Monday, 13 August 2012

Magic and Truth in The Glass Menagerie

The opening lines of Tennessee William's play goes as follows:

TOM: 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.
What a great description of the difference between an ordinary magician and an Illuminated Magician.

From the fourth scene of The Glass Menagerie we get more about this important symbol in Tennessee's play.

LAURA: Where have you been all this time?
TOM: I have been to the movies.
LAURA: All this time at the movies?
TO M: There was a very long programme. There was a Garbo picture and a Mickey Mouse and a travelogue and a newsreel and a preview of coming attractions. And there was an organ solo and a collection for the milk-fund - simultaneously - which ended up in a terrible fight between a fat lady and an usher !
LAURA [innocently]: Did you have to stay through everything?
TOM: Of course ! And, oh, I forgot ! There was a big stage show ! The headliner on this stage show was Malvolio the
Magician. He performed wonderful tricks, many of them, such as pouriing water back and forth between pitchers.
First it turned to wine and then it turned to beer and then it turned to whisky. I knew it was whisky it finally turned
into because he needed somebody to come up out of the audience to help him, and I came up - both shows ! It was
Kentucky Straight Bourbon. A very generous fellow, he gave souvenirs. (He pulls from his back pocket a shimmering
rainbow-coloured scarf.) He gave me this. This is his magic scarf. You can have it, Laura. You wave it over a canary
cage and you get a bowl of gold- fish. You wave it over the gold-fish bowl and they fly away canaries. . . . But the
wonderfullest trick of all was the coffin trick. We nailed him into a coffin and he got out of the coffin without rernoving one nail, [He has come inside.] There is a trick that would come in handy for me - get me out of this 2 by 4 situation ! [Flops on to a bed and starts removing shoes.]
LAURA: Tom ? Shhh'!
TO M: What're you shushing me for?
LAURA: You'll wake up mother.
TOM: Goody, goody ! Pay 'er back for all those 'Rise an' Shines'. [Lies down, groaning.] 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?
[As if in answer, the father's grinning photograph lights up.]

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