse in return. Early in the play we can see this urge to get away through his frequent visits to the movie theatre. To him the movies serve as windows into another world, an exiting world filled with fun and challenges. Another thing that it is worth mentioning when speaking about this is Amanda's attitude towards the movies. She thinks that he spends too much time on the movies, and she keeps haunting him for it. I believe that this is supposed to tell the reader that Amanda has some kind of feeling that Tom sometime will follow in his fathers footsteps, and that she is trying to prevent this from happening. For Amanda this is a very natural reaction; with Tom out of the apartment there would be nothing left for her and her daughter to feed from.

However, as time goes by the realities of life is getting closer and closer on Tom, and it's getting increasingly difficult to escape. He tries, for example through drinking, but it's clear that the moment where the only possible escape is the drastic option of actually leaving his current way of life. But when he actually goes through with this, after being pushed over the edge by Amanda, it turns out to be nothing like he had expected it to be. Instead of starting a new life on his own he is haunted with guilt from abandoning his sister.

Laura's escape is a bit subtler. She does not want to do anything drastic to change her life. In fact, it seems that all she wants is to keep inside her own world, without having to deal with the decisions and demands of the real world. This can be seen through her attempt to attend Business College, in which she fails quite dramatically when her skills are to be tested. This leads to her quitting school, but without telling her mother. From this we can see that Laura is extremely afraid of confrontations and situations where somebody is expecting something from her. This makes her spend most her time inside, playing about with her...

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Escape in the play operate in two directions: from the real world into the world of memory and dreams, as Amanda and Laura demonstrate; or from the world of memory and dreams into the real world, as Tom desires. Amanda and Laura escape reality by retreating into dream worlds. Amanda refuses to see things as they are, insisting on seeing what she wants to see. Amanda still lives as a past version of herself, even as she projects ambitions onto Laura. Rather than accepting Laura’s peculiarities or Tom’s unhappiness, she escapes into her fantasy version of the world as she thinks it should be.

Laura escapes from the imposing structures of reality into worlds she can control and keep perfect: her memories, the glass menagerie, the freedom of walking through the park. When Amanda confronts Laura, she tries to escape by playing music loudly enough to block out the argument. However, both Amanda and Laura can see their present situations, and they do try to make their realities better. Amanda raises subscriptions for magazines to earn money. Instead of escaping the fighting, Laura serves as peacemaker between Amanda and Tom.

Tom does not want to escape into dreams or other fantasy worlds—he wants to physically escape, to leave. And even when he can't bring himself to actually leave, he is constantly escaping from something: he escapes from the apartment onto the fire escape; he escapes from the coffin in the magic show; and he sneaks away at the warehouse to write poetry, a mental and physical escape from a menial job. He fantasizes about joining the merchant marines and escaping from not only his claustrophobic life but also the landlocked Midwest. Tom goes to the movies every night to watch an escapist fantasy on the screen. He also uses alcohol to escape reality: we see bottles in his pockets, and “going to the movies” is a euphemism for getting drunk. Yet all of Tom’s escape mechanisms are cyclical: while they offer the promise of freedom, they also trap him. “I’m leading a double life,” Tom shouts at Amanda at the end of Scene Three. He intends to hurt her so that he might break free of her power over him, but ultimately, he can’t escape his love for his family.

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