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Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie Essay

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Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie


We all have illusions. We can hardly live without them. Most of the time they are harmless thoughts about things that are usually unattainable. An example would be when a person sees something that they want and then dreams of having it. Whenever someone holds an opinion based on what they think is true, or in some cases what should be true, rather than what actually is true, then that is an illusion. Illusions sometimes help people cope with painful situations, but in the end, illusions are only a false escape from reality. The characters in the book The Glass Menagerie are each affected by their own different illusions. Tom, Laura, and Amanda all survive because their illusions protect them from the painful facts of their lives. However, illusions can prove to be self-destructive as well as helpful. Do the characters’ illusions hurt them, or are they merely harmless aspects of their personalities?

Tom, who is the main character and narrator, suffers from his illusions. Tom’s illusion helps him to escape from his own reality. He sees his job at the shoe warehouse as boring and insignificant. He would rather experience the endless possibilities that life holds. But Tom cannot escape his job, so he tries to escape by going to the movies and writing. When he goes to the movies, he expects to find adventure. Watching someone else’s adventures on the movie screen offers Tom a diversion from his boring existence.
“Yes, movies! Look at them-All of those glamorous people-having adventures-hogging it gobbling the whole thing up! You know what happens? People go to the movies instead of moving! Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them! / But I’m not patient. I don’t want to wait till then. I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move!” (p. 96)

But since he has to come out of the dark theater and face life again, escape to the movies solves no problems in his life. The vicarious way of life that Tom creates by attending the movies is an illusion because it can never be a true substitute for his own life. Tom realizes in the paragraph above that he is only watching adventures rather than living them. He realizes, also, that movies are only momentary physiological escapes. He uses the movies as a...


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...nt from what she wants. Amanda’s life is focused on her children’s happiness because she doesn’t want them to make the same mistakes that she did. This, however, is just an illusion because they will never be what she wants them to be. By trying harder to set them on the right path, she pushes herself even deeper into her illusion. “Go to the movies, go! Don’t think about us, a mother deserted, an unmarried sister who’s crippled and has no job! Don’t let anything interfere with your selfish pleasure! Just go, go, go-to the movies!”(p.136) By reliving her life, Amanda failed to realize that the personalities of her children were completely different from her own. As a result of her illusions, Amanda drove her son away and hurt herself and the others around her.

     If someone was to remove the illusion from the lives of the Wingfield family, which of them could survive the real world? Their illusions might be useful for a short time but the world would pass them by if they maintained an illusionary state. Illusions, therefore, are a destructive trait in the lives of the Wingfield family.

Works Cited

Williams, Tennessee. "The Glass Menagerie". New York: Random House, 2008.


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