The Glass Menagerie By Tennessee Williams
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. Each character can be found with symbols that best represent them.
The first symbol, presented in the first scene, is the fire escape. This represents the “bridge” between the illusionary 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 quickly 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 in the novel deals with Tom than any of the other characters: Tom’s habit of going to the movies shows us how eager he is to leave the apartment and head out into the world of reality. A place where Tom can find the truths about society and life. Tom as a poet thinks of adventure and romance. But he is kept from his imaginary world of his by Amanda she criticizes him as being a selfish dreamer .
Tom loves to go to the movies. But Amanda does not believe that his evenings are so innocent. She does not understand that Tom wants to face reality. Since his life is full of responsibility: money, future of Laura, boring job. He wanted more in his life than just a worker in a shoe factory. Tom is very much like Mr. Wingfield because they left home to search for their wish in life. The pressure, stress, and madness that Amanda and the shoe factory caused him to runaway. Tom ’s nickname, Shakespeare, is also another symbol. William Shakespeare wrote many plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and Macbeth. The plots of this play have a lot of action. Tom tries to have adventure through writing poems.
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”. In fact, Jim is rather awkward, which can be seen when he dances with Laura. To Amanda, Jim represents the days when she was younger, when she went bragging about having “seventeen gentlemen callers on one Sunday afternoon.” Even though Amanda would like to see Laura settled down with a nice young man, but it is hard to tell whether she wanted a gentleman caller to for Laura or for herself.
One symbol, which is obvious, is Laura’s glass menagerie. Her collection of glass represents her own private world. A far place from reality, a place where she can hide and be safe. The events that happen to Laura’s glass menagerie affect Laura’s emotions. 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 a rush, he accidentally breaks some of Laura’s glass menagerie. The shattered glass represents how easily it is to loose self-confidence and destroy (shatter) ones self-esteem. The unicorn, which is important represents Laura greatly. 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. Laura is a really sensitive young girl. She spends all of her time in a world of glass ornaments and stayed in her apartment. Even though she tries several times to participate in the outside world, she is too fragile. The Blue Roses represent the uniqueness of Laura. Blue Roses do not exist in this world or even if they do they weren t created by nature. This rose is different from other roses just as Laura is different from other girls. The color blue represents the sadness and depression. Laura felt these feelings at home because she is not as popular as Amanda and she cannot succeed in college that Amanda hopes her to be. Amanda’s expectation caused Laura to feel bad when she does not meet her requirements. Laura had dropped out of Rubicam Business College and she cannot find any gentleman caller. Roses represent Laura along with her beauty and innocence. The stem of the rose can be considered as the support that Amanda and Tom gave her. The thorn is her shyness. It is her shyness that no one wants to go near her and she does not want to go near anyone. The Glass Menagerie represents Laura’ sensitive and fragile side. Laura is just as easily broken as a glass unicorn and just as unique. When Jim accidentally bumps into the unicorn and breaks it, the unicorn is no longer unique. When Jim kisses Laura and then shatters her hopes and dreams by telling her he is engaged, she becomes broken-hearted and less unique. The innocence that made Laura so unique is now lost. Both Laura and the glass menagerie break when they are exposed to the outside world. When Laura gives Jim her broken unicorn, it symbolizes her broken heart that Jim will take with him when he leaves. She gives Jim a little bit of herself to take with him and he leaves behind a little bit of himself with her shattered horses.
Jim O’ Connor is a gentleman caller that Tom brought home. He worked in a shoe warehouse but he wanted more in life. He is the only outside connection for Laura and Amanda. Even though he finds Laura unique and special, he is engaged to a woman named Betty. The classes he took in night school are a symbol for a better future. He is not satisfied with working in a shoe warehouse. He was a hero in his high school and he did not turn out to be great in anything in life. The character Jim is a symbol itself. He
enters the lives of the Wingfield. He helped Laura to be more open and confident in life.
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.