Escape Reality in The Glass Menagerie
The Glass Menagerie is a party autobiographic work by Tennessee Williams, which focuses on the lives of three members of one family. The author describes each character in a very interesting and peculiar way, making Tom, Amanda, and Laura each stand out in a particular way. But while Tom and Amanda are the two characters that often argue, one cannot but notice the subject of many of their conflicts – Laura. Even though this character does not have as many lines as the others, it seems like the whole plot of the Glass Menagerie revolves around this character. Almost from the very beginning it is clear that Laura is very different from the rest of characters and, probably, from the rest of the world. The way Laura is treated by others, as well as treats herself, create a very special aura of magic tenderness around the character.
One of the main characteristics of this character is Laura’s physical flaw, which is mentioned by Amanda many times. The reader learns that she has a limp, which is quite a common problem. But, while other people try to overcome their physical limitations in order to live a full life, Laura has chosen another way. It seems that this physical difference has become a part of her personality, an integral element of who Laura is. Instead of entering the world of “normal” people this young woman is using her limp as one of the ways to avoid communication with others and go deeper into the world of her imagination. Therefore, limping is not only a physical, but also a mental characteristic of Laura.
The attitude of Laura’s family members towards her adds another stone to this somehow surreal character. Both mother and brother treat Laura as she needs to be constantly taken care of. For example, Amanda visits Laura’s university to check on her studies, while Tom takes care of her sister and tries to protect her from the world. Even in conversations between the mother and the son the issue of Laura’s life and future is one of the most prominent ones. Therefore, Laura evolves in a calm and silent character that constantly occupies the minds of her family members.
It is clear that all the drama in the play is created by Tom and Amanda, while Laura remains a somehow silent member of all the events happening around her. Even in cases when the issue is closely related to the girl, those are usually her mother and brother arguing whether about her future or about the “gentleman caller”. In all the conflict situations Laura is the one trying to find some kind of solution or rather just stop the argument. It is obvious that the quarrels between family members have a major influence on the character. It is seen not only on the emotional level, but also on physical. A bright example of such a case is the argument between Amanda and Tom that results in falling of Laura’s glass menagerie. Therefore, Laura feels the problems of her family on many different levels and tries to avoid conflicts even when they involve her.
Any problematic situations that Laura faces in her life bring the girl closer to the real world, and that’s the only thing Laura desperately tries to avoid. Therefore, when she is not able to perform in the university, the girl just begins to spend her time walking in the park or going to the zoo. These activities help Laura to remain in her calm imaginary universe. And this also explains why this girl is the one who gets the most affected by all the family conflicts. Only by maintaining the calmness and tranquility Laura is able to keep living in her world and escape the reality.
Laura has put herself even further from the real world and its’ problems than her mother who loves in the memories of her glorious youth and her brother who constantly dreams of adventures. She lives somewhere between the old records and her glass collection and seems like only seldom someone like Amanda or Jim can penetrate her world of dreams. Laura is never seen solving any of the day-to-day problems, like working or studying. She limits her world and communication to the family members and doesn’t even have any friends. What is surprising, Laura doesn’t even require any other acquaintances and socialization. While Amanda and Tom still preserve some connections with the real world, Laura has dived deep into her imaginary universe and is brought back only one – by the visit of her school love, Jim.
The character of Laura mesmerizes the reader with its’ calmness and tranquility. Although she might be worried about Tom’s unhappiness of some instability in the family, Laura is so deeply rooted in her own reality that all the problems of the everyday life just pass through her. This character does not have the emotions of ordinary people, such as deep passions of her brother or active nature of her mother. Laura has no ambitions or dreams of the future, no goals she wants to achieve. All this is reflected in the character and its’ lack of emotions. Instead of moving into some direction Laura is just “floating”.
The main imageries of the play associated with Laura are very characteristic for the character. The Blue Rose, which was Jim’s name for Laura as a girl, is a flower that would have never grown in the natural conditions. It is as unreal and illusionary as the character’s life. Blue Rose comes from an enchanted world of dreams, while Laura is entering this world. Moreover, this nickname was given to her by Jim - the person she really cares of in the play. It makes the Blue Rose twice special, because it seems like Jim is the person who seems to understand Laura and sees her uniqueness. The second element of the material reflecting the character is the glass collection, and especially – the unicorn broken by Jim. These glass figures possess the same fragile beauty as Laura. They are as tender and gentle as the girl. They are, probably, the most descriptive element of her character.
The greatest mystery of the play The Glass Menagerie is the duality of Laura’s character. On one hand she is obviously a shy and calm character who has much less lines in the play than Tom and Amanda. But, on the other hand, the majority of the events have a close connection to Laura and revolve around her. The search for a husband conducted by Amanda is in the center of the play, as well as many of the conflicts between Tom and Amanda concern Laura and her future. Thus, while being seemingly calm, silent, and unadventurous, this character seems to be in the center of everyone’s attention.
The Glass Menagerie is a play that deals with the idea of escape from the reality. Each of the three main characters does it in their own way, living either in the past or future but avoiding the present moment. The most distant of them all is of course Laura, who has entered the enchanted world of her imagination and does not want to leave it. From time to time she seems to be somehow enchanted and receives a very special treatment from her family members. Everyone understands that Laura is different, not only physically but also mentally. Obviously, it took the girl a long time to get absorbed in the imaginary world. Moreover, it is clear that Laura intentionally used her limp as a way to get separated from the society and enter the world of her imagination. The character has no ambitions and desires, no hopes for the future. From time to time it even seems that Laura remains in this world only in her physical form, while her soul has left the body long ago. As a result, people that surround Laura give her a very special treatment. On one hand Amanda is trying to settle her daughter down, while on the other hand both Tom and Amanda are worried about the clash with reality that Laura might have. In fact, Laura might have moved into her imaginary reality so deep that almost nothing can bother her.