The Cloak of Illusions
Literature is usually employed as a viable medium through which artists communicate to the audience about different aspects. The ability to present to the reader the given information in an effective manner is always at the center stage of most literary works. Essentially, it can be contended that literature s a societal mirror that reflects the thoughts and activities of individuals. The underlying meanings seek to educate the society about various aspects that are fundamental for harmonic living. In his The Glass Menagerie, Williams explores the life of the Wingfield family. In particular, he provides an explicit review with regard to how they deal with the life’s challenges. Specifically, members of this family tend to withdraw in an illusionary world in a bit to find temporary comfort when they are faced with difficulties. It is against this background that this paper provides an intrinsic analysis of the real and illusionary world of Amanda, Tom, Laura and Jim. Based on the analysis, it highlights the character that is considered to be most in touch with reality and vice versa.
In the reality, Amanda is the mother of Tom and Laura that are both in their twenties. Her husband, Mr. Amanda deserted the family some sixteen years ago and currently lives in Mexico. The family lives in an apartment in a lower to middle class neighborhood. The fire escape is the main entrance to the apartment that is so small that Laura sleeps on a folded bed in the sitting room. Amanda’s illusions pertain to the past and revolve around how she spent her youth in Blue Mountain. She consistently dwells in the past and tells her children how she used to receive “seventeen!-gentlemen callers(1441) on a single day. She is still hopeful that she would be able to experience this life through her daughter Laura. This drives her to tell her daughter to prepare herself and “stay fresh and pretty for her gentlemen callers” (1441). This is regardless of the fact that her daughter believes that she would never have any gentlemen callers. According to Amanda, the gentlemen who came after her would possibly come after her daughter too.
Notably, Amanda slips further in her youth’s illusion when Jim O’Conner visits her home. She changes for the evening and indicates that she would make a grand appearance. In particular, she asserts, “I’m going to make a spectacular appearance” (1462). Further, she wears a girlish frock and ringlets. Although Laura is not moved by this appearance, Tom is distinctly shocked. At this point, it is worth acknowledging that the illusions of Amanda are not surprising because of the fact that her youth days were more enjoyable as compared to the life in the apartment.
Tom’s reality on the other hand is that he lives in an apartment and shares the same with his mother and sister. Of the three family members, he is the only person with a full time job that he despises so much. This is exemplified when he says “I’d rather somebody pick up a crowbar and battered out my brains-than go back mornings” (1448). This desperate situation is further perpetuated by his mother’s persistent advice regarding what he is expected to do. In this regard, it can be argued that Tom did not have the tendency to drive in his illusionary world. His mother’s persistence can be implicated for perpetuating this situation. Amanda affirms that “More and more you remind me of your father! He was out all hours without explanation-Then left! Good-bye” (1454). Such a negative attitude can be speculated to have made Tom to prefer leaving home.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that he wrote poetry and read novels written by DH Lawrence in a bit to escape reality. In addition, it is notable that the tense situation that is characteristic of his home makes him to escape to movies. The realization that he quarrels with his mother frequently makes him to prefer adventure that he perceives to be intrinsic of movies. Essentially, he contends that the movies are relaxing and do not require too much effort. This trend continues over time and later on, just like his mother believed, he assumes his father’s behavior. He chases after his illusions when he ascertains that he would go to a movie and or bar, buy himself a drink and speak to a stranger that would be nearby. Notably, he only appreciates reality when he sees a window that has colored glass; “The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like a rainbow” (1481). This reminds her of her sister Laura whom he had left behind.
Laura’s reality on the other hand is that she had a childhood illnesses that had adverse effects on her physical health. In particular, this left her crippled and as a result, one of her legs is shorter. This is held by a brace in order to support her and enable her to move around with ease. She is extremely shy and equally withdrawn. Amanda’s attempt to make her learn typing at a Rubicam Business College had far reaching implications on her personality. This was attributed to the inherent stress that she experienced when dealing with real people. In particular, it is indicated that this made her physically ill because “her hands shook so that she couldn’t hit the right keys” (1444).
She drops out of the college although this does not stop her from leaving the house in the morning and coming back in the evening. This is because she considered walking in the cold than go to school. The walls of her apartment play a critical role of bringing her back to reality as she is familiar with it.
Likewise, she is also withdrawn from reality and her illusionary world essentially comprises of little glass animals that her mother refers to as menagerie. She communicates with these animals as though they are alive and have feelings too. She takes good care of the animals by washing and polishing them frequently. In this respect, it is posited that he extends to them a similar care and love as though they are a part of her family. This close relationship is exemplified when she cries when Tom breaks part of them. This happened when he was in hurry to leave the apartment after a fight with his mother. When Jim, who is also perceived her gentle caller asks her what she does all day, she answers that the glass collection keeps her busy throughout the day.
She shares this experience with Jim and lets him hold the thirteen year old unicorn horse. She even believes that her horses prefer light and instructs Jim to hold them gently and in the light. She gives great attention to the unicorn because she identifies with it in a particular way. Specifically, she appreciates some degree of similarity between the Unicom and herself. She believes that his horse is special and can be distinguished from other horses because it broke his horn. In order to keep her illusion alive, she says, “I’ll just image he had an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less-freakish! Now he will feel more at home with the other horses, the ones that don’t have horns” (1477). Notably, the breaking of the horn makes him identical with other horses and therefore comfortable in their company. Laura derives her happiness from her experience with the glass animals of which she considers her best friends and closest family.
From the preceding analysis, it can be ascertained that Jim, who is the gentle caller is the character who is most in tough with his reality. Tom and Laura knew him when he was still in High School and Laura had a crush on him. The society expects him to pursue great dreams in life that would make him successful. After school, he meets Tom while working at the shoe warehouse and he recalls the successes that Tom was destined to get while in school. His reality pertains to making efforts to better his welfare and attain his goals after he leaves school. On the contrary Amanda can be considered a character that is less in touch with reality. She floats in an illusionary world and takes a significant time fantasizing about her youth. Notably, this had adverse effects on her children and drives Tom out of the house. The activities that she engages in are incredible and Tom finds this abnormal.
Literature plays an important role of informing the audience about the ideals of the society. As indicated earlier, it can be considered the mirror of the society because of its ability to distinguish immoral and unethical activities from the ethical ones. Perhaps the most important role it plays is to accredit the activities that humans engage in. As it has come out from the study, characters have some degree of illusion that compromises their ability to face challenges with ease. It can be concluded that Amanda is the least in touch with reality as opposed to Jim who appreciates reality and works towards bettering his wellbeing.