The play The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, Williams uses many symbolswhich represent many different things. Many of the symbols used in the play tryto symbolize some form of escape or difference between reality and illusion. Thefirst symbol, presented in the first scene, is the fire escape. This representsthe “bridge” between the illusory world of the Wingfields and theworld of reality.
This “bridge” seems to be a one way passage. But thedirection varies for each character. For Tom, the fire escape is the way out ofthe world of Amanda and Laura and an entrance into the world of reality. ForLaura, 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 tosmoke, showing that he does not like to be inside, to be a part of theillusionary world. Laura, on the other hand, thinks of the fire escape as a wayin and not a way out.
This can be seen when Amanda sends Laura to go to thestore: Laura trips on the fire escape. This also shows that Laura’s fears andemotions 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 apartmentand 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 andromance. But he is kept from entering reality by Amanda, who criticizes him asbeing a “selfish dreamer.” But, Tom has made steps to escape intoreality by transferring the payment of a light bill to pay for his dues in theMerchant 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 notwant to face, reality. Jim is a perfect example of “the common man.” Aperson with no real outstanding quality. In fact, Jim is rather awkward, whichcan be seen when he dances with Laura. To Amanda, Jim represents the days of heryouth, when she went frolicking about picking jonquils and supposedly having”seventeen gentlemen callers on one Sunday afternoon.” Although Amandadesires to see Laura settled down with a nice young man, it is hard to tellwhether 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 ofglass represents her own private world. Set apart from reality, a place whereshe can hide and be safe. The events that happen to Laura’s glass affectsLaura’s emotional state greatly. When Amanda tells Laura to practice typing,Laura instead plays with her glass. When Amanda is heard walking up the fireescape, she quickly hides her collection. She does this to hide her secret worldfrom the others. When Tom leaves to go to the movies in an angered rush, heaccidentally breaks some of Laura’s glass. The shattered glass representsLaura’s understanding of Tom’s responsibilities to her. Also, the unicorn, whichis important, represents Laura directly. Laura points out to Jim that theunicorn is different, just as she is different. She also points out that theunicorn 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 islike the other horses, just as Laura has shed some of her shyness and becomemore normal. When she hands the broken unicorn to Jim, this might representLaura handing over her broken love to Jim, as Jim has revealed that he isengaged to be married. As can be seen, there are quite a few symbols in thisplay. And a number of them have diverse meanings. Most of these symbols have adirect meaning in the author’s own life. This is understandable seeing that theplay is supposed to be “memory play.”English Essays
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