Isolation and the Search for Freedom
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves” once said by the late Abraham Lincoln. This quote goes hand in hand with the play “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams. Many of the character feel trapped and isolated throughout this play and in search of a way out. Williams uses the theme of escape throughout the play to show his characters desire to leave the situation they are in and not face reality. Each character finds their own escape and lives vicariously through other objects. Starting with Tom he feels confinement from being stuck in an uninspiring job, cramped into a small apartment with his family, and unable to see the world or have adventures and he escapes through alcohol and movies. Amanda is similarly confined to her thoughts of the past and attempts to live vicariously through her daughter and the “gentleman callers”. Whereas, Laura traps herself in a world of glass animals in order to flee from her mother’s expectations and the reality of being a women in the 1930’s. Escape can mean two things here: escape from reality into an alternate world, or escape from a trap or confinement. This play hints at the moral ramifications of some kinds of escape, asking the question of who is left behind and what happens to them when you leave. Williams’ presents the theme of escape is presented through this entire play and the ways the characters live to find an escape. The Glass Menagerie" is set in the apartment of the Wingfield family. By description, it is a cramped, dinghy place, similar to a jail cell. It is one of many apartments in the neighborhood. Of the Wingfield family members, none of them want to live there. Poverty is what traps them in their humble abode. The escape from this lifestyle, this apartment and these relationships is a significant theme throughout the play. These escapes may be related to the fire escape, the dance hall, the absent Mr. Wingfield and Tom's inevitable departure. The play opens with Tom addressing the audience from the fire escape. This entrance into the apartment provides a different purpose for each of the characters. Amanda sees the fire escape as an opportunity for gentleman callers to enter their lives. Laura's view is different from her mother and her brother, her escape seems to be hiding inside the apartment, not out of it. Laura appears to find comfort in playing the same records over and over again, day after day. Perhaps the music floating up to the apartment from the dance hall is supposed to be her escape. Overall, it is a symbol of the passage from freedom to being trapped in a life of desperation. The fire escape allows Tom the opportunity to get out of the apartment and away from his nagging mother; Tom exclaims this about his mother in his memory and this quote goes to show her overpowering personality, “Every time you come in yelling that God damn "Rise and Shine!" "Rise and Shine!" I say to myself, "How lucky dead people are!”(1065). Amanda’s control over all situations really gets to Tom and Laura and they feel as if they are in some jail; along with that Tom and Laura are constantly under their mother’s surveillance. Amanda never ceases to remind her children of the catch she was back in Blue Mountain. This gives Laura a sense of guilt and remorse that she is not living up to her mother’s expectations. Amanda’s way of escaping her pitiful present reality is telling Laura and Tom about her receiving seventeen gentlemen callers in Blue Mountain when she was young: "One Sunday afternoon-your mother received-seventeen!-gentlemen callers! Why, sometimes there weren't enough chairs enough to accommodate them all" (1067). She talks about how all her admirers turned out and even though many became successful and could have been better choices, she had chosen their father. It seems that she wants her children to know that she was different before her husband left her. Showing her kids that...
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