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The Glass Menagerie

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The Glass Menagerie is a play that everyone should see. Tennessee Williams describes four separate characters, their dreams, and the harsh realities they face in the modern world. His setting is in St. Louis during the Depression Era. The story is about a loving family that is constantly in conflict. To get his message across, he uses symbolism. He also expresses his theme through the characters inability to live in the present.

The apartment that Amanda, Laura, and Tom Wingfield share is in the poverty stricken section of the city and is among dark alleys with fire escapes. Tom and Laura do not like the dark atmosphere and their mother always tries to make it as pleasant as possible. The two women do not get out much to socialize. Amanda sometimes goes to meetings for the Daughters of the Revolution, but Laura does not like to socialize at all. She has a slight limp and is extremely shy with people. When she does leave the apartment, she falls. She is unable to function in the outside world.

As I stated early, symbols, or substitutions that are used to express a particular theme, idea, or character, play an important part in this play. One symbol that is used over and over is the fire escape. This has different meanings to the characters. For Tom, it is a place where he can escape to. It is where he goes to escape from his mother's nagging. He is open to the outside world when he is on the fire escape. It is his way out. For Laura, it is where the gentleman caller enters and where the outside world is brought inside to her. But to Amanda, the fire escape is not only where the gentleman caller enters, but where he will come in and rescue here daughter from becoming a spinster.

Amanda feels that if the gentleman caller comes, then he will rescue Laura. The problem is that Jim, the caller, has not even met either of these women yet. Amanda assumes that he will be the one for Laura. She has a difficult time distinguishing between reality and illusion. The same way she refuses to acknowledge Laura's handicap. She does not refer to it as a handicap, but rather as a little defect, that is hardly noticeable.

Williams also uses Laura's' glass menagerie as an important symbol throughout the play. It represents her sensitivity and fragile nature. She is very innocent, and fragile like the glass that she polishes and looks at. Even though, it is very fragile, when put in the light the glass shines and produces an array of colors. This is the same as Laura. When Laura is enrolled at the Business School she becomes very shy and embarrassed, which causes her to become ill in the classroom. She can not bare to face those same people again the next day, so she stops going to class.

Laura chooses to spend her time with her tiny glass animals, and she treasures them more than actually participating in daily contact with other people. She does not want to become involved with the world outside of their apartment. She prefers the comfort of her home and her glass animals. Laura is just as easily broken and hurt as the glass unicorn, and she is just as special. When Jim accidentally bumps into the unicorn and breaks it, the unicorn is no longer unique and is just like all the others. This is a symbol of Jim's inability to live in Laura's world. During that time, Laura feels more accepted and less self-conscious. She begins to open up and glow. Jim notices this and takes advantage of it by dancing with her, and eventually, kissing her.

Part of the innocence Laura has lost is symbolized by the breaking of the unicorn. When Jim tells Laura of his engagement she is heartbroken. She no longer feels the uniqueness that she once shared with the unicorn, but becomes more common like Jim.

So when she gives the unicorn to Jim she is giving him her broken heart. Laura gives him something of hers to take with him when he leaves and, in a way, he has left her with shattered hopes and dreams. It is clear, at this point, that Laura and her glass menagerie break when they both become exposed to the outside world, which is represented by Jim.

The use of rainbows and cigarette smoking are small symbols in the play. The rainbows signify the hope of the future. Tom exhilarates Laura when he pulls out the rainbow-colored scarf and tells her how the magician changed a bowl of goldfish into canaries. He is thinking of the time when he will be able to leave as well. Also, at the end of the play, Tom is speaking about looking into shop windows and seeing the pieces of glass perfume bottles, which remind him of Laura.

Tom's continued smoking is a symbol of his strife for individualism. Even though



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