Conflict Between Reality and Illusion as a Major Theme of ‘the Glass Menagerie’

Topics: The Glass Menagerie, Reality, Tennessee Williams Pages: 5 (1718 words) Published: March 12, 2013
Conflict between reality and illusion as a major theme of ‘The Glass Menagerie’ Introduction
The Glass Menagerie is a dramatic play about human nature and the conflict between illusion and reality. An illusion is pretense and not reality. In The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams has made use of both reality and illusion together using conflict between them. Illusion is a misinterpretation of the facts. It is an opinion based on what we think is true rather than on what is actually true. In this play Williams has made illusion integral to his theme. He uses Tom Wingfield to tell us directly that the play is an illusion. Tom explains that his purpose is not simply to produce an illusion that appears true, but to reveal “truth” in the ‘disguise of illusion’. Tom wants us to see the truth about life within the illusion he creates.

Nature of the illusion in ‘The Glass Menagerie’
Definition of Illusion
Illusion: A perception, as of visual stimuli, that represents what is perceived in a way different from the way it is in reality. - Literary Terms. In The Glass Menagerie, almost all the characters like to be in an illusion. For them it is as a defense against the harsh realities of life. An illusion is a faulty notion of happiness when life is surrounded by bitter and harsh facts. The play centers on the hopes, despairs, predicament and failure of Wingfield family. The Wingfields try to escape from reality to a world of fantasies, dreams and imagination to forget the pain resulting from a realization of failure and frustration of actual life. Temporary stay in the dream world is pleasant but the return to reality is inevitable. The gap between appearance and reality helps us understand the nature of illusion in the play. The Glass Menagerie offers a family that is systemically unable to fully live in the present so they search vainly for happiness.

Theme of reality versus illusion in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ The difference between appearance and reality creates an ironic gap in the play The Glass Menagerie. The characters of the play pretend to be happy and fine which is sharply in contrast with the realities of their lives. This creates the situation of illusion in the play. The play sets in America. There are four characters in this play. They are Amanda (the mother), Tom (her son), Laura (daughter) and Jim O’Conner (a gentleman caller). Amanda and her children Tom and Laura represent the fractured reality of the average family in America; the only difference is that the husband/father is physically absent instead of merely psychically detached from the workings of familial bonding. Amanda is always worried about her children. She is over possessive for them. She is always after Tim to find a gentleman caller for his sister, Laura. Tom plays the role of narrator and actor together in the play. Laura is a girl whose one leg is bit shorter than the other and so she is very shy to be a society and at making fiends. Amanda is worried about her daughter’s marriage. Many times Amanda recollects her past happy life and she loves to stay in that illusion. She recollects her past time with Mr. Wingfield. Tom works in a warehouse. He likes adventure and wants to leave his house. He lives in his future illusions. And Laura likes to stay at home and spend her time with her favorite glass collection. She is not a social person at all. Nobody is satisfied with their reality of life and so that they try to escape from their reality to their illusions. This illusion is simply used by the characters to hide their faces from the ugly realities of their daily existence. Such kind of illusion provides a temporary escape from the bitter and harsher realities of actual life. People who are unable to face the facts of life stay in such delusions instead of providing a temporary relief from the tensions and problems of life.

Amanda’s Illusions and reality
Amanda, the mother, finds that her son has not worked and...
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