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The Glass Menagerie

The play The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, Williams uses

many symbols which represent many different things. Many of the symbols

used in the play try to symbolize some form of escape or difference between

reality and illusion.

The first symbol, presented in the first scene, is the fire escape.

This represents the “bridge” between the illusory world of the Wingfields

and the world of reality. This “bridge” seems to be a one way passage.

But the direction varies for each character. For Tom, the fire escape is

the way out of the world of Amanda and Laura and an entrance into the world

of reality. For Laura, the fire escape is a way into her world. A way to

escape from reality. Both examples can readily be seen: Tom will stand

outside on the fire escape to smoke, showing that he does not like to be

inside, to be a part of the illusionary world. Laura, on the other hand,

thinks of the fire escape as a way in and not a way out. This can be

seen when Amanda sends Laura to go to the store: Laura trips on the fire

escape. This also shows that Laura’s fears and emotions greatly affect her

physical condition, more so than normal people.

Another symbol presented deals more with Tom than any of the other

characters: Tom’s habit of going to the movies shows us his longing to

leave the apartment and head out into the world of reality. A place where

one can find adventure. And Tom, being a poet, can understand the needs of

man to long for adventure and romance. But he is kept from entering

reality by Amanda, who criticizes him as being a “selfish dreamer.” But,

Tom has made steps to escape into reality by transferring the payment of a

light bill to pay for his dues in the Merchant Seaman’s Union.

Another symbol, which deals with both Amanda and Laura, is Jim

O’Connor. To Laura, Jim represents the one thing she fears and does not

want to face, reality. Jim is a perfect example of “the common man.” A

person with no real outstanding quality. In fact, Jim is rather awkward,

which can be seen when he dances with Laura. To Amanda, Jim represents the

days of her youth, when she went frolicking about picking jonquils and

supposedly having “seventeen gentlemen callers on one Sunday afternoon.”

Although Amanda desires to see Laura settled down with a nice young man, it

is hard to tell whether she wanted a gentleman caller to be invited for

Laura or for herself.

One symbol which is rather obvious is Laura’s glass menagerie. Her

collection of glass represents her own private world. Set apart from

reality, a place where she can hide and be safe. The events that happen to

Laura’s glass affects Laura’s emotional state greatly. When Amanda tells

Laura to practice typing, Laura instead plays with her glass. When Amanda

is heard walking up the fire escape, she quickly hides her collection. She

does this to hide her secret world from the others. When Tom leaves to go

to the movies in an angered rush, he accidentally breaks some of Laura’s

glass. The shattered glass represents Laura’s understanding of Tom’s

responsibilities to her. Also, the unicorn, which is important, represents

Laura directly. Laura points out to Jim that the unicorn is different,

just as she is different. She also points out that the unicorn does not

complain of being different, as she does not complain either. And when Jim

breaks the horn off the unicorn, Laura points out that now it is like the

other horses, just as Laura has shed some of her shyness and become more

normal. When she hands the broken unicorn to Jim, this might represent

Laura handing over her broken love to Jim, as Jim has revealed that he is

engaged to be married.

As can be seen, there are quite a few symbols in this play. And a

number of them have diverse meanings. Most of these symbols have a direct

meaning in the author’s own life. This is understandable seeing that the

play is supposed to be “memory play.” It is obvious that this memory play

is based on Williams’ own memories.

Bibliography

The Glass Menagerie

The play The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, Williams uses

many symbols which represent many different things. Many of the symbols

used in the play try to symbolize some form of escape or difference between

reality and illusion.

The first symbol, presented in the first scene, is the fire escape.

This represents the “bridge” between the illusory world of the Wingfields

and the world of reality. This “bridge” seems to be a one way passage.

But the direction varies for each character. For Tom, the fire escape is

the way out of the world of Amanda and Laura and an entrance into the world

of reality. For Laura, the fire escape is a way into her world. A way to

escape from reality. Both examples can readily be seen: Tom will stand

outside on the fire escape to smoke, showing that he does not like to be

inside, to be a part of the illusionary world. Laura, on the other hand,

thinks of the fire escape as a way in and not a way out. This can be

seen when Amanda sends Laura to go to the store: Laura trips on the fire

escape. This also shows that Laura’s fears and emotions greatly affect her

physical condition, more so than normal people.

Another symbol presented deals more with Tom than any of the other

characters: Tom’s habit of going to the movies shows us his longing to

leave the apartment and head out into the world of reality. A place where

one can find adventure. And Tom, being a poet, can understand the needs of

man to long for adventure and romance. But he is kept from entering

reality by Amanda, who criticizes him as being a “selfish dreamer.” But,

Tom has made steps to escape into reality by transferring the payment of a

light bill to pay for his dues in the Merchant Seaman’s Union.

Another symbol, which deals with both Amanda and Laura, is Jim

O’Connor. To Laura, Jim represents the one thing she fears and does not

want to face, reality. Jim is a perfect example of “the common man.” A

person with no real outstanding quality. In fact, Jim is rather awkward,

which can be seen when he dances with Laura. To Amanda, Jim represents the

days of her youth, when she went frolicking about picking jonquils and

supposedly having “seventeen gentlemen callers on one Sunday afternoon.”

Although Amanda desires to see Laura settled down with a nice young man, it

is hard to tell whether she wanted a gentleman caller to be invited for

Laura or for herself.

One symbol which is rather obvious is Laura’s glass menagerie. Her

collection of glass represents her own private world. Set apart from

reality, a place where she can hide and be safe. The events that happen to

Laura’s glass affects Laura’s emotional state greatly. When Amanda tells

Laura to practice typing, Laura instead plays with her glass. When Amanda

is heard walking up the fire escape, she quickly hides her collection. She

does this to hide her secret world from the others. When Tom leaves to go

to the movies in an angered rush, he accidentally breaks some of Laura’s

glass. The shattered glass represents Laura’s understanding of Tom’s

responsibilities to her. Also, the unicorn, which is important, represents

Laura directly. Laura points out to Jim that the unicorn is different,

just as she is different. She also points out that the unicorn does not

complain of being different, as she does not complain either. And when Jim

breaks the horn off the unicorn, Laura points out that now it is like the

other horses, just as Laura has shed some of her shyness and become more

normal. When she hands the broken unicorn to Jim, this might represent

Laura handing over her broken love to Jim, as Jim has revealed that he is

engaged to be married.

As can be seen, there are quite a few symbols in this play. And a

number of them have diverse meanings. Most of these symbols have a direct

meaning in the author’s own life. This is understandable seeing that the

play is supposed to be “memory play.” It is obvious that this memory play

is based on Williams’ own memories.

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