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Non-Linear References/ Symbolism In The Glass Menagerie

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Tennessee Williams', The Glass Menagerie, is a play that evokes great sympathy and in some cases, empathy for a protagonist who struggles to overcome two opposing forces; his responsibilities and his desires. There are many symbols and non-liner references that contribute to the development of characterization, dramatic tensions and the narrative. This essay will examine in detail, the aspects of the play that contribute to the development of the above mentioned elements.

In Tom's opening addresses, he explains to the audience that the play's fifth character is his absent father -present only in the form of a picture that hangs on the wall. This picture that looms above the dining room table makes the reader visualize the Wingfield apartment as a shrine to deadbeat fatherhood. The father's presence in the Wingfield family is sustained only by a tangible medium [the portrait] while in actuality, he is no longer apart of the family. As is seen in the scene where Tom leaves home, the male figures are the ones to leave while the women stay behind where remembering becomes all that is left.

Tennessee Williams makes reference to Guernica and the tension and growing turmoil in Spain. This allusion, juxtaposed to the uneasy peace in America at the time, establishes the tense atmosphere that the play is constructed around. The Americans of the thirties lived in relative peace after recovering from World War One and already experiencing the worst of the Great Depression. However, the audience of the time would see the thirties as the calm before the storm of World War Two. This allusion -the bombing of Guernica by the Nazis, serves as a reminder that war would soon be coming to everyone; various countries all over the world. Likewise, there is symmetry in the uneasy peace American is experiencing in the face of imminent chaos and the uneasy peace within the Wingfield apartment before the family structure and security is destroyed. Just as America restlessly experiences peace before World War Two, Tom is anxiously awaiting his escape to explore the world before him that will leave his family in ruins. Much like his father did.

The fire escape is a prominent part of the setting. It is an important symbol that represents the imprisonment that Tom feels and the possibility of a way out. Williams characterizes the fire escape with symbolic weight, saying that the buildings are burning with the "implacable fires of human desperation." Tom makes several addresses to the audience from the fire escape. These addresses are highlights of the play and would indicate that the fire escape is a critical place in which he confides and depends on. It also foreshadows his departure from home as the "fire escape" is what enables his "escape" to search for solitude and freedom. At the fire escape, he stands alone between the outside world that awaits, and his apartment. This alludes to the painful choice he makes in scene seven. In order to escape, he must escape alone and leave his mother and sister, who are dependent

upon him, behind. Laura's vulnerability and dependence is also emphasized in this symbolic space that is most closely linked to Tom. Tom will later climb down the fire escape one final time, leaving the apartment and his family forever. Laura stumbles on the fire escape, and the fall symbolizes her inability to fend for herself while exposed to the outside world. It also symbolizes her dependence on Tom and that she will be unable to survive when he chooses to use the fire escape to leave.

The Blue roses are a significant symbol connected to Laura. While Amanda, the mother of Tom and Laura, speaks of her fear that Laura will be unable to support herself without a companion, she asks Laura if she has ever liked a boy. Laura responds that she had a crush on a boy named Jim when she was in high school. Laura continues to tell her mother that he use to call her "Blue Roses". The image of blue roses is a beautiful one but they are also pure fantasy -non-existent in the real world. Like a blue rose, Laura is special, very unique, even beautiful but she is also cut off from real world. In the last scene where Tim -the gentleman caller that Tom has seconded- comes to meet Laura, the house is redecorated in an attempt to impress Laura's prospective husband. The pattern of the newly bought lamp shade is of blue roses. The "rose-coloured" light makes Laura look beautiful as she is illuminated in light that is cast off of "blue coloured roses". Through this, she is "Blue Roses". Likewise, when you look at transparent glass figurines; Laura's glass menagerie, under the right light and at the right angle, a beautiful rainbow of colour emerges. Under the right light, the glass figurines become more than just see-through. Similarly, under the right light by the right person, Laura "shines" and is beautiful.

While in an argument with his mother about books she confiscated because they were written by D.H. Lawrence, Tom is also confronted about his nightly disappearances to the movies. Amanda does not believe the claim that her son spends his nights out at the movies. Furthermore, she is angered by the drunken state in which he often returns home and believes it will place his job that the family depends on, in jeopardy. Although never admitted, Williams play is in many respects an autobiography detailing the hardships of his own life. Anyone who has ever studied Tennessee Williams knows that a significant part of his identity was that he was gay. As a young man, Tom had the burden of many responsibilities; being the only male figure in the house and sustaining the family on his wages alone. All facts considered, it is likely to conclude that Williams expressed his own life through Tom. The allusion to D.H. Lawrence by Williams is indicative of the needs that he himself had. D.H. Lawrence was an author who wrote in a very provocative tone. Much of his work was sexually oriented and evoked a desire for sexuality. In scene four where Tom arrives home at Five o'clock in the morning, one could say that Williams does this to purposely hint that his character does not go out to the movies but somewhere else. With this school of thought and the notion that Williams uses a character to self project, one can assume that in order to escape his overwhelming responsibility and its stresses, Tom is actually engaging



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