How is the theme in The Glass Menagerie similar to the theme in A Streetcar Named Desire and Long Day's Journey Into Night?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In each of these powerful dramas, the workings of a family are dissected and analysed before the audience as secrets emerge and characters are seen in their true, real light, stripped of pretension. This is a major theme of all of these works. Amanda, for example, is shown to be a character who lives more in the past with her memories of former greatness and of being a Southern belle than in the present, where she is nothing more than a deserted wife. Note how she treats Jim to a brief history of the transformation of her fortunes:

Well, in the South we had so many servants. Gone, gone, gone. All vestige of gracious living! Gone completely! I wasn’t prepared for what the future brought me. All of my gentlemen callers were sons of planters and so of course I assumed that I would be married to one and raise my family on a large piece of land with plenty of servants.

The constant reiteration of her stories of her gentleman callers and the way that she continues to act the Southern belle, in spite of her age and their reduced circumstances, shows her to be the pitiful figure who is living in an illusion, just like the other members of her family.

This theme of illusion vs. reality is something that can be easily seen in the other two plays, with Blanche constantly trying to kid both herself and those around her that she is an elegant, refined woman, whilst being nothing more than a whore. It can be seen in the Tyrone family, too, as certain family truths are revealed which cannot be ignored any further. Mary must accept that she remains addicted to morphine and Jamie must accept that he continues to slide towards dissipation and ruin. Each of these three plays feature families that have to accept certain hard truths about themselves, and in the course of the play, reality shows itself to be more powerful than illusion.