The Glass Menagerie Questions and Answers
by Tennessee Williams

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What are some quotes about isolation in The Glass Menagerie?

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Amanda: But, why—why, Tom—are you always so restless? Where do you go to, nights?

Tom: I—go to the movies.

Amanda: Why do you go to the movies so much, Tom?

Tom: I go to the movies because—I like adventure. Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies.

These lines relate to the exchange between Amanda and Tom where she chastises him for going to the movies too much. Tom says he likes the movies because they give him a sense of romance and excitement he does not get in real life. While this exchange might not seem to relate much to isolation at first, one must realize that in going to the movies so much to vicariously live through the adventures of the characters onscreen, Tom is metaphorically shutting himself off from the real world. There is a kind of isolation in this.

You know it don't take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?

Tom views his life as suffocating and lonely, hence the coffin imagery. He feels he is being smothered from within and that the only way to break free is to escape from his family situation. He also feels misunderstood by his family, who do not understand why he should want to break free from this isolated way of living.

[Jim] is the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from. But since I have a poet’s weakness for symbols, I am using this character also as a symbol; he is the long delayed but always expected something that we live for.

Tom's initial description of Jim O'Connor highlights just how isolated the Wingfield family is, particularly in a psychological sense. They are so removed from normal reality that Jim becomes a symbol for them more than a man because he is not part of their cloistered, suffocating world.

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