In the play, ‘The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams is a play about a dysfunctional family who all have different fantasies, and all want different things. Williams explores this in the play through the theme of delusion as Amanda wants her son, Tom, to become a successful businessman and at first, she wants her daughter, Laura, to enrol in a typing class at a college. However, when this falls apart, she wants Laura to emulate her past self, receiving many men coming round to her house wanting to go out with her. Tom in the other hand wants thrill and adventure away from home life he tries to satisfy his needs by going to the movies and writing poetry. Laura wants to simply stay at home avoiding all human contact that isn’t her family staring at her glass menagerie and playing songs on her vinyl player as she uses these as tools to escape her reality and live in her bubble of peacefulness without any responsibilities. Tennessee presents the theme of delusion through characterisation and symbolism and it is important to the readers understanding of the play as a whole as it shows the characters lust for a different life and when they cannot accomplish that or reality is too desolate they use other means of quenching that thirst.
Amanda’s delusions are desperate attempts to escape the sadness of the reality of her life, which blinds her to reality and the desires of her children. She insists that Tom will fulfil her vision of him succeeding in life by working hard in the warehouse “What right have you got to jeopardize your job – jeopardize the security of us all?”. Williams uses dialogue in this quotation to emphasise that Amanda believes that Tom must be the sole breadwinner for the family which entraps Tom as Amanda reminds him that they are completely dependent on him. This is where the theme of delusion links to the theme of entrapment as Amanda thinks Tom needs to continue working hard at his job as something will eventually come of it, however, Tom feels trapped as he longs for escape and freedom yet he is pinned down by the needs of his family. This delusion says a lot about the character of Amanda as she seems to be sat in her own glass house throwing rocks out of it towards Tom as she expects him to do everything for the family when it comes to financially supporting it and do amazing things with his life whereas all she has done with hers, is marry a drunk who deserted her.
Another delusion Amanda has about her children is that they are “bound to succeed” since they are “just full of natural endowments”. The fact is that Tom is close to losing his job at the warehouse and has decided to become a merchant seaman to escape his life as a warehouse worker and when the dream of Laura in business school falls apart, rather than see reality Amanda constructs a new fantasy life for her daughter in the realm of gentleman callers and marriage prospects. This can be seen when Amanda says, “Resume your seat, little sister, I want you to stay fresh and pretty for gentleman caller!” This quotation shows Amanda convincing herself that the gentleman caller Tom has invited for supper is a remarkable young man who will be a fine suitor for Laura. She believes that if she makes Laura look pretty and attractive, if she alters one of her old dresses to wear herself, shines up the three remaining pieces of wedding silver, recovers the furniture, gets a new lamp, and if she plays the role of a charming, youthful Southern girl, Laura’s gentleman caller will be so captivated that he will become a frequent caller and will eventually marry Laura. The fact is that Jim O’Connor is only just an average guy, whose moments of popularity and success are fading memories of his high school days. He seems to feel sorry for Laura as an old friend not as a potential lover. In addition to this, Jim is engaged and when he makes this announcement Amanda’s delusion is shattered and Laura is left feeling empty as she has just had one of the best moments of her life as she is kissed by her lifetime crush but then the rug is swiftly yanked from beneath her as Jim realises what he has done and takes it all back confessing his love for another woman.