Discuss the theme of escape in the play, The Glass Menagerie .

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Besides the obvious “escape” theme imbedded in Tom’s character (he wants to escape the family “prison”), there are several more subtle “escape” situations.  First, Laura’s escape from reality, signified by her collection of fragile fantasy figures (the unicorn is central here), however passive on her part, is unsuccessful, as dramatized in the visitor “gentleman caller” scene; the unicorn’s “escape,” is accomplished when he loses his “horn” and becomes a normal horse – this is a strong metaphor for the whole “escape” theme.  The family cannot escape from a fictional, constructed world into the real world free from self-illusion.  What makes the play work is that Tom (“I like a lot of adventure”) escapes into a fantasy world, that of the movies, to escape the stultifying prison of his family obligations; he never escapes his affection for Laura.  Amanda, however, is in the strongest prison of all (and, to her, invisible): the prison of her (largely imagined) past—the Old South with its rules of etiquette, sexism, etc.  The underlying exposition (the father’s desertion of the family – “he fell in love with long distance”) drives the escape theme through all its variations; Tom's "escape" parallels his father's.  Recognizing the kinds of imprisonment in the play makes the “escape” theme clearer.

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The Glass Menagerie

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