Not Knowing Reality

Márk Gál

“Human kind / Cannot bear very much reality” (T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets). Well, that’s a very interesting statement! Many times this is not a statement, but a fact. Yet, while not knowing the truth can create huge problems for us, sometimes not knowing it is better for us. I will give you some examples for both thoughts to explain why I think like that.

Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie as a whole is a great example of the above-mentioned quote. The play is about a mother and her two children (who are young adults), where the breadwinner is her son who wants to leave his family to live his own life. The only hope for Tom (the son) and for the family (Amanda the mother and Laura the daughter) is for Laura to get a husband who able to maintain them (or at least her). Amanda asks Tom to find a person who is optimal for this and he finds one: his friend from the warehouse (Jim). Before the end it seems that Laura has found her mate, but at the end it turns out that he has got a mate already.

The mother is extremely optimistic person who doesn’t want to accept that she and her children have deficiencies:

Amanda: Girls that aren’t cut out for business careers usually wind up married to some nice man. Sister, that’s what you’ll do!

Laura: But, Mother—

Amanda: Yes?

Laura: I’m—crippled!

Amanda: Nonsense! Laura, I’ve told you never, never to use that word.

Amanda doesn’t want to realize the truth. At some point, if she realized it, she would break. On the other hand she is calculating poorly, because she thinks Laura could charm gentleman callers and thinks this is the solution.

Laura is the opposite of her mother. She always playing the same records; she plays and tidies her glass animals. A terribly shy girl, she is very pessimistic about herself and doesn’t trust in anyone except her family, because she is afraid of people and she says “I’m—crippled” and thinks this is the truth, too. This is why she drops out of business school and sabotages her life: she is unable to face the truth. Later she meets Jim again (she knew him distantly in high school), and he encourages her not to be shy, because everyone makes mistakes and it is hard not to make them. So her not knowing the truth has turned out to be the problem.

Tom is a writer and a factory worker who wants to separate from his family because he is tired of maintaining them and wants to live his own life.

Amanda: What right have you got to jeopardize you job? Jeopardize the security of us all? How do you think we’d manage if you were—

Tom: Listen! You think I’m crazy about the warehouse? […] But I get up. I go! For sixty-five dollars a month I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever!

He hates his actual job and, as I mentioned, wants to live his own life far away from the family. At the end he leaves his family, betrays them, and starts his own life. Later he realises how important the family is that he left behind and how much he loves his sister, whom he really misses now. Until this point, he has recognised part of reality but ignored another part.

All in all, I think not knowing the truth is sometimes better than knowing it, but in most cases, not recognising it, or recognising only part of it, will cause us to make mistakes which might prove irreversible.