D3Liu - Liu 1 Yuyang Liu Dr Jutta Schamp English 2 June 8th 2011 Escapism in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie is a

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Liu Yuyang Liu Dr. Jutta Schamp English 2 June 8 th , 2011 Escapism in “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams “The Glass Menagerie” is a memory play by Tennessee Williams, a renowned American writer. The work has been frequently staged since the time it premiered in the first half of the previous century. The story is based on Tom Wingfields’ reminiscences about his mother and sister. The play is generally believed to be autobiographical, since one can find a wide range of similarities between Williams’ life and the narrator’s story. This piece of literary work touches upon a number of universal issues; however, the theme of escapism is widely considered to be the central one. Escapism can be defined as “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy” (Oxford English Dictionary). In the introductory section of the book, while sketching the portraits of the protagonists, Williams stresses that all members of the depicted family strive to evade reality and are engaged in dreams and illusions. The Wingfields and Jim O’Connor are frustrated and dissatisfied with their lives, and each of them lives in a dream world and has a unique way to escape from reality. The setting of the play suggests that the characters are unhappy and seek relief from gruesome reality. In the opening part of scene 1, Tom describes the quarter of St. Louis where his family lives. The neighborhood where the Wingfields’ apartment is situated appears to be gloomy, poor, and depressing. People residing in this district feel “enslaved” and desperate (Williams, 1780). According to the author, an essential part of the stage decorations is a fire-escape. It is located outside the Wingfields’ door, and it allows the characters to escape the frustrating atmosphere of their apartment. The fire-escape represents 1
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Liu an escape from hardships and difficulties, which the protagonists have to endure. Throughout the play Amanda, Laura, and Tom step out onto the fire-escape landing as if trying to get away from their apartment, which has become a prison for them. In Scene 4, Laura slips on the landing, which can be interpreted as a symbol of Laura’s inability to break the bonds of her world and escape from “the prison house of her imagination along with her shyness” (Cardullo, 81). Thus, the setting is symbolic and reveals the main theme of the play. Amanda Wingfields refuses to accept harsh reality and seeks consolation in her past. She is characterized as a woman who clings “frantically to another time and place” (Williams, 1796). Amanda’s life is difficult, since she has been abandoned by her husband and has to bring up her children on her own. Her life is a struggle for survival, and the issue that preoccupies her a lot is finding a suitor for her daughter. Since hopes of a happy family life and secure future for her children are shattered, Amanda clings to her past. She is
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This note was uploaded on 06/10/2011 for the course ENGLISH 1 taught by Professor Meyer during the Spring '11 term at UCSB.

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D3Liu - Liu 1 Yuyang Liu Dr Jutta Schamp English 2 June 8th 2011 Escapism in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie is a

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