The Glass Menagerie - Escape Theme

"The Glass Menagerie" is set in the apartment of the Wingfield
family. By description, it is a cramped, dinghy place, not unlike a
jail cell. It is one of many such apartments in the neighborhood. Of
the Wingfield family members, none of them want to live there. Poverty
is what traps them in their humble abode. The escape from this
lifestyle, this apartment and these relationships is a significant
theme throughout the play. These escapes may be related to the fire
escape, the dance hall, the absent Mr. Wingfield and Tom\'s inevitable
departure.

The play opens with Tom addressing the audience from the fire
escape. This entrance into the apartment provides a different purpose
for each of the characters. Overall, it is a symbol of the passage
from freedom to being trapped in a life of desperation. The fire
escape allows Tom the opportunity to get out of the apartment and away
from his nagging mother. Amanda sees the fire escape as an opportunity
for gentleman callers to enter their lives. Laura\'s view is different
from her mother and her brother. Her escape seems to be hiding inside
the apartment, not out. The fire escape separates reality and the
unknown.

Across the street from the Wingfield apartment is the Paradise

Dance Hall. Just the name of the place is a total anomaly in the
story. Life with the Wingfields is as far from paradise as it could
possibly be. Laura appears to find solace in playing the same records
over and over again, day after day. Perhaps the music floating up to
the apartment from the dance hall is supposed to be her escape which
she just can\'t take. The music from the dance hall often provides the
background music for certain scenes, The Glass Menagerie playing quite
frequently. With war ever-present in the background, the dance hall is
the last chance for paradise.

Mr. Wingfield, the absent father of Tom and Laura and husband to
the shrewish Amanda, is referred to often throughout the story. He is
the ultimate symbol of escape. This is because he has managed to
remove himself from the desperate situation that the rest of his
family are still living in. His picture is featured prominently on the
wall as a constant reminder of better times and days gone by. Amanda
always makes disparaging remarks about her missing husband, yet lets
his picture remain. Tom always makes jokes about his dad, and how he"fell in love with long distances." This is his attempt to ease the
pain of abandonment by turning it into something humorous. It is
inevitable that the thing which Tom resents most in his father is
exactly what Tom himself will carry out in the end...escape! Through
his father, Tom has seen that escape is possible, and though he is
hesitant to leave his sister and even his mother behind, he is being
driven to it.

Tom escapes reality in many different ways. The first and most
obvious is the fire escape that leads him away from his desolate
home. Another would be the movies that Amanda is always nagging him
about. She thinks he spends too much time watching movies and that he
should work harder and find a suitable companion for Laura. The more

Amanda nags, the more Tom needs his movie escapes. They take him to
another world for a while, where mothers and sisters and runaway
fathers do not exist. As the strain gets worse, the movie watching
becomes more frequent, as does Tom\'s drinking. It is getting harder
and harder for Tom to avoid real life. The time for a real departure
is fast approaching. Amanda eventually pushes him over the edge,
almost forcing him out, but not without laying overpowering guild
trips on him. Tom leaves, but his going away is not the escape that he
craved for so long. The guilt of abandoning Laura is overwhelming. He
cannot seem to get over it. Everything he sees is a reminder of her.

Tom is now truly following in the footsteps of his father. Too late,
he is realizing that leaving is not an escape at all, but a path of
even more powerful desperation.

Williams uses the theme of escape throughout "The Glass Menagerie"
to demonstrate the hopelessness and futility of each character\'s
dreams. Tom, Laura and Amanda all seem to think, incorrectly I might
add, that escape is possible. In the end, no character makes a clean
break from the situation at hand. The escape theme demonstrated in the
fire escape, the dance hall, Mr. Wingfield and Tom\'s departure prove
to be a dead end in many