The Glass Menagerie

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Themes and Colors
Memory Theme Icon
Abandonment Theme Icon
Illusions and Dreams Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Glass Menagerie, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Escape Theme Icon

Escape in the play operate in two directions: from the real world into the world of memory and dreams, as Amanda and Laura demonstrate; or from the world of memory and dreams into the real world, as Tom desires. Amanda and Laura escape reality by retreating into dream worlds. Amanda refuses to see things as they are, insisting on seeing what she wants to see. Amanda still lives as a past version of herself, even as she projects ambitions onto Laura. Rather than accepting Laura’s peculiarities or Tom’s unhappiness, she escapes into her fantasy version of the world as she thinks it should be.

Laura escapes from the imposing structures of reality into worlds she can control and keep perfect: her memories, the glass menagerie, the freedom of walking through the park. When Amanda confronts Laura, she tries to escape by playing music loudly enough to block out the argument. However, both Amanda and Laura can see their present situations, and they do try to make their realities better. Amanda raises subscriptions for magazines to earn money. Instead of escaping the fighting, Laura serves as peacemaker between Amanda and Tom.

Tom does not want to escape into dreams or other fantasy worlds—he wants to physically escape, to leave. And even when he can't bring himself to actually leave, he is constantly escaping from something: he escapes from the apartment onto the fire escape; he escapes from the coffin in the magic show; and he sneaks away at the warehouse to write poetry, a mental and physical escape from a menial job. He fantasizes about joining the merchant marines and escaping from not only his claustrophobic life but also the landlocked Midwest. Tom goes to the movies every night to watch an escapist fantasy on the screen. He also uses alcohol to escape reality: we see bottles in his pockets, and “going to the movies” is a euphemism for getting drunk. Yet all of Tom’s escape mechanisms are cyclical: while they offer the promise of freedom, they also trap him. “I’m leading a double life,” Tom shouts at Amanda at the end of Scene Three. He intends to hurt her so that he might break free of her power over him, but ultimately, he can’t escape his love for his family.

Escape ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Escape appears in each scene of The Glass Menagerie. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
How often theme appears:
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Escape Quotes in The Glass Menagerie

Below you will find the important quotes in The Glass Menagerie related to the theme of Escape.
Scene 1 Quotes

The apartment...is entered by a fire escape, a structure whose name is a touch of accidental poetic truth, for all of these huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation.

Related Symbols: Fire Escape

There is a fifth character in the play who doesn’t appear except in this larger-than-life-size photograph over the mantel. This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances...The last we heard of him was a picture postcard...containing a message of two words: “Hello—Goodbye!”

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Mr. Wingfield
Scene 2 Quotes

What are we going to do, what is going to become of us, what is the future?

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: Typewriter

I went in the art museum and the bird houses at the Zoo...Lately I’ve been spending most of my afternoons in the Jewel Box, that big glass house where they raise the tropical flowers.

Related Characters: Laura Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie
Scene 3 Quotes

Look!—I’ve got no thing, no single thing...in my life here that I can call my OWN!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

Listen! You think I’m crazy about the warehouse? [He bends fiercely toward her slight figure.] You think I’m in love with the Continental Shoemakers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that—celotex interior! with—fluorescent—tubes! Look! I’d rather somebody picked up a crowbar and battered out my brains—than go back mornings! I go!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Amanda Wingfield

I’m going to opium dens...I’m a hired assassin...I’m leading a double-life...I go to gambling casinos...Oh, I could tell you many things to make you sleepless!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)
Scene 4 Quotes

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 nail. [He has come inside.] There is a trick that would come in handy for me—get me out of this two-by-four situation!...You know it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield

I go to the movies because—I like adventure. Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Movies

Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

Oh, I can see the handwriting on the wall as plain as I see the nose in front of my face! It’s terrifying! More and more you remind me of your father! He was out all hours without explanation—Then left! Goodbye! And me with the bag to hold.

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Tom Wingfield, Mr. Wingfield
Scene 5 Quotes

In Spain there was Guernica! But here there was only hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars, and movies, and sex that hung in the gloom like a chandelier and flooded the world with brief, deceptive rainbows...All the world was waiting for bombardments!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

[Laura] lives in a world of her own—a world of little glass ornaments, Mother...

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Scene 6 Quotes

I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)
Scene 7 Quotes

Go, then! Go to the moon—you selfish dreamer!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Tom Wingfield

I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two places.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

Not long after that I was fired for writing a poem on the lid of a shoe-box. I left St. Louis.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker)

I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father’s footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space. I traveled around a great deal. The cities swept about me like dead leaves, leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches.

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Mr. Wingfield

The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow. Then 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!

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield

For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura—and so goodbye...

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield