Illusion Versus Reality in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie has a handful of themes but the one I chose was “Illusion vs. reality.”The play itself is considered an illusion of reality. Tom explains that even though it is illusion of reality, there is some truth behind the illusions. He also explains that the perspective of the play is of his memories. As we go through the play looking at the illusions, it will help us understand why Williams chose Illusion vs. reality as the central theme of the play.

Each character of the play helps present the theme in the play. Amanda one of the main characters in the play so, we will start with her. In the beginning Amanda establishes right away by reminiscing about her many beaus. “your mother received seventeen! — gentlemen callers! Why, sometimes there weren’t chairs enough to accommodate them all.” (Kennedy, 2012, p. 1041) Even if this is to be true, Amanda loses touch with reality. She has repeated the stories many times and seem to refuse to let go of her early adulthood years.

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It is like she decided instead of dealing with things when it got hard she clung to her past and refused to let go. Even with her many reminisces with the past, she still seems to go back and forth between the memories of the past and present reality. When she speaks to Laura, she is present in reality and seems very clear and concise about what she says. “I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren’t prepared to occupy a position.

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I’ve seen such pitiful cases in the South– barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister’s husband or brother’s wife… encouraged by one in-law to visit another” (Kennedy, 2012, p. 1042) She is so present but then after she is right back to illusion when she talks about Laura’s gentleman caller. Amanda has her moment, but continues to go back into her head of illusion refusing to be present in reality.

The main character that Williams intended was Laura. With Laura, her engagement into the world of illusion is different than Amanda’s. She seems to have and understanding of reality, even though she refuses to be realistic. For example, when she quite going to her classes, she realizes the consequences of her actions. This shows she is more present but the way she treats her glass figurines seems to be everything to her. The glass figurines are relevant because think about the Wingfeild’s. They do not have a lot of money to get these figurines all the time. To Laura though, these figurines are so important, she caters to the unrealistic world of these figurines. In this world there seems to be no time or money limitations and this gives the sense of illusion. Laura reveals to us that is seems she will not break out of her shell. She remains in her comfort zone, it being reality or not. Tom himself is the one that seems to be the one that has the most hold to the outside world. He does show some evidence of illusion, even though he holds a job and has friends. Tom believes that if he gets some mileage between his problems and himself, the problems will disappear. As much as the idea has merit, it goes beyond realistic. He visits the movies to try to get a break from his life. Sadly, the reality is that he does not seem to want to accept is that all he does is waste time because he still has to return home when the show is over. Tom though is still one of the most realistic of the characters.

Considering William’s story as a whole, he gives the pretense that all the characters lack an understanding of reality in some way. Each of the characters may have different illusions but they are more alike than different. The only one that really changed in the play was Tom. Tom was the only one it seemed that could not live with the deception of illusion any longer. The other characters in the story would probably not be able to look back on these event with such clarity as Tom did. In this story, the theme illusion versus reality, reality wins with Tom. This play shows a wonderful view of illusion and reality.

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Illusion Versus Reality in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. (2022, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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