Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie portrays a world of illusion to the reader as an escape from the difficulties of reality. Amanda, Laura, and Tom suffer from alienation and the inability to find their place in society, which forces them to focus on their own inner world. Despite being an illusion as a way to avoid mental trauma, such activities are motivated by certain circumstances in their lives. For example, Laura is forced to consider the glass menagerie as the only way to perceive the beauty of the world since she is convinced that it is impossible to experience it in reality due to her physical disability. Although the character seeks to find salvation in a world of illusion, this connection, and inability to realize herself in the real world make her even more vulnerable.
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All of the main characters in Williams’ play have a certain conflict between illusion and reality. First of all, the illusion is perceived as weakness and protection from the harsh conditions of real life. The characters are seduced by the opportunity to escape for a moment from the difficulties and bitter facts of life into the illusory world. Through the depiction of the Wingfield family, the author offers a look at a society in which corrupted moral standards make rebels and losers live in depression and alienation from reality. The main theme of the play, which involves all three main characters Amanda, Laura, and Tom, is their inability to adapt to the real world.
Each of them, one way or another, hides in the world of their own illusions. However, Williams, at the same time, wonders what is real: streets and houses as a representation of the external factors or the inner world of a person. Laura is most revealing in the illustration of the theme of illusion and reality.
The character of the play lives in an illusory world represented by a glass menagerie. Her attitude is well illustrated by talking to Jim near the end of the play when he says, “just look about you a little!” (Williams 63). He tells Laura about the real world, about the people living in it. However, the character describes her glass menagerie, which consists of “little animals made out of glass, the tiniest small animals in the world” (Williams 64). Laura identifies herself exclusively with the inner world in the form of a menagerie, which is her picture of reality.
She is unable to tell about her real self either in school or in business college. Despite the fact that her brother Jim wants to tell her about the necessity of living in reality, love, and marriage, Laura is more and more immersed in herself. Her defective physical condition is a manifestation of her isolation from the world. The glass unicorn can be identified with the fragility and illusion of Laura’s position.
The character suffers primarily from her assumption that physical features prevent her from integrating into the real world. She believes that she is not attractive and therefore cannot participate in normal real life. She is frightened of the situation when this position is tested through the entertainment of a man. Her perception is restrained by her focus on her own inferiority and personality. Laura refuses to realize that the real world will not necessarily adversely affect her, so she is limited in human relationships and continues to be unhappy. Thus, she projects her physical and mental imperfection onto the glass menagerie. Laura is as fragile, so if she comes into contact with the real world, she may break. She locked herself in an illusory world based on her false beliefs, not trying to contradict them.
Williams, through the main characters of the play, shows that illusion is for them a means of escaping reality and its difficulties. In particular, Laura strives to abandon the awareness of her disability and its social significance using the glass menagerie. The author also emphasizes that if to deprives her of the illusion, the character will suffer and probably break. Laura will become depressed, as the only representation of beauty in the world for her is the glass menagerie. Those feelings of gorgeous elements which she cannot experience on her own due to her excessive fixation on herself, she perceives through fragile and graceful glass animals.
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Williams’ play largely reflects his own doubts about the role of the illusory world in human life. Through characters, he illustrates how destructive it can sometimes be to hide from reality and how vulnerable a person becomes. In particular, Laura positions her physical disability as the main obstacle in her life, which makes her suffer. At the same time, the mental connection with the glass menagerie does not allow her to overcome difficulties. Thus, the illusion only makes her weaker since if it is lost, the character will have no opportunity to cope with his situation. The glass menagerie is as fragile as her illusory world, so hiding in it, she puts herself in a hopeless position. Laura continues to suffer from an inability to establish human relations and finds comfort not in change but the escape.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. Heinemann, 1996.