Reality’s Unease

Sára Timár

In the play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, we learn how uneasy reality is for the characters and the period they live in. The quote “Human kind / Cannot bear very much reality,” from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, relates to every character in a particular way. Amanda Wingfield, the mother, who in my opinion lives in daydreams but still in a moral way, organises things which might not have anything to do with others’ reality, just hers that she wants to live in, that she wants to encourage in others or that she finds ethical. She is kind of stuck in the reality of her teenage life. She wants to plan her daughter’s future, Laura’s. But Laura expects nothing to come true of all these things her mother wants. “I want you to stay fresh and pretty—for gentleman callers!” and then Laura answers “I am not expecting any gentleman callers.” Amanda also finds it hard to live in peace with her son, Tom. They fight, because they always have distinct opinions. When Tom says “I’m getting a cigarette,” Amanda says “You smoke too much”. 

Laura, the sister in the family, finds it hard to bear reality. She drops out of school because she can’t deal with it, she wants different things from her mother, and she would rather something monotonous every day just to get away from reality. A quote from Amanda: “From half past seven till after five every day you mean to tell me you walked around in the park, because you wanted to make me think that you were still going to Rubicam’s Business College?” And when she actually realises that she might have a gentleman caller, whom she  knew from school, and that it is really happening, she gets physically sick.

It seems like every character has their own activities and habits of escaping reality, Tom goes to the movies—but too frequently, every day. Even his mother makes an argument out of this habit of Tom’s, because she doesn’t believe that Tom goes to the movies this often. “I don’t believe that you go every night to the movies. Nobody goes to the movies night after night. Nobody in their right minds goes to the movies as often as you pretend to.”

In the end, the play suggests that people find reality hard and boring, which it is in some ways, in fact, many ways. The characters try to have something different in their lives, because reality remains the same and if we all thought in the same way, there would be no creativity in life.