Sometimes reality is not consistent with personal expectations, and people turn out to escape into their made-up delusional world. The play by Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie, tells such a story about people who avoided facing reality (3) The current essay analyses one of the characters, Laura, and describes how much reality and illusion is presented in her life. As the analysis shows, Laura is the prisoner of her illusions and denies the reality completely.
To start with, Laura does not have a chance to become an adult because she is dependent on her mother, Amanda. Being a 23-year-old woman, she is controlled by her mother’s decisions on her education, career, and marriage. The fact that Amanda takes this responsibility produces perfect conditions for Laura to live in her make-believe world, where she is a child and can play and walk all the time. The scene when Laura asks her mother what to wish for shows that she has entrusted her real-world self to Amanda.
The most striking representation of Laura’s illusory world is her collection of glass animals. All her thoughts are engaged in the figures, she devotes all her free time at home to rearranging and polishing them. Laura identifies herself with the animals because they are as fragile as she is. Notably, she values the glass unicorn, a creature that doesn’t exist in reality.
The fragility of the animal collection may also reflect how Laura is dependent on others. Although the glass animals’ world is predictable and Laura can sort the collection as she likes, the glass is easy to break by any inaccurate movement, for example, if someone accidentally throws a jacket into it. Probably being aware of it, Laura leaves her precious collection in unsafe places and gets her animals broken. It seems like she is waiting that someone will break them and take responsibility for her destroyed world.
Furthermore, Laura’s relationship with Jim also shows how she tends to stuck in her illusions. When she recalls her memories of him, she talks about him with vivid emotions, while she used to meet him several years ago in high school. When it turns out that Laura is going to meet him again, she behaves like she does not realize that many things have probably changed since they saw each other last time. It is not the real Jim how Laura waits for, but it is the one from her dreams.
Particular importance for the topic is the meeting of Laura and Jim. In this part of the play, Laura seems to change because Jim was paying attention to her authentic self by showing genuine interest in her collection. At this moment, a reader may start to hope that Jim is a savior of Laura, that he will show her that the reality is worth living. However, he makes her face the uncomfortable and imperfect reality when he confesses his engagement with someone else.
This action is immediately followed by the breaking of the unicorn’s horn. Instead of showing her emotions, Laura again escapes into her imagination when she says, “I’ll just imagine he had an operation” (Williams 86). Therefore, this scene shows how Laura chooses illusion instead of reality and that she will probably never change her mind.
To conclude, Laura has created the world of her dreams, where she can be herself. This world is ideal, it is predictable, and it does not demand hard decisions like education and career. Laura’s mother has been supporting this lifestyle and accepts most of the responsibility of her daughter, making the escaping of reality even easier. The glass collection is an essential reflection of Laura’s life in the illusion. She sees much sense in rearranging and playing with the toys, completely ignoring and, more probably, avoiding real-life issues. Thus, Laura abandons reality in favor of her illusionary world.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New Directions Publishing, 1999.