What are 3-4 examples of characters' inability to accept reality in The Glass Menagerie, and how do theyimpact the play's themes?
The Glass Menagerie carries some very passionate themes, but Williams especially focuses on humanity’s difficulty in accepting reality. It has a whole range of information concerning the making of weighty decisions that have serious implications for the life of both the decision makers and others living with him.
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None of the characters in this play are particularly accepting of their realities; and perhaps that's because their realities aren't particularly pleasant. Let's take a look at the primary characters and their "blind spots."
First, Amanda doesn't accept that Laura is incapable of attending business college like other girls are doing, due to her extreme lack of self-confidence (so unlike her mother!). She also does not want to admit there are going to be no gentleman callers for Laura. Then, when she is able to cajole a young man to the house (under false pretenses, of course), she goes to drastic, often humorous, measures to present her daughter as something she's not. Too, Amanda still doesn't accept that she played any part in her husband's leaving, and she refuses to come to grips either with what Tom is doing or what he wants to do--and why he might want to leave.
Laura has created an entirely false reality for herself, as represented by her glass menagerie and specifically by the little glass unicorn. She sees herself as an oddity, like a horse with a horn; and she sees her slight limp as a much larger impediment and embarrassment than it really is (as we find out from Jim later in the story). Laura creates a false reality for her mother, as she leaves for school each day but does not attend class. She lives in a dream world in every way, represented also by the music cues which accompany her actions on stage.
Tom, though the most realistic of the Wingfields, also has some difficulty accepting his rather depressing reality. He escapes from the drudgery of his job by hiding in a cupboard so he can write. He tries to distract himself and find contentment in the movies, hoping his desire to travel (and to leave home) will be assuaged. It doesn't work, of course, but he tries. His ultimate avoidance of reality is joining the Merchant Marines and leaving home without telling his mother or sister.
Jim is the most grounded character in the play, yet he talks a better game than he lives. He's still the debating and musical theater star from high school who hasn't really achieved much since then. Oh, he has big plans, but he's still just working in a warehouse and taking a class or two in hopes of a brighter future. We're thankful he shows up so we can get a little perspective on Laura and some hope for her future; but the only true reality for him is that his life is apparently at least a little better than any of the Wingfields.
This inability to accept reality becomes one the play's primary themes--the dialogue, the music, the setting, the stage directions all work to create this contrast between appearance and reality. Tennessee Williams doesn't intend to hide this theme; in fact, Tom's opening speech says, "I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion." It's accepting that truth which becomes the message of the play.
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