Exploring Illusion and Reality in The Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) The Glass Menagerie

Geographical setting: Sant Louis (Missouri) it is not really the traditional rural south, it is mid-west, not too far from the south but mid-west, an urban, industrial setting. Temporal setting: the 1930s, there are references to the Spanish revolution and Guernica, the great depression


  1. Illusion versus Reality
    • Tom’s illusion is to live adventure, but he was to work at the warehouse (a routinely work for a shoemaker) in order to maintain his family. Amanda wants success for her kids, particularly she is worried about Laura. Laura’s illusion is the glass menagerie, old records (music) and museums.
  2. American Dream
    • Jim believes in the American dream, he might not be successful and popular now but he can be in the future. In the play Jim does not blame the establishment as in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, here is like it is my fault, I am the one who needs to work harder, there is no social or political criticism. He talks about self-fulfilment.
  3. Communication and Meaningful Human Relationships
    • There are many characters in this story with a handicap in communication, a failure of communication. Amanda talks a lot, but this is a problem because she doesn’t allow other people to express their feelings. Laura has an inferiority complex, physical handicapped and is naturally shy. Tom does not communicate properly. Jim knows how to talk because he is taking classes about public speaking, but he sounds artificial, able to talk about anything but then when he has to talk about his real feelings he has a kind of handicap.
  4. Influence of Time and the Impersonality of the Modern World
    • Most scholars have defined the play as a memory play. Time is in fact a handicap for those characters. The dominant image of Amanda is that she lives and always talks about the past and Blue Mountain. Tom the character feels that time goes too fast, he thinks that he is wasting his life because he is having no adventure. What is Laura’s relationship with time? She is not concerned about it, she is not complaining, she is not worried about the future neither. Jim we have already said it, he is in a way destroyed by time, he was a promise for success and then he is really sort of not a success, taking a minimal job and trying to be like the other.