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Journey To Freedom: Through The Glass Menagerie

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“There is a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go,” Tennessee Williams once said. Throughout the play, there are many situations where Williams shows times where the characters have to let a part of them or something go. Most of the Wingfield family have trouble relating and connecting to reality, each member of the Wingfield family goes into a separate world with their own fantasy. Not everyone follows the social norm or the status quo, everyone is different and thinks differently from reality. However, in the play, it gets to the point where some of the characters live in a total fantasy. In the play, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams shows the Wingfield’s family deeper. The Wingfield family has gone through many hard times, but the most impenetrable was when Tom’s father had abandoned their family. “A saga of hatred abandonment, abuse, self-sacrifice, and endurance,” following John Lahr’s article. He rarely communicated with them after his sudden disappearance. Ever since his father left their family, Tom has been supporting his mother, Amanda, and his sister, Laura, he began working at a shoe warehouse, which he hates. Over time, Tom realizes he wants to live his life, and not continue to support his family because he knows he won’t be doing it forever. However, Tom would feel guilty about abandoning his family, since it is like following in his father’s footsteps, Tom believes it’s for the better or worse. In The Glass Menagerie, William’s advocates his opinion on how you can’t always live your life like everyone else, sometimes you need a break from reality and have the freedom you wish to have always. This theme of breaking away from the real world and having freedom is an idea developed throughout reading the play.

Throughout The Glass Menagerie, Williams gives the idea of breaking away from reality and having freedom. In the play, there are several instances where Amanda, Tom’s mom, pays too much attention to him and babies him. It is clear that Tom doesn’t want his mom to constantly baby his every move. However, he feels the guilt whenever he has to stand up for himself and tell his mom to lay off and give him a break. When Tom comes home from work he doesn’t want his free time to be consumed by his mom controlling what he does, he is an adult and should have the freedom to do whatever he wants to. Especially after all Tom is doing for his family. Tom wants freedom and for his mom to not care for him, he is a grown adult who is 24 years old. His mom constantly annoys him even when he is eating… Tom says, “I haven’t enjoyed one bite of this dinner because of your constant directions on how to eat it. It’s you that make me rush through meals with your hawklike attention to every bite I take. Sickening — spoils my appetite–all thin discussion of–animals’ secretion–salivary glands–mastication!” (Williams 6). Tom has difficulty showing his emotions on how he feels he should be treated like a grown up since he is 24 years old. Tom wants freedom and space from his mom who doesn’t take an eye off of him. Most men Tom’s age would be married, meanwhile, Tom was living with his mom and working at a shoe warehouse that he would prefer not to work at, but he has no other option unless he wanted to suddenly abandon his family as his father did. After his father’s split from the Wingfield family, Tom has had to take charge it is a very hard job to make everything go right all the time, but he tries his best. When times like these where his mom pays attention to his every move, it makes Tom remember he isn’t a little kid anymore he is a grown man who deserves his freedom and respect. The only place Tom feels free from his family is when he goes to either the movies or the fire escape. Tom goes to the movie for his adventure, which the movies are usually referred to as the time when he goes drinking and spends his time having a fun time as a normal 24-year-old would. However, he didn’t want to continue going out to get a break from his family. “Yes, Movies! Look at them– (a wave toward the marvels of Grand Avenue) All of those glamorous people–having adventures–hogging it all, gobbling the whole thing up! You know what happens? People go to the movies instead of moving!” (Williams 61). After many nights spent at the “movies” Tom has concluded it is time to move away from his family and start his own life. Tom uses the movies as breaking away from reality and goes out to do occasional drinking to avoid making situations even worse at his house. Tom chooses the times when his mom gets enraged by some of his actions when he decides to leave. At first, Tom went to the movies not very often but then he starts to go more often where it gets to the point Laura, Tom’s sister, starts to get concerned and has a conversation to him about how she knows he isn’t going to movies and that he is drinking. Laura becomes very concerned for Tom because he had never acted in this way, the Wingfield family isn’t used to this behavior. Soon Tom’s mom gets involved because she is concerned for him too, although she didn’t know that he wasn’t going to the movies until it was too late to change what he had already done. Not only are the movies an escape for Tom to have freedom, but the fire escape in his house is another place where he has a break from his family and all the troubles they bring to him. Tom feels the temptation to go outside to the fire escape and smoke until he has to leave or his mom gets frustrated and mad at him for smoking since it isn’t healthy. “The apartment faces an alley and is entered by a fire escape, a structure whose name is a touch of accidental poetic truth, for all of these huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation. The fire escape is part of what we see–that is, the landing of it and steps descending from it.” (Williams 3). The fire escape is represented as a place for Tom to go to, to think about his escape plan from his family, he can’t go through the pain of telling them his departure and why he feels the need to leave. Tom would also feel guilty, even though he will no matter what because of what his dad did to them. The fire escape is shown as Tom’s break away from his mom’s demands and his sister. Tom feels as if he is trapped in a box and can’t get out. He would have been out of the apartment already if his father hadn’t already abandoned them. The fire escape is where Tom figures out and plans his soon to be, escape route to run off from his family. Williams uses the movies and the fire escape as very symbolic points where Tom tries to break away from reality and in return have freedom.

Throughout The Glass Menagerie, Williams gives the idea of breaking away from reality and having freedom. Laura, Tom’s sister, retreats to her glass collection of animals and her Victrola. She goes to her glass unicorn which means the world to her. Everyone has that one prized possession that they can’t live without and that is the glass unicorn to Laura. She is abnormal to other people outside in the real world and she acts like it too. Laura knows she stands out from most people but that’s why she plays her Victrola. The Victrola is Laura’s freedom away from reality, she can just relax and listen to any music she wants to without there being a fuss. However, when Jim, Laura’s high school crush, came to the Wingfield house, he had made her feel insecure about her glass collection since that takes up most of her time. Which makes her different from other girls her age. “You know what I judge to be the trouble with you? Inferiority complex! Know what that is? That’s what they call it when someone low-rates himself! I understand it because I had it, too. Although my case was not so aggravated as yours seems to be. I had it until I took up public speaking, developed my voice, and learned that I had an aptitude for science. Before that time I never thought of myself as being outstanding in any way whatsoever!” Jim explains, (Williams 80-81). Jim continuously makes Laura’s confidence go even lower than it already was. Jim ruined Laura’s freedom which she felt was watching her glass figures. He is pointing out that she is very unusual and different than everyone else, not to forget special. The glass figures hid her from reality and were her way of escaping to freedom, the glass figures brought her joy. However, Jim says everything but anything positive, which sure doesn’t make her feel free from reality. Jim is trying to explain its like Laura is living in a different world than everyone around her, it’s like she is living in her own dream. Laura likes to believe she lives in her own world, but when Jim came to her house, he basically crushed her dream. Laura allowed Jim to hold some of her glass figures.

LAURA: Go on, I trust you with him! There now–you’re holding him gently! Hold him over the light, he loves the light! You see how the light shines through him?’

JIM: It sure does shine!

LAURA: I shouldn’t be partial, but he is my favorite one.

JIM: What kind of thing is this one supposed to be?

LAURA: Haven’t you noticed the single horn on his forehead?

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JIM: A unicorn, huh?

LAURA: Mmmm-hmmm!

JIM: Unicorns–aren’t they extinct in the modern world?

LAURA: I know!

JIM: Poor little fellow, he must feel sort of lonesome.

(Williams 83).

Jim is exposing Laura’s inner self by saying that unicorns must be lonely. The unicorns are similar to Laura, which practically means that if the unicorns are lonely than Laura must be lonely too since the unicorns symbolize Laura’s unusual self. Laura knows a lot about the glass unicorns, they are her most prized possessions and all she cares about in the world. As Alice Griffin states in her article, “Jim draws Laura out of her shell to speak about her glass collection and even to trust him holding the unicorn.” She takes little offense to Jim saying that the poor unicorns are lonely, little does he know at first that Laura watches them every second of her life. Jim is very hypocritical to Laura over the glass unicorns, even though nobody in their free time would spend time watching over figurines, however, it’s Laura’s happy place that is peaceful for her. However, when Jim was teaching Laura how to dance, they bumped into a table, the table had the the glass unicorn on it. The horn on the unicorn had broken off, Laura wasn’t upset at the moment because Jim was there, although he was asking if she was okay because how important it meant to her. Right before Jim left her house, Laura decided to give Jim the horn that broke off the unicorn after the hit to the floor it took. E.E Cummings poem mentions, “The power of your intense fragility; whose texture compels me with the colour of its countries, rendering death and forever with each breathing.” Once Laura’s fragile glass unicorn broke, Laura panicked for a second before she hears Jim voice. Laura gave the unicorn to Jim because he had changed Laura into a normal girl after he kissed her, much like the unicorn who turned into a normal horse after the horn broke off of the body of the glass unicorn. This shows how symbolic and important the glass unicorn meant to Laura, however now that it’s not a glass unicorn and just a normal horse she doesn’t need it to break from reality and the real world to have freedom and feel free, now she can be her normal self.

Throughout The Glass Menagerie, Williams gives the idea of breaking away from reality and having freedom. Amanda, Tom and Laura’s mom, retreats to the past in the south to get away from the present reality with an absent husband, crippled daughter and unhappy son. As a mom, I can imagine it must be a hardship to have to take care of 2 kids, in this case. Amanda is trying her best to make the best of her situation, especially after her husbands’ sudden absence, therefore making Amanda nonstop think about positive thoughts from the past. Laura struggles to move or do anything when she heard Jim O’Connor was going over to their house. “Jim comes into the dining room, carrying the candelabrum, its candles lighted, in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. The door of the kitchenette swings closed on Amanda’s gay laughter; the flickering light approaches the portieres. Laura sits up nervously as Jim enters. She can hardly speak from the almost intolerable strain of being alone with a stranger.” (Williams 70). Laura’s incapability to be able to speak to Jim shows her crippled self. Jim was her high school crush who gave her the nickname of “Blue Roses”. This shows that Laura gets really shy to the point where she can’t move, and as a mom, Amanda has the job to avoid problems like these and make sure Laura doesn’t look stupid in front of other people because that would show she doesn’t really supervise her kids if they have any problems that need to be dealt with. Jim notices Laura is much different than most people he has met, he points it out to Laura after he taught her how to dance and after she shows him the glass unicorn. On the other hand, Tom is depressed because he has to work at a shoe warehouse and provide for his family after his father’s disappearance and he has had a lot of pressure put on him that he can’t handle. Tom says, “Listen! You think I’m crazy about the warehouse? You think I’m in love with the Continental Shoemakers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that–Celotex interior! With–fluorescent–tubes! Look! I’d rather somebody picked up a crowbar and battered my brain–than go back mornings!” (Williams 23). Tom shares his emotions on working at this shoe warehouse to his mom. She can’t tell him not to work there because someone needs to provide and support their family after his father’s absence, so Tom has to take one for the team and get through the day whether he likes it or not. Amanda has been having trouble taking order and making Tom and Laura follow rules since they are grown ups and should be able to do whatever they want. Williams shows Amanda’s struggles to get her present into happy, positive times like it was in the past, but that is very hard to do with an unhappy son and a crippled daughter.

William’s advocates his opinion on how you can’t always live your life like everyone else, sometimes you need a break from reality and have the freedom you wish to have all the time. This theme of breaking away from the real world and having freedom is an idea developed throughout reading the play. Tennessee Williams’ shows Tom’s journey to freedom, Laura’s journey to freedom, and Amanda’s attempt to freedom. Tom gets his freedom by abandoning his family, Laura gets freedom by the glass unicorn breaking and turning the unicorn into a normal horse which makes Laura a normal person, and Amanda trying to retreat to her affluent past in the south to get away from the current time where she is a single mother taking care of two kids, which are really two adults since Tom is 22 and Laura is 24 years old. The Wingfield has been through a lot, especially their father’s sudden absence, but they all had to adjust to the new scenery without him being there, and Tom had to step up and bethe man of the house and get a job he hates with a passion but does it for his family.

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Journey To Freedom: Through The Glass Menagerie. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from
“Journey To Freedom: Through The Glass Menagerie.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022,
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