Life may not always be as perfect as we hope or as adventurous as we would like it to be, and at times we may even stumble across obstacles in our lives. Many individuals confront these obstacles; however, there are a number of people who detach themselves from reality and escape creating a perfect world of their own. In the play "The Glass Menagerie" it is apparent that each of the Wingfield members escapes to a fantasy world of their own in order to evade reality.
One of the members of the Wingfield family is Tom, whom is capable of functioning in the real world, as he is employed and interacts with strangers. Tom, faced with his lame day-to-day factory job and by the unpleasant thought of returning home every night to a mother who is not willing to understand his needs or desires, retreats into his own fictional world. He dreams of joining the merchant marines and some day becoming a published writer of poetry. Almost daily, Tom hides from his reality by going to the movies, and intoxicated himself with alcohol. Tom states to Jim, his friend, that the other viewers at the movies he attends are substituting on-screen adventure for real-life adventure, finding fulfillment in illusion rather than real life. After one drunken night, Tom amuses Laura by recounting the magic show in which the magician managed to escape from a nailed coffin. It may be that Tom views his life with his family and at the warehouse as the coffin in which he is confined. Tom may feel as though he is locked into his life by his emotions and love for his mother and sister and possibly even loyalty for them as he is the one who supports the family. In the end, he has no more motivation than Laura does to pursue professional success, romantic relationships, or even ordinary friendships, and he decides to leave his home and family for what he thinks is true "escape." Tom never really does escape from his mother and sister as he is always thinking of them no matter how far he wanders from home.
Laura, the daughter and sister, in this play has developed the escape mechanism of illness when an event or situation seems to threaten her. She also created an elaborate world in her collection of delicate glass animals, a world into which she can withdraw safely and where she finds comfort and meaning that the real world does not seem to offer. Reality has by far the weakest grasp on Laura as she lives in a private world populated by glass animals; objects that like Laura's emotional and inner life are incredibly and dangerously delicate. She is too shy and lacks self-confidence to cope with the real world. She talks of her glass animals as if they are real beings and her only other interest is in playing old records. When it finally seems as though she may be peeking out of her fictional world through Jim's words, she withdraws and becomes frail and limp once again after Jim breaks her heart a second time. Realizing that she will always be the broken "unicorn" in society, she gives up trying to please her mother and being normal.
Amanda lives in a world based largely on her imagined past. Elaborate additions may have been made to those memories of her younger years, but they serve to hide her from the reality of a lost husband and two equally lost children. Amanda tries to relive her past through Laura, and denies anything she does not want to accept. Unlike her children, she is partial to real-world values and longs for social and financial success, yet her attachment to these values is exactly what prevents her from perceiving a number of truths about her life. She cannot accept that she should be anything other than the pampered belle she once was, that Laura is peculiar, that Tom will not be the businessman she'd like, and that she herself might be in some ways responsible for the sorrows and flaws of her children. Amanda's retreat into illusion is in many ways more pathetic than her children's, because it is not a willful imaginative construction but a distortion of reality. Amanda's great hope was that Laura would graduate from a business college and pursue her career, but once she finds out that Laura was too shy even to attend classes, she pins all her hopes on finding Laura a husband. When that scheme fails too, all hope seems lost. A life of worry, economic insecurity and dependency seems inevitable. Amanda lives inside her own world of illusions because the outside world is too painful for her to face; a world in another time and place, her ideal world of the south during her youth. Tom tries to force her to face the facts that Laura is different than other girls, but Amanda refuses to accept this, all she can do is wish on the moon that things will turn out the way she wants them to. Clearly, Amanda seems oblivious to Tom's unhappiness and Laura's painful shyness.
Each member of the Wingfield family had their own escape mechanism which they used to hide or escape from the real world. In the end there was no escape from the family prison for any of the three characters. Disconnection from the outside world and an inability to live life on its own terms, caused them frustration and disappointment. As imperfect or dull as life may seem, resorting to illusion and fictional escapes turns out to be a disabling.