Tom Wingfield was the potentially creative character caught in a conventional and materialistic world. He was the free spirit who had to curb his wings by working at a dreaded and disliked job in a shoe warehouse. Tom had his own independent world composed of those things he considered important — his poetry, his dreams, his freedom, his adventure, and his illusions. All these things were in direct opposition to his mother's world, but Tom's conflict was between his world and the realistic world. He was realist enough to recognize his sister's plight. He knew that his mother's dreams of gentlemen callers were false. He recognized that he had no future with the warehouse and he knew that he had to act without pity or else be destroyed as a sensitive being. He was forced, then, to leave his mother and sister or to be destroyed and consumed by their worlds of illusion, deception, and withdrawal.
For years, Tom had sought escape from Amanda's nagging inquisition and commands by attending movies almost nightly. This was his search for adventure. But Tom was soon to realize that he was watching adventure rather than living it. He realized, also, that the movies and drinking were only momentary psychological escapes. He used movies as a type of adventure to compensate for his own dull life and to escape from the nagging reminders of his everyday life. He needed escape from Amanda's domineering instructions as how to eat, when to eat, what to eat, how to quit smoking, how to improve himself, what to read, and so forth. When she began confiscating the books which he had brought home, his life became almost intolerable. If Amanda could not appreciate the greatness of an established creative genius, his own creative endeavors would never be understood or appreciated. Finally, when Tom tries to make his mother see that he is different from her, that he is not an exact reproduction of her own ideas, Amanda rejects the things which Tom stands for. Tom contended that "man is by instinct" a lover, a hunter, and a fighter. These are qualities which Amanda's husband possessed and she refused to recognize these qualities as decent. Therefore, Tom could only recognize his own instinctual drives by leaving home.
Tom, therefore, acted with painful honesty by committing himself to a life that excluded the shoe warehouse, the inert audiences in movie houses, and a direct and enervating contact with his family. Tom, being aware of the "boiling" within himself, knew that he had to act quickly or else be stifled by his environment. He realized that his own creative abilities and his sensitivity were being destroyed by his surroundings. Furthermore, he knew that if he didn't act, he would suffer regret, unhappiness, and a complete deterioration of his natural creative abilities.
Tom's rejection of his family was not a selfish, egocentric escape. Instead, Tom recognized that he must escape in order to save himself. It was a means of self-preservation. He knew that if he stayed, he would be destroyed as a man and as an artist. But as man and artist, and as a sensitive individual, he has never been able to forget his life and especially the delicate charm and loveliness of his sister.