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Like a jailbreak, Tom’s escape leads him not to freedom but to the life of a fugitive.According to Tom, The Glass Menagerie is a memory play—both its style and its content are shaped and inspired by memory.
As Tom himself states clearly, the play’s lack of realism, its high drama, its overblown and too-perfect symbolism, and even its frequent use of music are all due to its origins in memory.
Most fictional works are products of the imagination that must convince their audience that they are something else by being realistic.
Escape for Tom means the suppression and denial of these emotions in himself, and it means doing great harm to his mother and sister.
The magician is able to emerge from his coffin without upsetting a single nail, but the human nails that bind Tom to his home will certainly be upset by his departure.
Of the three Wingfields, reality has by far the weakest grasp on Laura.
The private world in which she lives is populated by glass animals—objects that, like Laura’s inner life, are incredibly fanciful and dangerously delicate.Clearly, Tom views his life with his family and at the warehouse as a kind of coffin—cramped, suffocating, and morbid—in which he is unfairly confined.The promise of escape, represented by Tom’s missing father, the Merchant Marine Service, and the fire escape outside the apartment, haunts Tom from the beginning of the play, and in the end, he does choose to free himself from the confinement of his life.Amanda’s retreat into illusion is in many ways more pathetic than her children’s, because it is not a willful imaginative construction but a wistful distortion of reality.Although the Wingfields are distinguished and bound together by the weak relationships they maintain with reality, the illusions to which they succumb are not merely familial quirks.The play takes an ambiguous attitude toward the moral implications and even the effectiveness of Tom’s escape.As an able-bodied young man, he is locked into his life not by exterior factors but by emotional ones—by his loyalty to and possibly even love for Laura and Amanda.Yet her attachment to these values is exactly what prevents her from perceiving a number of truths about her life.She cannot accept that she is or should be anything other than the pampered belle she was brought up to be, that Laura is peculiar, that Tom is not a budding businessman, and that she herself might be in some ways responsible for the sorrows and flaws of her children.Amanda’s relationship to reality is the most complicated in the play.Unlike her children, she is partial to real-world values and longs for social and financial success.