Comparing Reality and Illusion in Glass Menagerie, Death of a Salesman, and A Raisin in the Sun

Comparing Reality and Illusion in Glass Menagerie, Death of a Salesman, and A Raisin in the Sun

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Reality vs. Illusion in The Glass Menagerie, The Death of a Salesman, and A Raisin in the Sun


      All three stories are centered on lower income families in urban settings. Each story has one main dreamer with other characters being in various states of reality. Amanda Wingfield, Willy Loman, and Walter Lee Younger are all living on pipe dreams. Amanda dreams of her days on the front porch surrounded by her gentleman callers. Willy is the all time king of pipe dreams bouncing from past to future with imagining how everything would have been different if he had gone to Alaska (or Africa) with his brother Ben or will be different when Howard makes him showroom salesman at the home office or Biff gets ten (fifteen) thousand dollars for his new business idea. Walter Lee is a smart hard working man but he is so eager to be financially successful that his common sense is blurred and he allows con man Willie Harris to take him for the families ten thousand dollars.

Amanda's reality check comes from another dreamer, her son, Tom who is totally annoyed by Amanda's nagging and domineering, he thinks that everything will be better if he can just get away. Amanda and her family go on living their fantasy lives.

Willy gets it from all sides; primarily his conflict is with Biff but also Charley, Howard, and Bernard. He is an average man who truly believes he is better than those around him, and that his sons, especially Biff, are greater still, but people, he has very little respect for, are all more successful than he is. Biff starts out like Willy perhaps but comes to the realization that being an average man is okay. Willy never comes to that conclusion; in fact he decides he is more valuable dead than alive.

Walter Lee probably has the best grasp on reality and the highest hill to climb of all the dreamers in these stories. This story could probably only take place in a northern city in the United States at that time. His reality check comes from Lena Younger, his mother, a highly spiritual woman with a strong sense of what right and wrong is. Lena has raised Walter Lee to be a good man but he is eager to find a shortcut out of the ghetto and be treated with respect.

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Walter Lee's wife Ruth who is not as powerful as Lena but a good woman who is not afraid of hard work supports Lena. In the end Walter Lee sees that there are more important things than money.

All stories dealing with very real working class family struggles made still more difficult by the varying Illusions of the different family members. Each story has come to a different solution. The Glass Menagerie goes on in illusion. Tom goes off to follow in his father's footsteps. Laura goes back to her glass and her victrolla. Amanda, I'm sure goes on being exactly the same. The Death of a Salesman ends in tragedy, Willy is dead and Hap is going to be just like him. Biff like Walter Lee does grow up through his conflict. A Raisin in the Sun ends in a family in victory, they are standing up to prejudice and Walter Lee has come through to take his place as the head of the family.
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