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.

Category: English