Symbolic illustration of Laura's hands holding a glass unicorn

The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

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Analyze the paradox of 'adventure and memory' in Tom's last soliloquy in Scene 7 of The Glass Menagerie.

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The paradox that is illustrated through Tom's heartfelt speech in Scene 7 describes his long sought after adventure as if it were a prison.  He is imprisoned by his memory of his sister, the feelings of guilt that overtake him, often unexpectedly, confine him emotionally, which although he is physically free, he is not really free, he is not at peace, he is a prisoner of his conscience, which punishes him constantly, so therefore, his freedom represents a paradox, a contradiction in terms.

The freedom that Tom sought by imitating his father's escape act was destined to fail because he believed the illusion that he created which offered him a way out of his responsibility for taking care of the family, he would be free to do as he pleased, but he did not count on the power of memory to invade his adventure. 

When he was home in the apartment, he escaped every night to the movies, his mind able to relax and rest in the moment of the adventure on the screen.  However, his conscience was at peace, because he always went home.  Now, as a free man, he is trapped by a worse demon than his mother ever could be, his own memory.

He tells us in this speech that he feels pursued by something,

"It always came upon me unawares, taking me altogether by surprise.  Perhaps it was a familiar bit of music.  perhaps it was only a piece of transparent glass.  Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I found companions, I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is old.  Oh Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be." (Williams)


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