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The picture of Tom's father represents the disaster that his father has left the family in and how they unsuccessfully attempt to survive their misfortune. For instance, the same way his father fled his responsibilities by leaving them, Tom desires to flee from his responsibilities. Referring to himself, Tom argues with his mother that, "[I]f self is what I thought of, Mother, I'd be where [my father] is - GONE!" (Williams 23). Like his father, Tom wants to divest from his familial responsibilities, but leaving his family in a desperate situation stops him, thus he can only hope of eventually leaving. Furthermore, his mother, Amanda, with the departure of the father, has many more responsibilities and needs Tom's help. Yelling at Tom regarding his late-night routine, Amanda screams, "It's terrifyingâ€¦you remind me of your fatherâ€¦out all hoursâ€¦Then left!" (Williams 35). Amanda realizes that she will have a larger burden of responsibilities and new disarray to deal with if Tom leaves. Additionally, Tom's father disregarded his responsibilities and then created bedlam for them. As Tom informs his sister, Laura, about how the magician escaped the nailed coffin without removing a single nail, "the father's grinning photograph lights up" (Williams 28). When the father left home, the new burden of responsibilities, which meant less freedom and more problems, led the family to hope they could eventually escape them. Lastly, the fleeing father tricked them and left behind disorder. Chatting with Tom, Amanda tells him, "That innocent look of your father's had everyone fooled!" (Williams 46). Even though the father seemed genuine, his departure left Tom and Amanda frantically craving to escape the new responsibilities, but their financial situation and Laura made it difficult. In essence, the father's picture symbolized the enduring disarray the father left them in and the extra responsibilities thrust upon the Wingfields, which made them desperately hope that they can eventually escape their responsibilities.
Just as the picture of the father resembles escaping responsibilities, Amanda Wingfield gallantly attempts to create a stable family to lessen her responsibilities, concluding in a vain hope. For instance, Amanda urgently attempts to make Laura more self-sufficient, sadly a wish that never culminates. After Amanda learns Laura abandoned business school, she exclaims, "[W]hatâ€¦to do the rest of our livesâ€¦We won't have a business careerâ€¦What is there left but dependency all our lives?" (Williams 15-16). Amanda seeks to create a job outlook for Laura to evade some of her own obligations, which fails and results only in a futile hope. Moreover, Amanda attempts to flee her obligations by resorting to asking Tom to find gentlemen callers for Laura. Imploringly Amanda asks, "Findâ€¦oneâ€¦and ask him out for sister!" (Williams 36). Amanda would escape into freedom if she found a gentleman caller for Laura, but this also fails later when Jim O'Connor declares he already loves another girl. Furthermore, Amanda knows her responsibilities would increase if Tom left, so she pleads him to not leave until his sister finds a husband. Pleading and arguing with Tom, she says, "I saw that letterâ€¦from the Merchant Marine. [D]o itâ€¦But not till there's somebody to take your placeâ€¦as soon as Laura has got somebody to take care of her" (Williams 35). In another endeavor to relieve some responsibilities, Amanda pleads to Tom's morals for him to stay, therefore freeing herself and only allowing Tom a glimmer of hope of leaving. Lastly, a resolute Amanda decides to make Jim and Laura fall in love. As Amanda berates Tom, she states, "When he sees how lovely and sweet and pretty she is, he'll thank his lucky stars he was asked to dinner" (Williams 47). Even though Amanda believes that she can make Jim love Laura, it ultimately fails, signifying that she might never break away from her responsibilities, but can only hope of escaping. A determined Amanda tries many ways to relieve her familial responsibilities by attempting to create a stable family, but she fails, portraying that she can only hope to gain freedom.
While Amanda attempts to form a stable family, Tom tries to find a means of liberty from his familial obligations, but does not entirely break away. For instance, Tom often goes out to the fire escape symbolizing his desire to escape his hectic familial responsibilities. With Amanda constantly correcting Tom, he finally loses his mind, heads out to the fire escape, and tells her, "I haven't enjoyed one bite of this dinner because of your constant directions on how to eat itâ€¦Tom rises and walks toward the living room" (Williams 6-7). Tom understands that helping his family is one of his duties, but fueled by a yearning to leave, symbolized by his retreats to the fire escape, he can only hope for freedom. Additionally, Tom continuously goes to the movies to escape his familial responsibilities. Returning home one night, Tom answers Laura about the magician's trick by replying, "But the wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without removing one nailâ€¦[W]ho in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail" (Williams 26-27). Likewise, Tom desires to disappear from his own coffin, resembling his familial duties, without hurting his family in the process, but he fails with only a hope of eventual freedom. Furthermore, Tom, irritated by his duties, chooses to leave for good to escape his responsibilities. Conversing with Jim, Tom grumbles that "I am about to moveâ€¦I am a memberâ€¦The Union of Merchant Seamen" (Williams 61-62). Even though Tom believes he will depart, his departure will not gain him freedom of his familial responsibilities because an obstacle like Laura always appears, which leaves Tom with just a vain hope. Lastly, even when Tom leaves, he always remembers his duty to Laura. After he left, he reflects on what he left behind, thinking, "Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!" (Williams 97). So even after he does escape from his family, guilt and the memory of Laura deteriorates his conscience; thereby, he truly does not achieve the freedom that he greatly wants. Fanatically, Tom wishes to rid his familial responsibilities, but due to Laura, who gives him a guilty conscience, he can only hope in vain for a definitive freedom.
In essence, the symbols and characters of The Glass Menagerie resemble L.M. Domina's view that one can try to attain freedom from familial responsibilities, but it is just a vain hope. The father's picture symbolizes the mess he left the family in, and how the family tries to escape from the extra responsibilities forced on them. Amanda attempts to make a stable family to lessen her responsibilities, but fails. Finally, Tom fanatically attempts to escape his duties and when he does, he feels guilty about leaving his responsibilities. Thus, one can only vainly hope to escape and gain liberty from familial responsibilities.