The Glass Menagerie

Manufacturing Illusions: Irony in The Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie is a play founded on illusion. Williams uses the devices of illusion and metaphor to illustrate truth, which he sometimes reveals through the use of irony. In the production notes that preface the play, Williams writes that “expressionism and all other unconventional techniques” in a play “should be attempting to find a closer approach, a more penetrating and vivid expression of things as they are” and that “truth, life, or reality is an organic thing which the poetic imagination can represent or suggest.”

The role of Tom, the poet, is as a fabricator or conveyor of illusions: Tom functions as the play’s narrator and “as an undisguised convention of the play” (Sc. 1). He states in his introductory monologue: “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion” (Sc. 1). His statement removes any doubt that he is the play’s primary illusionist, controlling the memories of his family like puppets on strings for the audience to witness.

Critic Joven indicates that the isolation of the Wingfields and their “untenability” with the...

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