Tom Wingfield was a very interesting character who had to live between the very conventional and materialistic worlds that he knew. The job that he held at the shoe warehouse was difficult for him to reconcile to himself as he knew that he was living contrary to what his heart was telling him. He, unlike his sister and mother, was a very free spirit. This spirit was stifled in order for him to continue to work in what was a dead end job and he resented it. To Tom the position was just not important nor meaningful.
This is evident when he tells his mother Amanda, “Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse! ” (Scene 4) In order to find those things that he knew to be important for himself he escaped into his poetry, his thoughts his dreams and the movies. In order for Tom to live his dreams and his freedom of adventure he escaped there, into his own illusions. This constructed world of his was far from the one of his mother and sister.
He recognized his sister’s situation and understood that his mother was delusional. He was therefore forced to leave his mother and sister or be completely lost and consumed by their false worlds made up of deception, illusions and the withdrawal from “normalcy”. Tom had to continually fight up against the demands and insults on an almost nightly basis from Amanda and the movies were his refuge. Tom would escape into this world of his creation in search of freedom and adventure. But, after a time, he began to realize this was not reality either.
It was better than his own true reality, but still was not his own. He was living his adventures through the players on the screen and his drinking escapades only briefly dulled his awareness of his own unhappiness. It was then that he knew that he had to leave it all behind to save himself. He could no longer take Amanda’s nagging, her dominance when it came to what he ate, how he dressed, even how to quit smoking. When Amanda began to remove his books that he would bring home, it was almost more than he could stand.
He realized then that if Amanda could not appreciate the magic, wonder and genius within the texts, she would never understand him. When Tom attempted to make his mother see that he is different from her and does not mirror or share her worldview, Amanda rejected everything Tom stood for. When Tom contended that “man is by instinct” a lover, a hunter, and a fighter” qualities which Amanda’s husband possessed and she refused to recognize these qualities as acceptable. Therefore, Tom could only recognize his own instinct by leaving home.
Tom, therefore, acted with gut wrenching honesty when he left and started a new life that did not include his family, the movie houses, or the shoe warehouse. Tom understood that he had to listen to his inner self, a self that was on the verge of “boiling” and escape. He has no choice but to escape to avoid being swallowed up by the world that he abhorred and killed his spirit. He intuitively knew that his own creative abilities, his sensitivity, his very soul was being destroyed by his surroundings.
Furthermore, he knew that if he didn’t act, he would suffer a life of regret, unhappiness, and a complete deterioration of himself and his wonderful creative spirit with it. Tom’s rejection of his family was not a selfish, egocentric act. Instead, Tom recognized that he had no choice but to escape in order to preserve himself and his dreams. He knew that if he continued to live the way he was, he would be destroyed as a man and as an artist. Ultimately he was happier as a man, but the gentle spirit of the artist in him was at times melancholy and nostalgic for his sister and mother.