“The Glass Menagerie” is about a dysfunctional family that consists of a mother, and her two adult children, Tom and Laura. All of them dream to seek comfort and to escape reality because none of them enjoys the life they lead. Similarly, in “Rose-Colored Glasses”, the narrator of the poem is inclined to dream rather than to face reality because she has not overcome the transition from one big happy family to getting kicked out of her old home and having divorced parents. These two families are reflections of each other because in both families, the characters rely on dreaming to overcome not only the father’s abandoning the family, but also to escape the financial and emotional despair in their lives–both of which are direct impacts from the father’s absence. Faced with disappointment because the fathers desert the family, the characters In Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie and Elizabeth Alexander’s “Rose-Colored Glasses”, withdraw into their distinct worlds to escape the expectations that reality demands.
Disappointment is a theme in both the story and the play and with similar impacts on the family. The first time the characters face disappointment is when the fathers leave the family–one through divorce, the other “fell in love with long distances”. The first impact is emotional despair for both families. In the Wingfield family, Amanda openly expresses her remorse and regret for marrying the absent father. Tom is emotionally distraught because he has to fill his father’s shoes in providing for the family when all he wants to do is to leave and become a sailor. The narrator in “Rose-Colored Glasses” experiences sadness because her family is broken apart.
Besides emotional despair, both families are faced with financial problems. The narrator is kicked out of her apartment which “is even more beautiful then it was then, and perfect”. This shows how much she wants it back and how sad she must have been when she moved. As for the Wingfield’s, Tom makes so little money that he has to sacrifice the money for the light bill in order to pay for membership in the Merchant Marines. Laura is deeply disappointed when Jim tells her he is engaged that she may never have renewed hope for anyone again. Disappointment is a theme that partly drives the characters to retreat more so into their illusional worlds in order to escape emotional hurt and financial problems in the real world.
The illusional worlds that the characters imagine themselves to be in are sometimes caused by the theme, expectations. Amanda expects Laura to be just like her and actually dreams Laura can be if she just develops vivacity and charm. Amanda fantasizes that these traits can easily be developed if one wills it. However, this is not an easy task for Laura because she is extremely shy. Although Laura is never expecting any gentlemen caller, Amanda never stops telling her to “stay fresh and pretty because its almost time for our gentlemen callers to start arriving! 10” From this, we can tell that Amanda expects too much that in her mind, it becomes believable. In another scene, Amanda expects Tom to find Laura a husband in order to secure her future. Amanda so strongly expects Jim to be Laura’s future husband that she actually begins to believe it.
She ends up over preparing the house and over dressing Laura. She later accuses Tom of playing a joke on her when in fact, she never minded to ask him about it. Laura, on the other hand expects something to come out of her and Jim’s meeting because he kissed her. She sits dazed after he kisses her, possibilly imagining that he likes her when in fact, this is a false illusion created by her expectation. The narrator in “Rose-Colored Glasses” however, does not expect, but is expected from her mother to act grown up.
When contrasting the time when she would “Played checkers with a dolly being enough to be your sister” and “there was no desperation where one day [she] would cut off [her] tow long braids” to now, she is obviously desperate to grow up because she is expected to be. during the years before the divorce she was still a child however the family breaks apart, she walks the passage to overcoming the impact of the divorce and during the process, matured. She feels obliged to deal with the divorce maturely, but at the same time does not want to stop being a child alotgehter, and so she retreats into her own illusional world where she can do whatever she wants.
In order to escape disappointment and expectations in life, escapism is a theme in both “Rose-Colored Glasses” and The Glass Menagerie. Characters from both texts escape in one way or another in order to avoid confrontation with the harshness of reality. Tom goes to the movies to escape the mundane life he leads. Laura indulges in her glass menagerie and music to avoid her mother’s expectations of her to socialize. Laura actually wants to be a part of her glass menagerie and imagines herself to be. In fact, “Laura’s separation [from reality] increases till she is like a piece of her own glass collection. ixx” Amanda and the narrator nostalgically reminisces their pasts as a way to escape. The narrator relives the past in her mind when there “was no divorce” and “where you swung on a trapeze in the dining room archway” and “Plinked-plinked on the piano” and “Your little dog’s nails scritch-scratching the hardwood floors when he heard you walking from the elevator”.
The narrator seeks comfort by immersing herself in her past, or perhaps she feels control over her life when she recalls these memories. Similarly, Amanda’s memories not only let her cling to another time, but also offer her escape from the blow to her self image when her husband deserted her. It is hard for any reasonable reader to believe that Amanda had 17 gentlemen callers in one day. She retreats so far into her world of illusions that this illusion becomes almost too real for her. She wears her yellow dress, believing that she can be just as youthful and vivacious as she was years ago when in fact, the dress is clearly out of place and time, and elicits surprise from both Jim and Tom.
In both the novel and play, the theme disappointment leads the narrator in Elizabeth Alexander’s “Rose Colored-Glasses” and Amanda, Tom and Laura in Tennessee William’s “The Glass Menagerie” to similar problems–that is Amanda, Tom and Laura and the narrator become emotionally detached from the real world as they are left to cope with the disappointment that the fathers instill in them. Furthermore, the father leaves all his problems behind for the rest of the family which means every member of the family must fill new expectations in place of the father. Tom is expected to provide for the family, Amanda to care for her two children, Laura to get married so that she does not need to depend on Tom, and the narrator is expected to handle the divorce maturely.
All of these expectations are against the wishes of the person expected to initiate them. Tom would rather become a sailor, Amanda to become youthful and to be given the chance to choose a new husband, Laura to become part of her glass menagerie world, and the narrator to live her childhood. All these expectations make reality hard to face and so the characters escape into worlds dreamt in their minds. Amanda and the narrator dream their old times, Tom dreams his sailing prospects, and Laura dreams to be part of her glass menagerie world. Disappointment, expectation, and escapism are all central themes to both plays in order to convey the major theme that although the human need to dream may give one escape for a brief period of time, retreating too deeply into the dream can be harmful because you do not see reality as it is.