The illusion in the play starts in scene even before the stage direction at the beginning one where it is clear that Amanda peruses illusions from the very first moment we meet her. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic page 3. The fact that Tom acts as both narrator and as a character in the play immediately suggests the transitory and illusory nature of memory.
Indeed Roger Boxill, in his book Tennessee Williams says the play is cradled in the play wrights recall of the Depression years, perhaps suggesting another layer of illusion – the playwrights own memory. Perhaps it is significant that The Glass Menagerie was originally written as a movie screenplay- as movies are perhaps the ultimate illusion, light shining through celluloid to create two-dimensional images. Indeed, Hollywood was known as The Dream Factory.
Memories are not necessarily real or truthful, memory can be selective and it seems that Williams may well have been trying like Tom to present truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion. C. W. E. Bigsby suggests in his essay Entering the Glass Menagerie that Williams was concerned with exploiting precisely this internal truth, a world of private need beneath the routines of social performance. Amanda is expecting gentlemen callers for her daughter Laura when we know that Laura doesnt socialise outside of their home, so how Amanda is expecting gentlemen callers for her daughter is beyond the reader.
Later on in the play we find out that Laura is not only crippled but also has no confidence in herself, while we dont find this out yet it is obvious that her own mother would know about it. We can take this energetic but misguided approach of finding Laura not just a gentleman caller but gentlemen callers (more than 1) as Amanda trying to live Lauras life for her and to make sure she didnt make the mistakes herself made, marrying a man who would run away and leave a women with a son and a crippled daughter.
We might also surmise that Amanda prefers the illusion that Lauras little defect is barely noticeable to the reality which Tom forces her to accept in Scene 5, face the facts she is, Tom tries to open up Amandas eyes to the fact that Laura is crippled and always will be. Amanda likes to delude herself into thinking that on One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain your mother received seventeen! gentlemen callers! this is used quite a bit throughout the play by Amanda to make sure everyone knows it and by Tom to ridicule of his mother.
Again in scene two we see quite a lot of illusion not just from Amanda this time but also from Laura. Later on in the book we find out that Laura did not get on well in school so for Amanda to put her into Rubicams Business college only intensifies our understanding of Amanda wanting to re-live her life through Laura and still trying to foster the self-delusion that Laura can live a normal life. The reader can sense this, as Amanda was never an academic as were many women of that era and she relied on being a good housewife and marrying a husband who could support her.
She was obviously very distraught when her husband left her to fend for herself and you might say incapable to get on with her life, so maybe that is why Amanda wants Laura to be self sufficient when clearly it was never going to happen. We see Lauras illusions in keeping the photograph of her teenage crush hoping that one day he would come back for her. Jim, Lauras teenage crush, was the only person in her school years that ever spoke to her and she felt at the time that he was the only person who could ever love her. Ironically when they meet later in the play it appears that he hardly knew her and remembers only with prompting.
After we hear of Lauras secret crush she tells us of her being crippled. This lets out another of Amandas misguided thoughts. Amanda says, never to use that word and that its hardly noticeable overlooking the fact that it has crippled Laura for the main part of her life not just physically but also mentally. Scene three is a very important scene as it is the first time we see how Tom lives on a quite high level of illusion. It is revealed in scene three that Tom likes to spend a great deal of his spare time at the movies and he knows that this displeases, teases and annoys his mother.
Another thing we realise about Toms movie going is that he is also disillusioned with what he can achieve and where hes going with his life. It becomes clear from further investigation by Amanda that Tom wants to join the Merchant Navy. This dream has been put into his head by watching movies and by getting to see the world like his Father. When Malvolio the Magician gets nailed into a coffin and then escapes Tom is amazed. He thinks there is a trick that would come in handy for me get me out of this 2 by 4 situation!
This indicates Toms situation and illusions of escape, which prove to be just that, because he is more faithful then I intend to be Tom dreams of disappearing like his dad did and like the magician did at the cinema although he knows he shouldnt because he saw how distraught his mother was over their father leaving and that to Amanda and Laura he is all theyve got, all that stands between them and a life of deprivation and poverty. This can also be seen as another level of illusion on all three of their parts. Firstly Tom, he thinks that he will be at home for some time yet and not to make any plans for the near future.
Secondly Amanda and Laura find it difficult if not impossible to get their heads round the fact that Tom might just leave them by their selves. In scene five Tom tells Amanda about the gentleman caller that hes invited round for supper. This pleases Amanda no end, but once again we see her illusions about Lauras chances of marrying a gentleman after Lauras failed attempt of a career at business school. Tom realises that Amanda is being too hopeful, that two people who are practically strangers would fall in love and marry each other, so he starts being sarcastic towards his mother saying Lots of fellows meet girls they dont marry!
This backs up the readers view that Amanda is living on a level of illusion as she says, Oh, talk sensibly, Tom and dont be so sarcastic! Amanda telling Tom to talk sensibly indicates that she actually believes that Laura might marry as far as she knows, a complete stranger. Making this one of the greatest levels of illusion of the whole play. The next way that Amanda deludes herself is through making the gentleman caller sound perfect, having a Gracious! name, which means nothing about the persons personality and insists that he doesnt drink etc.
She is very fastidious and when you consider that Laura isnt very good at socialising and is crippled you would have thought that being selective would be the last thing on Amandas mind. Scene six is when we finally meet the gentleman caller, Jim. The way Amanda greets Jim, dressed in a girlish frock of yellowed voile.. jonquils- an illusionary time when she was happy and fulfilled. This contrasts with what Bigsby calls the genteel poverty of the present. By dressing up the Laura and the House Amanda hopes to convince Jim into thinking that their house and her Daughter is the one for him.
In doing this Amanda is tricking herself into thinking that if she dresses up Laura that Jim wont see through it, even if not at supper than eventually her trap or cover would be blown. Amanda is described as setting A pretty trap which is an implication by Williams himself that Amanda is making a trap. Amanda thinks that if she lets Laura answer the door than she and Jim would get along better during the evening. However Laura is extremely reluctant to answer the door deluding herself that if she doesnt answer the door that they would eventually go away.
By making Laura answering the door Amanda is disillusioning herself once again because if Jim and Laura were to fall in love, they would fall in love no matter what, whether Jim is the first person she sees or the last. Scene seven is the last and the longest scene where a number of the characters levels of illusion is given away. From the very start of the scene the falseness of some of the characters shows through with their false and nervous laughs. Amanda leaves Laura and Jim alone under the illusion in the hope that by doing this it will improve their chances of getting together.
Laura in this scene is deluded into thinking that Jim is some kind of superstar because of his promising start in life in things such as The Pirates of Penzance etc. Whereas this is merely an illusion she has of him in reality he has achieved little more than Tom works in the same shoe warehouse. The biggest theme of disillusion throughout the play is that of Lauras Glass Menagerie We have seen hints of Laura thinking that her Glass Menagerie was actually real such as when she cries out as if wounded when one of her figures is smashed by Toms clumsiness.
However it is in this, the final scene that we see Laura has created a whole new imaginary world through her Glass Menagerie. She starts dancing with Jim and the unicorns horn breaks off. Laura says that she doesnt mind, that what her whole life centres around, has been smashed. There are links between Laura and her Glass Menagerie. The first is when her glass has light shining on it, it becomes beautiful and when Laura is in the dimly lit apartment, she seems beautiful to Jim. Williams even has Laura lit like a Madonna. A unicorn is a mythical creature, something that doesnt exist.
In some ways this perfectly portrays what the characters think. They are in a state of illusion or something that is actually there or has even happened, just like a unicorn. The unicorns broken horn on one level is like Laura, entering the real world, but the revelation that Jim has a fiance shatters her – She regresses back to her illusory world. She describes as the unicorn having feelings, that by smashing his horn off it would make him feel less freakishhe will feel more at home with the other horses The final part of delusion in the play is for many readers the most sad.
Laura kisses Jim and deludes herself into thinking that she has a chance of them two getting together when her and her mothers deluded dream is shattered like her glass figures when he explains why it would never work. To conclude, all three characters live on very different levels of delusion with extreme levels of disillusion and slight levels of intricate disillusion. However the only character not mentioned is the Father, when really, although not obvious he disillusioned himself that he could ever stay with someone like Amanda for any great length of time.