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Tennessee Williams utilized symbols in The Glass Menagerie. Many of the symbols employed relate to the theme of escape or illustrate and contrast reality with illusion. Some of the major symbols were simple to understand, while others implied more complicated details. Each of the major symbols exhibits the nature of the characters in the play. The symbol first mentioned at the near start of the play is the fire escape. This represents the "bridge" between the illusory world of the Wingfield's and the world of reality.
This "bridge" seems to be a one-way passage. 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.
It is 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. She tries several times to participate in the outside world, but she is too fragile. She is only secure in the midst of her glass menagerie. 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. It is a place where one can find adventure.
Tom, being a poet, can understand the needs of man to long for adventure and romance. Amanda, who criticizes him as being a selfish dreamer, keeps him from entering reality. Amanda wants to deprive Tom of adventure and wants him to take on full responsibility for the future of Laura. 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. He knows sacrifices have to be made to jump into reality. The ever-present larger-than-life-size photograph of Mr.
Wingfield is a symbol always mentioned by Amanda. This picture is a constant reminder of a painful past and foreshadows Tom following in his father's footsteps. Amanda's fears of being left alone again are represented by Mr. Wingfield's smiling face always watching over the family.
Tom will soon follow in his footsteps, leaving Amanda and Laura without a man in the household. The picture represents escapism in the play. This plays a major role in the plays interaction with the characters. What if Toms father would have been present throughout the play?
Do you think Tom still would have left? What if Tom would have left a picture of himself when he left? I think the family would have been better off, but he didnt. The one major symbol that stands out among all others is Laura's glass menagerie. It is the most repetitive symbol in the story. 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. There are quite a few symbols in this play. A number of them have diverse meanings and each character being affected by them differently. This play would have been nothing without the symbols. This play was probably one of the only plays where the symbols meant everything.
The stage directions were simply magnificent expressing the symbols out into the open. There are intricate connections between the symbols and the characters. 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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Research essay sample on Symbols In The Glass Menagerie By Tennessee Williams