Accept the Reality or Distract Yourself, Escape It?

Viktória Wilujeng Botka

“She lives in a world of her own – a world of – little glass ornaments…” – Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie, first performed in 1944, has an interesting storyline, featuring the narrator as one of the main characters (Tom Wingfield), who has a mentally disturbed mother (Amanda Wingfield) and a timid and confidence-lacking older sister (Laura Wingfield). The Wingfields aren’t a rich family; Tom works to support his family in a shoe warehouse, which he doesn’t enjoy, because his real dream is to be a poet. He goes to the movies almost every night, so frequently that his mother becomes suspicious of him doing illegal things. The movies back then were cheap, as it was after World War 1 and during the Great Depression. As people had lost loved ones in the war and jobs at home, they went to the movies often to distract themselves. Tom went to distract himself, just as other people did.

TOM: I’m going to the movies!
AMANDA: I don’t believe that lie!
[Tom crouches toward her, overtowering her tiny figure. She backs away, gasping.]
TOM: I’m going to opium dens! Yes, opium dens, dens of vice and criminals’ hangouts, Mother. I’ve joined the Hogan Gang, I’m a hired assassin, I carry a tommy gun in a violin case! I run a string of cat houses in the Valley! They call me Killer, Killer Wingfield, I’m leading a double-life, a simple, honest warehouse worker by day, by night a dynamic czar of the underworld, Mother.
— Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

Tom doesn’t like his mother very much (although at some level he loves her). Amanda grew up in Blue Mountain, Mississippi. Like Tom, she has her own way of distracting herself. She lives in the past, reliving her memories of when she was young, when gentlemen callers used to come to visit her. Her husband was—as Amanda says repeatedly—a charming man, who visited Amanda frequently in her youth, married her, and eventually abandoned her, which resulted in the Wingfields’ poverty.  Amanda always imagines that one day her daughter will marry a rich man, because it would help get rid of their financial problems. She keeps on retelling her story of the gentleman callers and their father, hoping that Laura will have the same experience, which is a bit too optimistic, as Laura is very shy and isolates herself from the outside world.

When she was still in high school, Laura  had an illness called pleurosis, which caused her to limp. This is one of the reasons why she is very insecure and spends most of her time alone or at home. In fact, she is so timid that she drops out of business school. She had a crush on Jim O’Connor when she was in high school. Jim had a nickname for Laura, “Blue Roses.” He called her that because he misheard Laura saying pleurosis when he asked why she had been absent. Laura has her own world of imagination. She has animal-shaped glass figures, which she spends most of her time cleaning and watching. The unicorn glass figure, which was the one that represented her, stands out with its horn among the horses, like Laura with her limp.  She also plays the Victrola obsessively, which is another way for her to distract herself, apart from watching her glass figures.

The different people are not like other people, but being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Because other people are not such wonderful people. They’re one hundred times one thousand. You’re one times one! They walk all over the earth. You just stay here.
— Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

Jim O’Connor is a young man who works at the same warehouse as Tom. He is invited for dinner by Tom one day, at the request of Amanda, who hopes that he and Laura will be a perfect match and get married. It doesn’t work out in the end, because Jim iss already engaged to another girl, Betty. He is the most “normal” character in this play; he gives Laura some advice and helps her gain some confidence.

I think that we need to accept reality; sometimes it’s hard to do so, but trying to lie to yourself is just as bad as lying to others. If you can’t accept things that have happened, you will need to live your life inside your head, convincing yourself that your version of the story is the right one, and people will start thinking that you’ve lost your mind, which can actually become true if you continue lying to yourself.

Not Hating Them, Just Thriving by Them

Ceren Selimata

We live by making mistakes. İt is crucial for improvement and success in life. But sometimes I ask myself: is it really necessary to go through the pain and bear the consequences? The answer is so simple, yes.

It was one of the most important days of my life, the high school entrance exam. The score that I got on this exam could have affected my choice of high school, university, and even my profession. While I was taking the exam, I was constantly thinking about the possibilities and the consequences of the mistakes that I was making unconsciously. I made a lot of mistakes that I wouldn’t normally do; I was astonished. How could I have done such a thing? It is the question that preoccupies everyone as they try to find an answer. Maybe there shouldn’t be an answer. We shouldn’t even be searching for one. The guilt and the shame that the answer brings, consumes us as time passes.

I was constantly wondering where I would be at that moment if I hadn’t made any of those mistakes. I still got into a high school that was good enough, but not great. Isn’t “great” the thing that everybody wants? I found out that it isn’t the most important factor in later success, because there will always be opportunities that we will face and have to make important decisions about.

In my first year as a preparatory student, I couldn’t see the good parts of the conclusions of my mistakes. As time passed, I realized that it wasn’t about failure, it was about learning from your mistakes to become an experienced person and try better the next time. Yes, the period of accepting this was almost unbearable and long, but it’s not forever. There will always be opportunities throughout our lives, and we should take advantage of them to learn new things and improve ourselves, rather than turning them down for fear of making mistakes. Taking up opportunities doesn’t necessarily make you an optimistic person; in my opinion it is just reality that we should face. We are not defined by our mistakes, but we thrive by them. When we’re in a very important situation, we’re terrified of what could happen to us if we make a big mistake, but we can’t find it out without trying.

I am now preparing my portfolio and CV for the universities in France; my high school gave me lots of opportunities and an education that I had never expected. There is no way to anticipate life’s experiences; you should just live and accept yourself for making mistakes.

My choice wasn’t the best, but in this case it’s the best choice that I could’ve made without feeling angry at myself and ashamed. It is essential to go through these phases in life. At least that is what most successful people do, such as Walt Disney; his former newspaper editor told him that his ideas weren’t good enough, but he kept generating new ideas. “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young… Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid,” said Walt Disney, speaking from his experiences. So we shouldn’t be scared or ashamed of our mistakes; embracing and growing from them is the best thing that we can do for ourselves.

An Unfixable Life

Adrienn Földi

“Human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.”

— T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Of the characters in Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie,this quote applies to Amanda the most. She is a woman who once was beautiful, living a glamorous life with many gentleman callers, being popular, enjoying the peak of her life. Then she gets married to someone who ruins her whole reputation and life, so to try to forget about this, she lives in a delusion, in a reality she made up in her head. A good example of this is in Scene One when she keeps bringing up her amazing life as a young woman in Blue Mountain, where she once received seventeen gentleman callers in one day. Assuming that her daughter is popular as she was, she expects gentleman callers for Laura to be arriving any minute, but the reality gets to her when Laura tells her they aren’t expecting anyone. Her illusions persist through most of the play.

“Nonsense! Laura, I’ve told you never, never to use that word. Why, you’re not crippled, you just have a little defect—hardly noticeable, even! When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to make up for it—develop charm—and vivacity—and—charm! That’s all you have to do! … One thing your father had plenty of—was charm!” I think that this quote really shows how she isn’t even able to face the fact that her own daughter is crippled, because this doesn’t fit into her image of the world where she still has a good life, husband, and children. She wishes that her daughter would be like her in her peak years and tries to forget everything that contradicts this

“I’ll tell you what I wished for on the moon. Success and happiness for my precious children! I wish for that whenever there’s a moon, and when there isn’t a moon, I wish for it, too.” In my view, this quote tells us that after all of this, she loves her children more than anything, because they help her to forget about reality. In some ways that connects them: for instance, their father abandoned not only Amanda but the whole family. This is cut into the whole family’s heart, not just hers; this pain is shared.

“Go, then! Go to the moon—you selfish dreamer!” This is the last thing that Amanda says to her son before he finally leaves the family behind. I think when she says this she finally faces reality, the fact that her son has become just like his father and that her life has fallen apart and will never be fixed, no matter how hard she tries, because her children can’t fix it, and neither can she.

Letter to Tom

Áron Kaposvári

Dear Tom,

I’ve been thinking a lot about your story because your character touched me deeply. I’m a 20-year-old young man and had almost similar problems some years ago, so I want to share my thoughts with you.

First, about me. I lived in a one-parent family with my mum and younger brother, who is a wheelchair user. They wanted me to stay with them forever, but I wanted to follow my dreams, so I had to choose between career and family. I love them very much, and it was a difficult decision. Now I live in a city not far from my hometown and go to university.

As for you, your mum Amanda often worries about your responsibilities at home. She says: “What right have you got to jeopardize your job? Jeopardize the security of us all? How do you think we’d manage if you were—-” I think it’s not fair, she expects a lot from you, you are not her “property.” Convince her that you will help her and your sister Laura, but you would like to live your own life.

Speaking of Laura, it’s obvious that you love her a lot. You deeply care for her, but you aspire to your own freedom. “The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles, in delicate colors, like bits of shattered rainbow. Than all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes… Oh Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger- anything that can blow your candles out!” Since you miss her, and think about her, you should call her, visit her. You should help Laura to be open to the world and other people. You can help her without going back home.

Your stories and mine show that life often involves difficult decisions. Stop living in an imaginary world like your sister with her glass figures. Both the dreams and the glass figures are fragile. “Glass breaks so easily. No matter how careful you are.”

Sometimes we must choose what’s best for our own growth and happiness. I want to encourage you to keep following your ambitions. It’s essential to find your own path and live your life.

Best wishes,


Taming the Harshness

Eszter Forvith

“Human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.” — T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

It is a quite thought-provoking statement, but after thinking about it we quickly realize that it holds a lot of truth.

The more people feel the toughness of life, the more they try to escape reality. Many people tend to escape reality by developing a “live in the moment mindset,” which often creates the illusion of a mostly problem-free life. However, this is just one way of escaping reality; there are many others, and some of them are nicely represented in Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie.

Amanda, a single mother of two children, often seems optimistic about her daughter’s future even though her daughter, Laura, sees things the opposite way. Amanda often wanders back to the past when she was Laura’s age and had a lot of gentleman callers, in Mississippi, where she was a young beauty; that time could easily be called the highest point in her life. “Amanda: Why, I remember on Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain. Tom: Again?” She sometimes seems to be stuck in that imagination which enables her to escape from the reality of rapidly changing things and growing tension between her and the kids, especially Tom.

Tom, the younger sibling, works at a warehouse, which we can say is not his dream job. Since their father left a long time ago, Tom has become the breadwinner and thus cannot afford to fulfill his dream of traveling and discovering the world, which frustrates him. Tom often goes to the movies, which causes his mother a headache, but this is Tom’s only freedom, his only chance to witness real adventures. Later we discover that Tom often goes to the bar to drink, which is an obvious way of escaping reality. Not long after a failed attempt of finding a husband for his sister, he gets fired and finally decides to leave and travel as he always wanted. He follows in his father’s footsteps and goes from place to place, discovering the world. We would think that Tom was satisfied, now that he could achieve his dream, but it appears that he cannot be truly satisfied, since his sister often appears in front of him, reminding him of the life he left behind; this also appears as a sort of pullback to reality, a sign that his life is still not and probably will never be the way he wanted it. “Oh Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind, but I am more faithful than I intended to be.”

Laura, the older sibling, had a chance to get a good education, but she dropped out of school, and now her only hope is to get married, but she doesn’t really have any faith in that either; rather, she spends her days taking care of her glass animals and living in her own isolated world, which is not really to her mother’s liking. In the play she appears rather insecure and shy, but at the end, with the help of a young man called Jim, she discovers that even though we fail sometimes it doesn’t matter, because we can try again and one failure will not determine our whole life. That gives Laura confidence and a gateway to jump back to reality, making her the only character with a rather big and positive character development. “Jim: Aw, aw, aw. Is it broken? Laura: Now it’s just like all the other horses. Jim: It lost its— Laura: Horn! It doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.”

Escaping from reality is something that all of us do. Some people practice it more often than others. Similarly, we unintentionally remember the good that happened to us but try to forget the bad in order to stay balanced. Our mind tends to tame the harshness of reality to protect us.

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.

When Nothing Changes

Zsombor Górán

Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie was written about the idea that everything will be good someday. I expected that they would reach this, but in the end they are still in the same situation .

Most of the characters don’t like the way their life is going, so they have something to distract them from reality. Tom goes to the movies every night because he is not satisfied with his job. He has no choice but to work to provide food for the family. When his mother doesn’t believe that he is going to the movies, he makes up a ridiculous lie because he really has nothing better do. He says, ”I’m going to opium dens! Yes, opium dens, dens of vice and criminals’ hangouts, Mother. I’ve joined the Hogan Gang, I’m a hired assassin, I carry a tommy gun in a violin case! I run a string of cat houses in the Valley! They call me Killer, Killer Wingfield, I’m leading a double-life, a simple, honest warehouse worker by day, by night a dynamic czar of the underworld, Mother.”

Amanda loves to tell stories about the past and fantasize about the days of her youth. She has no hope of living a life like the past but she still thinks about it a lot. A good example is when she is telling her favourite story about the gentleman callers : “One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain, your mother received seventeen! gentlemen callers! Why, sometimes there weren’t chairs enough to accommodate them all.”

Laura just wants to exist in her own world and play with her glass collection and listen to music. She tries to have a future and fails  because she is shy. In addition, she thinks she is crippled, but her mother tries to dispel these thoughts: “Nonsense! Laura, I’ve told you never, never to use that word. Why, you’re not crippled, you just have a little defect – hardly noticeable, even! When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to make up for it – develop charm – and vivacity and – charm! That’s all you have to do!”

In conclusion, we can see the characters of The Glass Menagerie trying to forget about their life, some successfully, like Laura, some not so much, like Tom. They try not to think of their depressing life because, in the words of T. S. Eliot, “Human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.”


Jázmin Juhász

“Human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.”

—T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

This quote applies to all three main characters of Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie as they all try to avoid reality in one way or another.

Firstly, let’s look at Amanda, who used to be a rich southern girl living in a nice house, where young men would line up in hopes of getting her hand in marriage. Even though now she is a single mother with two adult children and an absent husband, she still clings to her old life. We can see that she keeps bringing up stories like this: “One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain, your mother received seventeen! gentlemen callers! Why, sometimes there weren’t chairs enough to accommodate them all.” Not only does she live in the past, not only does she refuse to acknowledge that the world is changing, but she also sweeps her problems under the carpet. A good example is when she is not able to admit that Laura is in fact disabled: “Nonsense! Laura, I’ve told you never, never to use that word. Why, you’re not crippled, you just have a little defect – hardly noticeable, even!”

While Amanda sees life through rose-coloured glasses everything is worse in Laura’s eyes and this quote demonstrates it perfectly. “And everybody was seated before I came in. I had to walk in front of all those people. My seat was in the back row. I had to go clumping all the way up the aisle with everyone watching I” She felt insecure about the way she walked, even though nobody ever made fun of her (as far as we know). Her career was also restrained by her mental issues: “Her hands shook so that she couldn’t hit the right keys! The first time we gave a speed-test, she broke down completely – was sick at the stomach and almost had to be carried into the wash-room!” Everything new and slightly challenging frightens her, hence she escapes reality by doing the same old things every single day. Playing with glass animals and listening to the same records are the only things she finds comfort in.

Lastly let’s talk about Tom, who is an explorer, a poet at heart but is stuck in a tedious and low-paying job. Excitement is what he yearns for. The only way he can experience any kind of adventure is through movies. He goes to the cinema so often that even his mother doesn’t believe him: “I don’t believe that you go every night to the movies. Nobody goes to the movies night after night. Nobody in their right mind goes to the movies as often as you pretend to. People don’t go to the movies at nearly midnight, and movies don’t let out at two a.m.”

All three of the main characters are trying to ignore reality but in very variable ways. Many people today are becoming increasingly like them by using escapism to endure the real world.

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.

The Unexpected Holiday

Nóra Solti

It was midsummer; my family had been planning a holiday domestically for months, and now the time had come. We had planned to travel to Pécs, because three years earlier, we went there and enjoyed it, so we wanted to experience it again. We had great memories, so we thought that it would be a good idea to spend one week of our summer break there. It was a little bit suspicious that we needed to leave really early in the morning, but me and my sister were too tired to worry about these things. We had been travelling for a long time when I asked my parents where we were, and they said, almost there. A few minutes later we stopped at a gas station; while we were there, I checked our location, and we were in the middle of Slovenia. I was totally shocked, wondering why we were here and why we didn’t notice it earlier. When everybody was back in the car, I asked why we were in Slovenia. My parents said that we had come here just to take a look at Lake Bled. I believed them because it made sense. Hours went by, and I checked our location again and realized that we were in Italy. I asked them again, and they finally told us the truth: that we were going back to Amalfi after last year, because my mother had fallen in love with that place. We booked a room in a smaller city, and then my sister found it interesting that we were literally in the same place as our best friends. We arrived at a campsite, and during the check-in our parents acted strange. They were too happy about things. After a long time, I suddenly looked up and saw my friends with their family in front of us. I couldn’t believe it, so my mouth stayed open. I was also a little bit sad, because we needed to leave the next day and go back to Pécs, to our original destination. After the confusing emotions, the adults explained everything to us: that we had gone there for one week and only to Italy. I was on cloud nine when everything came together. This was the biggest surprise in my whole life. Afterward i can say that I went through the best holiday that i have ever been on, because i was with the people i love in a beautiful country at a great time.

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