The play the Glass Menagerie supports the theme of illusions. A menagerie, a zoo, refers to a group of inhuman creatures. Since the creatures are glass, they are very fragile and not real. The title specifically refers to Laura’s collection of glass animals mainly horses. To escape the harshness of reality, Laura spends hours playing with the menagerie; this is an imaginary world for her. It is not only Laura, it is all of the Wingfields, they are all fragile enough to break easily. They burn with the slow and impeccable fires of human desperation.
The Glass Menagerie is a sad story of hopelessness and tragedy, a story of human nature and how it affects people’s lives. The story itself may not seem tragic but the social downfall of the Wingfield’s in itself is tragic. Williams shows the Southern family in decline, with certain members holding desperately to past visions of grandeur. Amanda Wingfield desperately clings to her romanticized memories of her southern past. Williams makes it clear that her memories are just mere illusions. The south has a tragic history, just like Amanda and Rose.
As you read into the play, you understand that the Wingfield’s live in a life of fantasy wrapped in tragedy. Many aspects of their life, I believe, are very depressing and heartbreaking.
Such is the case of Amanda Wingfield. A southern girl, who had the opportunity to marry very rich husbands. She takes a wrong turn and marries a drunk who deserts he, there is no coming back from the one mistake. Everyday she reminisces about her past life and how glorious it once was. Tennessee Williams uses this as a perfect way to compare their present life to their past, creating a feeling of misery and pain.
These feelings of misery and hopelessness are enforced by her children’s sorrows and wretched lives. As Laura develops a inferiority complex after going to school for one day, the reader develops a sense of compassion. Tom Wingfield is also a major reason for the families suffering. In his nightly walks to the ‘movies’ and then him deserting his family as did his father. He leaves behind him a trail of sorrow and a tragic future is inevitable. Therefore, the dreary non-functioning of the Wingfields becomes symbolic of the non-functioning of a world beyond St. Louis.