Estrangement And Isolation Within The Family Nest English Literature Essay

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The feeling of discordance between man and his world does not only concern modern or postmodern man, but rather all humanity, regardless of time and space. This feeling is eased through different psychological reliefs such as religion, therapy or even familial and social bonds. The Romantics describe it as "mal du siècle" and find in their writings a therapeutic cure. Baudelaire (1821-1867) calls this feeling "spleen" and Keats (1795-1821) "melancholy" and both view it as a muse. Kierkegaard (1813-1855) portrays man's "anguish" and the leap into faith as a release from such a burden. Yet, it is Pascal (1623-1662), before them, who describes this feeling as "ennui",

Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without passions, without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness, vexation, despair. (Pensées 38)

According to Pascal, work and entertainment are the solution to escape anguish and weariness. Nevertheless, this feeling takes another shape in the postmodern world. Sartre (1905- 1980) defines it as "nausea" and Camus (1913- 1960) uses the term "absurd" to describe it. The difference lies in the fact that this feeling is permanent and that no solution is provided to resist it. "The absurd" marks the works of post-war generations. The concern of this essay would be Samuel Beckett's and Tennessee Williams' portrayal of this absurdity in Waiting for Godot and The Glass Menagerie, respectively.

Camus introduces "the absurd" in The Myth of Sisyphus and yet it is Martin Esslin who defines the word as follows,

'Absurd' originally means 'out of harmony', in a musical context. Hence its dictionary definition: 'out of harmony with reason or propriety; incongruous, unreasonable, illogical'. In common usage, 'absurd' may simply mean 'ridiculous', but this is not the sense in which Camus uses the word, and in which it is used when we speak of the Theatre of the Absurd. In an essay on Kafka, Ionesco defined his understanding of the term as follows: 'Absurd is that which is devoid of purpose... Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless.' (The Theatre of the Absurd 23)

"Absurd" is then the depiction of man in a world with which he feels "out of harmony" where life becomes "ridiculous" because of its "senselessness". This feeling is universal since it is shared by tragic heroes such as King Oedipus and King Lear. It characterises the human condition. This condition might be defined as the sense of loss and malaise that man feels towards his world once it deceives him leaving a deep feeling of anguish that causes suffering. Several questions as those of the inevitability of death or the uncertainty of origins cause such suffering. Camus' purpose is to describe the suffering of modern man. He declares in the preface to The Myth of Sisyphus that,

The fundamental subject of "The Myth of Sisyphus" is this: it is legitimate and necessary to wonder whether life has a meaning; therefore it is legitimate to meet the problem of suicide face to face. The answer, underlying and appearing through the paradoxes which cover it, is this: even if one does not believe in God, suicide is not legitimate. (The Myth of Sisyphus Preface)

Hence, The Myth of Sisyphus deals with the aspects of the absurdity of human life along with the human condition. Hamlet declines suicide because it means disobedience to God in his "to be, or not to be" soliloquy, but Camus explains it differently. Suicide is not the solution as the absurd lies in the divorce between man and his world and suicide would be running away from it. [1] Suicide is thus not a solution to the absurd as it is an attempt to escape it. Moreover, "the absurd dies only when we turn away from it" (The Myth of Sisyphus 54). Being a hero means accepting and living in the absurd. Hence, Sisyphus is the tragic hero par excellence. Camus chooses Sisyphus, the mythical character, because of the similarities he sees between his condition and that of man. According to Greek mythology, Sisyphus was punished by the gods because of his cunning nature as a king. His punishment was to roll a huge rock all the way to the top of a hill only for it to roll back down once in the summit, without interruption. [2] In this torture, Camus sees a common feature between Sisyphus' struggling with the rock and human suffering in life. He analyses what is tragic in Sisyphus' suffering, after drawing the comparison with human existence remarking that,

If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. (The Myth of Sisyphus 121)

It is only because Sisyphus is conscious of the absurdity of his condition that he is a tragic hero. It seems that such features are shared by the characters of Waiting for Godot and those of The Glass Menagerie as both plays portray the absurd condition of the post-war generations and of humanity as a whole.

Regardless of the trends Beckett and Williams belong to, The Glass Menagerie and Waiting for Godot give expression to the absurdity and the meaninglessness of their world. In both plays, the human condition is shown through the constant disappointment the protagonists undergo. They stand for their generation and even for all human beings because of their suffering. In Waiting for Godot neither the social background nor any other background is presented. The play is timeless in that it can be anytime and is spaceless in that it can be anywhere. It is not the case in The Glass Menagerie as it deals with the struggling of a fatherless Southern family in a world of upcoming war after the Great Depression. This does not mean that the social background is the cause behind the characters' suffering or condition. Gilbert Debusscher, in "Tennessee Williams's Unicorn Broken Again," denies this kind of interpretation that imposes on the play such views as "the frustration, despair and confusion of the American lower class, left stunned and bleeding in the path of the economic tornado" ("Tennessee Williams's Unicorn Broken Again" 48-49). It is because Williams focuses on the psyche, intensifies feeling and approaches art emotionally that his characters represent "a more universal statement". [3] It is true that the social and economical background of the characters worsens their situation, but the absurdity they face makes them rather universal.

The concern of this essay is to trace aspects of the absurd in The Glass Menagerie and Waiting for Godot and to draw parallels between the two plays. It is mainly through The Myth of Sisyphus and Camus' view of the human conditions that these parallels will be dealt with. Each chapter underlines the deception that the characters encounter in their dull live, devoid of "serious action". [4] The setting disappoints them so they try to resist it through illusion under the disguise of memories and dreams while waiting for their saviours to come.

Part I: The Setting

The Setting:

The Divorce between "man" and "his Setting" [5] :

The Significance of the Tree

The Wingfields in "Hell"

The Setting as a Prison: The Impossibility of Escape:

Social Ties as an Obstacle to Happiness:

Interdependency as Friendship

Interdependency as Slavery

Estrangement and Isolation within the Family Nest

The settings in both Waiting for Godot and The Glass Menagerie play a major role in the way they convey the absurdity of the protagonists' existence. The bare stage prefigures the feeling of uneasiness and anxiety underlined by Camus as the absurd lies in the divorce between man and his setting. In Waiting for Godot and The Glass Menagerie, the protagonists live a dilemma since they cannot escape and once they do, they suffer and go back to it because of the emotional bond they have with the left ones. The prison-like setting is portrayed in both plays as leading to the protagonists' deterioration to animal-like creatures.

The Setting:

The term setting might have several meanings depending on the context. Therefore, a definition must be provided and it is the following,

The overall setting of a narrative or dramatic work is the general locale, historical time, and social circumstances in which its action occurs; the setting of a single episode or scene within such a work is the particular physical location in which it takes place. […]

When applied to a theatrical production, "setting" is synonymous with décor, which is a French term denoting both the scenery and the properties, or movable pieces of furniture, on the stage. The French mise en scène ("placing on stage") is sometimes used in English synonymously with "setting"; it is more useful, however, to apply the term more broadly, as the French do, to signify a director's overall conception, staging, and directing of a theatrical performance. (Abram 284-285)

The first meaning of the term demonstrates the "divorce between the mind that desires and the world that disappoints" as the characters can adapt neither to their milieu nor to their atmosphere (The Myth of Sisyphus 50). "Setting" as "décor" denotes the importance of "scenery" and "pieces of furniture" which are absent in Waiting for Godot and which are the same in The Glass Menagerie.

The "décor" in The Glass Menagerie and Waiting for Godot is bare and simple. It is the only place where events happen. Moreover, the setting is an emblem of the degradation of man to the level of beast. Waiting for Godot opens with, "A country road. A tree. Evening". [6] There is nothing to describe in the world of the play, but a tree and a road: a desolate landscape. [7] Vladimir fails to describe the scenery to the blind Pozzo in Act 2. He expresses his inability to do so by saying, "[i]t's indescribable. It's like nothing. There's nothing. There's a tree" (87). The setting can be regarded as an 'Unnameable' because there is "nothing" to describe. [8] Its only ornament is "a tree". Nevertheless, even the tree is not clearly categorised. Both Vladimir and Estragon are unable to define its botanic classification:

ESTRAGON. What is it?

VLADIMIR. I don't know. A willow.

ESTRAGON. Where are the leaves?

VLADIMIR. It must be dead.

ESTRAGON. No more weeping.

VLADIMIR. Or perhaps it's not the season.

ESTRAGON. Looks to me more like a bush.

VLADIMIR. A shrub.

ESTRAGON. A bush. (14)

The tree remains a tree since not one answer but many are provided to a single question. It remains mysterious until the end of the play. In addition, its mystery is even more accentuated when it becomes "covered with leaves" in a "single night" (66). This gives the setting a magical and dream-like feature. This fantastic feature is to be understood as bizarre and unusual adding to the characters' bewilderment and to the ambiguity of the play. This dream-like world echoes in a sense the "non-realistic" memory world of The Glass Menagerie as Tom, the narrator, defines it from the beginning of the play (12). [9] But, the two plays present this world differently for while one is charged with music, light and the screen device, the other is completely bare. The landscape, as Estragon remarks in Act 2, has no feature to be recognized as "scenery":

VLADIMIR. Where else do you think? Do you not recognize the place?

ESTRAGON. (suddenly furious). Recognize! What is there to recognize? All my lousy life I've crawled about in the mud! And you talk to me about scenery! (Looking wildly about him.)Look at this muckheap! I've never stirred from it! (61)

The setting is associated with excrement for Estragon describes it as a "muckheap". It is thus degraded to animal waste and linked to bestiality making its 'inhabitants' beastlike human beings. This echoes the description given in the stage direction in The Glass Menagerie since "[t]he Wingfield apartment is in the rear of the building, one of those vast hive-like conglomerations of cellular living-units" (12). The setting in here is compared to a beehive, where human beings are bees, "an image suggesting not the social order and productivity of bees but the 'one interfused mass of automatism' that avoids 'fluidity and differentiation'". [10] It is the same idea of man under behaviourism where man's (re)actions and behaviour are automatic/mechanic and can be easily predicted once the environment is known. It erases any individuality or sense of creativity since, as this trend presumes, everyone reacts in the same way to a same particular situation. It is due to the fact that the characters' desires are suppressed in their own environment that they struggle to escape it.

The Divorce between "Man" and "his Setting":

The protagonists, in both plays, are suffering since they cannot fulfil what they wish or long for. This echoes Camus' analysis of the human condition. Camus asserts that the absurd lies in the rupture between man and his setting in that this setting runs counter man's dreams and wishes. "This divorce between man and this life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity" and it is dominant in both plays (The Myth of Sisyphus 6).

The Significance of the Tree:

The tree in Waiting for Godot is as false as Godot himself as it is a fake solution/saviour. Vladimir and Estragon, though the tree remains a mystery to them, 'decide' to hang themselves onto it twice. But these decisions are doomed to failure. The characters are deprived of the accomplishment of the slightest hope or pleasure,

ESTRAGON. What about hanging ourselves?

VLADIMIR. Hmm. It'd give us an erection.

ESTRAGON. (highly excited). An erection! (17)

The act of suicide will provide an erotic pleasure. Yet, this pleasure is only mentioned but not fulfilled. A debate of who shall go first follows, showing the characters' mistrust of the tree and whether it will be able to hold them until death (17-18). Even a wilful death, i.e. suicide, is impossible which makes the characters even more absurd. The inability to commit suicide confirms Camus' concern behind The Myth of Sisyphus and his declaration that getting rid of "the ridiculous character" of the actual world, is of no means absurd (The Myth of Sisyphus 6). In addition, the tree cannot provide protection to Vladimir and Estragon,

VLADIMIR. …Your only hope left is to disappear.


VLADIMIR. Behind the tree. (Estragon hesitates.) Quick! Behind the tree. (Estragon goes and crouches behind the tree, realizes he is not hidden, comes out from behind the tree.) Decidedly this tree will not have been the slightest use to us. (74)

The tree is then useless. It is simply there having no purpose or signification, like life itself. The setting thus becomes as false as Godot himself as it gives the illusion that it bears the solution within it while it does not. But though they remain as such, the setting and Godot are the last hope, if not the only one, to which the characters cling to feel that they exist. Moreover, like Godot, the tree prompts fear. The characters fear to be punished by Godot if ever they leave first and "drop him" (93). As Kennedy puts it, the tree is another useless false-hope that Didi and Gogo cannot trust, "[t]he presence of the tree offers no consolation; assumed to be a dead willow by Vladimir, it cannot, at this point, serve even as a landmark. On the contrary, it prompts the first symptom of fear: being at the wrong place at the wrong time, waiting in vain" (18). The tree is the only proof they have for the appointment and thus it is decisive since if it is the wrong place, the waiting and the whole struggle would be aimless.

The Wingfields in "Hell":

The world of The Glass Menagerie focuses on the rupture between man and his setting in that it shows the inability of any kind of integration. Starting from Tom the narrator's description of the whereabouts, Horace Pearce presents the setting of The Glass Menagerie as "hell" echoing Estragon's intervention, "I'm in hell" (74):

This world, which echoes imaginings of hell, is a mass of the "en­slaved" whose habitations are linked by fire escapes, an "accidental poetic truth, for all of these huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation" (3). Its "dark, narrow alleys which run into murky canyons of tangled clotheslines, garbage cans and the sinister latticework of neighboring fire-escapes" evoke the image of a prison […], its fire-escape-like walkways placed indefinitely and uncertainly, not progress­ing within coherent design and toward clear destinations but standing as fragments in confusion and disjunction within oppressive space. (Human Shadows Bright as Glass 174)

The world of the play is characterised by darkness where desires are vanquished in a prison-like place tinged with confusion and fragments. All of the protagonists, including Jim, suffer oppression and "deception" (21). Amanda is unable to cope with the economic condition of her family. Laura cannot integrate in the world of economy and business. Tom wants to improve his artistic talent but must work in a warehouse. Jim tries hard to regain his fame and glory of school life. All of them are struggling to fulfil their wishes but their setting crashes them, hence becoming their antagonist.

Amanda and Tom seem to struggle more against their environment since they have to integrate in the world of business because of their responsibilities in the familial framework. Amanda describes herself desperately as "a mother deserted" and her daughter as "an unmarried sister who's crippled and has no job" (91). Throughout the play, Amanda is repeatedly deceived. She "[is] [...] bewildered by life". Nothing she plans and calculates happens as she wishes as her marriage, her daughter's career and future and her son's behaviour (21). She admits, "I wasn't prepared for what the future brought me" (64). "[A]ll of [her] plans - [her] hopes and ambition [...] - just gone up the spout, just gone up the spout like that". Therefore, she cannot cope with her setting since it is materialistic where man is defined by his work and social activities (23). To survive in this world, Jim asserts, one needs what "the cycle democracy is built on": "Knowledge [...] Money [and] Power" (79). [11] But the Wingfields possess none of these basics and hence cannot integrate in the world described in the play. Amanda needs her son's support because "having been raised to be a 'lady' she has no marketable skills." [12] 

Because he does not see the world as such, Tom is also suppressed by his environment and is unable to fulfil his dreams. Though he seems to be crushed by his mother, Tom is mainly surpassed by the world he lives in. He is an artist who lives in a world where money and materialism are the most important values:

Williams portrays Tom as a man trapped by economic pressures, forced to work at tasks that will emasculate him over time. [...] Tom is not interested in success and is not willing to spend a lifetime trapped in me­chanical and meaningless chores. He must escape in order to find his own truth. [13] 

Tom's mother calls him a "dreamer". A dreamer is generally a person who does not find satisfaction in the world he/she lives in and who seek this satisfaction in dreams and imagination. His job does not reflect his ambition and therefore he shows his rebellion by writing his poems on shoes boxes (92). Yet, he does not seem to succeed since he goes everyday to the warehouse in spite of his claims, "what I'm doing - what I want to do - [have] a little difference between them!" (30). He gives up his dreams to earn little money to survive in a world he does not seem to fit in. "For sixty-five dollars a month [he] give[s] up all that [he] dream[s] of doing and being ever!" (31). However, as Pearce's portrait of the world of The Glass Menagerie suggests, the setting is a prison. It enslaves its inhabitants and does not allow any kind of freedom. This same idea is expressed in Waiting for Godot.

The Setting as a Prison: The Impossibility of Escape:

Echoing Camus, Jacquart declares that "Chez Beckett, le ricanement amer résulte d'un contraste violent entre ce que l'homme espérait de la vie et ce qu'il en obtient, entre sa quête du sens et l'impossibilité d'en trouver, entre sa soif d'absolu et l'inanité de toute chose" (92). This rupture between desires and reality is also underlined in The Glass Menagerie. It is because the setting subjugates them, that the characters, in both plays, seek desperately to escape it. However, they either physically fail or are haunted by it. In both cases, they are entrapped. The inability to escape in The Glass Menagerie that Pearce puts forth also applies to Waiting for Godot,

The hell of "warty growths in overcrowded urban centers" in the world of The Glass Menagerie is a maze whose fire escapes are the means of access to private worlds, each its own hell, rather than routes of escape from it. [The characters are] [t]rapped in the world of destitution and haunted by dreams of a better past or frustrated by elusive intimations of escape and fulfillment[.] (Human Shadows Bright as Glass 174-175)

The reason behind this inability to escape is the presence of a bond that triggers a feeling of guilt and needs the sacrifice of one's own happiness.

The setting in The Glass Menagerie is isolated from the outer world just like that of Waiting for Godot, but not to serve the same idea. [14] Jacquart, in Le Théâtre de Dérision, demonstrates that solitude is represented dramatically through psychic and emotional experience. This solitude is materialized in the desolate setting isolated from the outer world. [15] Yet, though social bonds exist in The Glass Menagerie and the characters are within their own family, they do feel isolated and suffer from solitude. The characters are outsiders to each other though they share blood and genes. Still, these bonds become an obstacle for the protagonists. The bonds push them to come back to the setting they tried so hard to leave.

Social Ties as an Obstacle to Happiness:

The characters' failure to escape in Waiting for Godot is due to the presence of another with whom certain bonds and affection exist, in spite of the ambiguity of this kind of relationship. Nevertheless, this relationship is ambiguous since it is based on existential matters and mainly in order not to be alone.

Interdependency as Friendship:

In Waiting for Godot, "separation is wanted but feared". [16] It is the manifestation of the protagonists' repression by their own setting. The reason behind separation is happiness, a state praised and aimed for from ancient philosophy on. What is strange is that both Vladimir and Estragon are happy once they are apart as they admit,

VLADIMIR. I missed you . . . and at the same time I was happy. Isn't that a strange thing?

ESTRAGON. (shocked). Happy?

VLADIMIR. Perhaps it's not quite the right word.

ESTRAGON. And now?

VLADIMIR. Now? . . . (Joyous.) There you are again . .. (Indifferent.) There we are again. . . (Gloomy.) There I am again.

ESTRAGON. You see, you feel worse when I'm with you. I feel better alone too.

VLADIMIR. (vexed). Then why do you always come crawling back?

ESTRAGON. I don't know.

This reveals the inability to retrieve happiness once together. Vladimir is happy alone but his happiness deteriorates once he realizes that the separation is over. Estragon is better off alone too. Nevertheless, this happiness does not last since the separation is only temporary. In addition, the reason behind coming back is unknown to Gogo. But, coming back adds to his absurd character and submission to the setting deprived of the will to move away from it. It is alluded to the audience in the beginning of both acts that Estragon left Vladimir for a night-time (9; 58). Yet, once reunited and after coming back, Estragon refuses any kind of physical contact. He does not want Vladimir to embrace him but to "stay with him" (58). [17] It is better to suffer together than to suffer alone. Actually, "each partner needs to know that the other is there: the partners provide proof that they really exist by responding and replying to each other. In this respect, Beckett was much influenced by the contention of the eighteenth-century Irish philosopher Bishop Berkeley: Esse est percipi (To be is to be perceived)." [18]  It is also Vladimir's message to Godot when the Boy comes without a message. Vladimir wants Godot to know that they exist once the Boy delivers the message (92). Hence, perception is highlighted as through it the act of waiting would not be in vain ("Action and Theatricality in 'Waiting for Godot'" 20).

Vladimir and Estragon have their differences and it is because of this that they bicker. [19] Didi refuses to let Gogo tell him his dreams, which hurts Gogo (15-16; 70). Vladimir is dynamic when it comes to his choice of words as he changes them from a line to another and Estragon is static as he does not change his choice of words as in the following episodes:

VLADIMIR. They make a noise like wings.

ESTRAGON. Like leaves.

VLADIMIR. Like sand.

ESTRAGON. Like leaves. Silence. (62)

VLADIMIR. Rather they whisper.

ESTRAGON. They rustle.

VLADIMIR. They murmur.

ESTRAGON. They rustle. Silence. (63)

VLADIMIR. […] I assure you, it'd be an occupation.

ESTRAGON. A relaxation.

VLADIMIR. A recreation.

ESTRAGON. A relaxation. (69)

Their difference lies also in their ability to recollect, their distinction between carrot and turnip and between yesterday and today (Le Théâtre de Dérision 127). Yet, their differences make them interdependent. Actually,

Vladimir and Estragon are bound by a relationship that subsists on their dissimilarities. […] Essentially, like an old married couple, they need each other. Vladimir needs someone to talk to, a soundboard for his verbal digressions, and tension is created the moment Estragon refuses to "return the ball." Estragon wants protection and in that respect he is the feminine half. He actually demands protection, reproaches Vladimir with singing in his absence, gets angry, leaves, then is afraid and come back€­a kind of coquettish friendship. [20] 

However, Vladimir can also be said to be the feminine half in the couple because of his maternal tenderness. [21] He sings to Gogo to sleep (70). He is cold because he "takes off his coat and lays it across Estragon's shoulders" so that Gogo sleeps warmly (70). The two characters are simply as Martin Esslin remarks, "complementary" as "they also are dependent on each other and have to stay together" (The Theatre of the Absurd 47). Moreover, this complementarity lies in their difference as Didi thinks and reasons and Gogo is sensitive and was a poet. They might be the emblem of sense and sensibility, mind and heart and the Ego and the Id respectively, as Jacquart suggests (Théâtre de Dérision 129). It is because of all of this that they are interdependent and are thus bound to one another unable to leave definitively the setting if one of them stays.

Interdependency as Slavery:

Relationships in Waiting for Godot have another shape: slavery. Pozzo and Lucky are not static in the setting like Vladimir and Estragon, but they are linked to it in that they roam around it aimlessly and if they fall, as in Act 2, "[they] wait till [they] can get up[,] [t]hen [they] go on" (89). In Pozzo and Lucky's sadomasochistic relationship, solitude is substituted by suffering and pain (Le Théâtre de Dérision 76). Lucky cries because he does not want Pozzo to sell him and does his best, as Pozzo claims, to be forgiven (31-32). Guicharnaud describes Pozzo and Lucky's relationship as follows,

Pozzo tried to give his life a structure by his possession of Lucky and the visible sign of his possession€­the rope. By the same token, Lucky is "saved" by that bond, by his function and his state of servitude. Servitude, however, leads to a mechanization that crushes the individual. Lucky is reduced basic reactions: he trembles, he cries, he kicks. He has a past: he has been a better dancer, he had been Pozzo's "thinker," he had been, and still is, his valet and his jester. […] He thinks for Pozzo, he dances for Pozzo. ("Existence on Stage" 113)

Lucky is therefore totally dominated by his master Pozzo. But a master is not a master if he does not have a slave. Pozzo needs Lucky's recognition of him as a master to be one. He urges everyone to look at him when he is about to deliver his speech and he insists that Lucky, his slave, does so (30). If Lucky does not look at and listen to Pozzo as a vassal, Pozzo cannot be called a lord (Le Théâtre de Dérision 132). "Esse est percipi" is also appropriate here since for Pozzo, to be a master is to be perceived as a master, a thing only Lucky can do. Their relationship gets more complicated in the second act. Pozzo becomes more dependent in that he needs Lucky to guide him. He does not lead Lucky but rather he follows his slave. Therefore, their master-slave relationship is deteriorated (Le Théâtre de Dérision 133-134). The rope being shorter is an emblem of this degradation, which adds to their interdependency.

Estrangement and Isolation within the Family Nest:

Interdependency is not the reason that pushes Tom to come back to the setting he left. Tom wants to escape and 'succeeds' in leaving the family nest following "[his] father's footsteps" but comes "crawling back" to it to tell the audience his story as he "strolls across the front of the stage to the fire-escape"(92; 13). The setting subjugates Tom in that it is forever printed in his memory. Amanda and Laura are forever bound to that setting and for them that fire-escape is a one-way entrance that they cannot exit. Yet, Tom's relationship with his family pushes him both to leave and to come back to the setting.

Because the setting is an obstacle for Tom to fulfil his dreams, he decides to escape it. As Pearce suggests, the fire-escape stands for the attempt and the longing for an 'escape' (Human Shadows Bright as Glass 174). The apartment can be the symbol of this nailed coffin from which only the father got away "without removing one nail" (34). The house, which is supposed to be a psychologically warm and safe place that unites family members, becomes a "coffin" preventing its inhabitants from having the existence they dream of. Its entrance stands for this sense of rupture between the family and its home. The fire-escape is the only exit from the apartment "burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation" (12). Nevertheless, Tom's escape is but temporal for he does not and cannot detach himself from the apartment he lived in with his mother and his sister.

If in Waiting for Godot the characters are complementary because of their dissimilarities, it is not the case in The Glass Menagerie since Tom and Amanda's difference is the reason behind the tension in the play and one of the reasons behind Tom wanting to escape the setting. Amanda and Tom belong respectively to the opposite worlds of soul/body, religion/atheism, and responsibility/freedom. Amanda still believes in the American Dream through her "try and you will SUCCEED" and in the possibility to have a better future in the business world; whereas Tom's only dream is to pursue his identity as an artist (37). Tom and Amanda's several verbal arguments denote their lack of communication over Tom's artistic choice, going to the movies or eating and smoking:

TOM. What in Christ's name am I-

AMANDA [shrilly]. Don't you use that -

TOM. Supposed to do!

AMANDA. Expression! Not in my -

TOM. Ohhh!!

AMANDA. Presence! Have you gone out of your senses? (28-29)

Both characters do not listen to one another. Each tries hard to express himself/herself and reach the other but does not succeed in doing so. Each lives in his/her world and any type of communication cannot be established. Therefore, their lines sound like fragments without any meaning so much so that their dialogue can be called "dialogue de sourds". Even within the family, solitude still exists not physically but rather spiritually. As Esslin explains, Amanda and Tom's lack of communication and miscommunication might be justified as follows,

Apart from the general devaluation of language in the flood of mass communications, the growing specialization of life has made the exchange of ideas on an increasing number of subjects impossible between members of different spheres of life which have each developed their own specialized jargons. (The Theatre of the Absurd 399)

Actually, though they are mother and son, Amanda and Tom belong to "different spheres" each having his/her own language. Amanda is the traditional romantic southern woman who still believes in values and morals in the world of "hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars, and sex" (44). Tom is "[a] poet in an unpoetic world". [22] Trapped in the responsibilities that his mother inflicted on him after his father's departure, Tom decides to escape, falling in love with long-distances as well. His mother's claim "[i]n these trying times we live in, all that we have to cling to is - each other" pushes Tom towards the desire to escape for his independency (34). Williams often refers to the sea as an escape symbol, which explains Tom's choice of the Marine as a substitute to his life in Saint Louis. [23] But Tom's dream is still not achieved by his escape. As Bigsby suggests in "Entering The Glass Menagerie",

[I]t is clear that in The Glass Menagerie Tom has not fulfilled himself. […] Tom lacks even the consolation of success. Fired from his job in the shoe warehouse, he wanders from city to city, looking for the companionship he had failed to offer his sister. […] [I]n that Merchant Marine uniform which is the very symbol of his homelessness, he returns, in his memory, to the home he deserted for the fulfillment he failed to find. ("Entering The Glass Menagerie" 38)

His job in the Marine is a proof for his homelessness as he belongs nowhere. He did not achieve himself as an artist since there is no reference in the play for that, though the play itself might be seen as his artistic success since he is its narrator.

Moreover, his failure to escape is mainly because of his sister Laura. Tom's affection for his sister is obvious through their discourse as they get along. Tom lets Amanda talk about her past for Laura's sake (16). He feels terribly guilty and is unable to speak when he breaks Laura's glass menagerie (32). Their bond is strong because both of them are artists and look for an escape in a world of illusion. As Bigsby suggests, "Tom Wingfield [is] the poet who escapes, and Laura, the poet trapped in her own inventions" ("Tennessee Williams: The Theatricalising Self" 68). Still, Tom cannot escape since Laura's image haunts him and pushes him to come back to the same setting he escaped from. Tom's escape has physically succeeded, but mentally he is tormented by the guilt for leaving his family and mainly his sister. This guilt for abandoning and losing Laura's company disables him from escaping the St Louise apartment.

The characters are thus entrapped in this setting though they seek desperately an escape. The setting seems to be a magnet to which the protagonists are forever drawn unable to escape it. Whether in The Glass Menagerie or in Waiting for Godot, "[t]he tragedy [and absurdity] of [the characters'] condition [are] circular: man's condition is unbearable, but the only apparent means of escape are illusory". [24] 

The setting in the plays represents the first and most apparent obstacle towards their impulses. It creates their absurd character as they must live in it since they cannot escape. In Waiting for Godot, the setting is bare and deteriorated to excrement. It does not help the protagonists since the tree can neither fulfil the slightest wish of suicide nor be a refuge from a presumable danger. In The Glass Menagerie, the setting is the same as events only take place in the Wingfield apartment. It highlights the deterioration of man as it presents building as beehives referring to behaviourism and to animality. Moreover, this setting is more suppressing as it does not allow the protagonists to leave it. It is mainly because of the attachment they have with the other, though different, that the protagonists in Waiting for Godot are complimentary and cannot leave the stage from fear of solitude. Yet, solitude in The Glass Menagerie is persistent even within the family. Tom escapes the setting to fulfil his dream as an artist leaving both mother and sister trapped in St Louise. Nevertheless, he comes back to narrate the events of the play out of remorse. The awkwardness of the setting influences also time on which the events occur. The shape of time becomes ambiguous on this stage where the distinction between past, present and future becomes impossible under the influence of memory and repetition.