Escapism is the Wingfield’s best choice to stay sane in their purpose-ridden lives Escapism, or withdrawing from the pressures of the real world into a safer fantasy world. It comes in many forms, some rather subtle, and prevents us from doing what we need to do to improve the circumstances of our real lives. The concept of escapism is a strong theme in Tennessee Williams’s play The Glass Menagerie. Amanda, Laura, and Tom Wingfield all seek to escape the dull and depressing reality of their situation.
They engage in escapism by retreating into their own fantasies which push them farther apart. If you have an aspect of your life that you want to escape from, your fantasies act as a means of dissociating your mind from the “you” that possesses these qualities. With enough repetition, you come to view yourself as a totally separate entity from the one that has these negative traits or circumstances. Only in rare instances does it get so extreme, but partial destruction of the “self” and dissociation are quite common.
Escapism allows us to numb ourselves to a reality that we do not want to accept, and is a way of attempting to negate our personal responsibility and to avoid the discomfort of existential angst that we all must deal with. Tom Tom Wingfield’s indulgence in escapism allows him to tolerate his overbearing mother and stay at home for a time. Like his sister Laura, Tom retreats to worlds of fantasy and imagination but he is more outgoing and mature in his tastes. He writes poetry and spends almost every night at the movie theater.
Tom’s habit of going to the movies is a means of escaping his dull existence and a substitute for physical separation from his family. He shouts: “if self is what I thought of, Mother, I’d be where [father] is – GONE! ” (23). Tom uses the movies to fill a void in his life, a fact he is at pains to explain to Amanda. “I go to the movies because – I like adventure… something I don’t have much of at work,” he explains (33). Tom is not happy with the kind of life Amanda is pushing him into and watching adventure in the movies helps him to cope with the oppressive atmosphere of his home life.
Although Tom’s use of movies as a means of escaping reality seems harmless, it does help to push him farther from his family. Tom spends most of his nights out at the movies which worries Amanda. She protests and says on several occasions “I don’t believe you always go to the movies” (48). Her disappointment in Tom drives a wedge between them. Tom eventually decides that escapism is a poor substitute for real escape. “People go to the movies instead of moving! ” he exclaims to Jim O’Connor (61).
Tom comes to a realization that neither Amanda nor Laura seem to reach, that escapism is an impediment to action. Tom cannot have his own adventures if he remains stuck in his boring job and goes to the movies every night. Eventually Tom finds himself more like his father as he seeks adventure in the movies and hangs out on the fire escape he avoids suffocation, and desperately seeks the life he always desired; the life of adventure. By hanging out on the fire escape, Tom finds a temporary safe haven from Amanda.
With Amanda nagging Tom about every minute action, like mastication, Tom needed to find somewhere to escape. Perhaps, even more, the fire escape shows various things about Tom’s personality. Since Amanda and Laura have their illusionary worlds inside, Tom can easily escape these worlds by going out on the firescape. He does not desire to be part of an imaginary world, which only proves to be the downfall of Amanda and Laura. He realizes that the world is not what Amanda has made it seem inside the house.
Also, during his reflections on the firescape he is not really separating himself from the imaginary world because that metal frame is still anchored to the apartment wall. Tom does not want to escape into dreams or other fantasy worlds—he wants to physically escape, to leave. And even when he can’t bring himself to actually leave, he is constantly escaping from something: he escapes from the apartment onto the fire escape; he escapes from the coffin in the magic show; and he sneaks away at the warehouse to write poetry, a mental and physical escape from a menial job.
Tom goes to the movies every night to watch an escapist fantasy on the screen. He also uses alcohol to escape reality: we see bottles in his pockets, and “going to the movies” is a euphemism for getting drunk. Yet all of Tom’s escape mechanisms are cyclical: while they offer the promise of freedom, they also trap him. “I’m leading a double life,” Tom actually focuses on making his escapism a reality through attempts at practical escape. In the end he does follow in the footsteps of his father and successfully escapes the family – though how effectively this is achieved is debatable…
AMANDA Amanda Wingfield escapism is very much rooted in her memories of the past. She is described as a little woman of great vitality clinging frantically to another time and place’: somewhere where she was happy. Amanda’s memories of Blue Mountain, her home when she was young girl, is her where of trying to bring some of the spirit of the good old days, when she was young and popular and loved and sought after, into her current, boring, life. She is obsessed with the notion of the “Southern belle” and identifies with a lifestyle of ease and gentility that is far removed from her own.
At every opportunity she reminds her children of her connection to the planter class. She tells Laura “you be the lady this time and I’ll be the darky” (Williams 7). As a woman abandoned by her husband and living in poverty, Amanda seeks consolation in the fact that she might once have married into the planter elite. Amanda also implies she was one of the elite. “I never could make a thing but angel-food cake… in the South we had so many servants” she tells Jim (64).
Amanda takes pride in her exaggerated incompetence because in her warped imagination it indicates er high social status. Her fantasies with refined Southern manners and class helps her to blot out the uncomfortable truths of her reality. Laura Laura Wingfield is described as a girl who has ‘failed to establish contact with reality’, who lives ‘in a world of her own – a world of glass ornaments’. Her ‘glass menagerie’, as Amanda calls it, is Laura’s main means of escapism in the play: it is a world into which she becomes absorbed, and focuses all her energies on. The glass menagerie is Laura’s escape from the harshness of reality.
Laura’s glass menagerie is a collection of tiny glass animal figurines. She feels a far stronger connection with these creatures than any human, even ascribing the glass figures personalities. She, in many ways, feels herself one of her own glass collection, and Tom notes her increasing regression into this world of fantasy: ‘she is like a piece of her own glass collection, too exquisitely fragile’. Her disability and lack of confidence has led to an intense shyness. So she chooses to isolate herself in a world of glass, and dotes over the tiny ornaments to avoid interaction with others.
Laura retreats to imaginary, child-like, fantasy and “lives in a world of her own” (47). She spends her time playing the old records her father left and looking at her “glass menagerie. ” The glass animal that she particularly identifies with as her favorite is a glass unicorn, a creature that shares her singularity and fragility, saying of her unicorn “he doesn’t complain… and [he and the horses) get along nicely” (83). Rather than face the difficulties of her existence, Laura escapes to a world of imagination and fantasy, a world as beautiful and fragile as her “glass menagerie. “