The Glass Menagerie A Study In Symbolism

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The Glass Menagerie: A Study In Symbolism Essay, Research Paper The Glass Menagerie: A Study in Symbolism In the drama, The Glass Menagerie (1945), Tennessee Williams reflects upon personal experiences he and his family encountered during the Depression of the 1930?s. As a lower class family, the characters are placed in the slums of St. Louis in 1935. The protagonist, Tom Wingfield, is the narrator and Williams? surrogate. Living with his mother and sister, Tom supports them by working in a shoe manufacturing warehouse. He should feel lucky to have this job; however, he despises his work and dreams of leaving to become a Merchant Marine. Unhappy with what life has dealt him, Tom strives for adventure and longs to turn his back on his responsibilities. His mother, Amanda

Wingfield, abandoned by her husband almost sixteen years ago, tries to keep her family together through tough times. Although her love and hopes for her children are sincere, her overbearing and outspoken nature often hurts them. Laura, Tom?s sister, suffers from neuroses. She has trouble separating fantasy from reality. Without the ability to function in the outside world, Laura becomes a liability to both Tom and Amanda. The gentleman caller, Jim O?Connor, is a friend of Tom?s from the warehouse. He is an ambitious young man, who strives for the American Dream through hard work and optimism. Jim offers the Wingfields hope for the future: Tom: He is the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from. But since

I have a poet?s weakness for symbols, I am using this character also as a symbol; he is the long- delayed but always expected something that we live for (23). Williams gives the reader many emblems throughout the play; there are three of them are especially interesting. The unicorn symbolizes Laura?s uniqueness, the picture of Mr. Wingfield represents his strong influence on his deserted family, and Malvolio?s coffin trick signifies Tom?s suffocating lifestyle. The unicorn is a symbolic representation of ways that Laura is unique or unusual. The first facet of the unicorn, its horn, refers to ways that Laura is an unusual person, such as in her may escape mechanisms. Laura?s escape devices include her glass menagerie, listening to records on the Victrola, and visiting the park

and zoo. Laura identifies with her glass menagerie because she has trouble identifying with the real world, the pieces are small and delicate, just as she is. The Victrola is a reminder of Mr. Wingfield; Laura often plays records to avoid the present and thinks pleasantly about the times she had with her father. When Laura stopped going to Rubicam?s Business College, she would spend many of her days at the zoo or park. She was a nature lover and thought of these places as very peaceful and beautiful, a sharp contrast to her real life. The fragility of the unicorn, its second part, recalls Laura?s delicate psychological condition. Laura?s emotional problems caused many difficulties in her life. While in high school, Laura was very self-conscious about the brace she had to wear, as

evidenced in the following passage: Laura: I had that brace on my leg — it clumped so loud! Jim: I never heard any clumping. Laura: To me it sounded like — thunder! Jim: Well, well, well, I never even noticed. Laura: And everybody was seated before I came in. I had to walk in front of all those people. My seat was in the back row. I had to go clumping all the way up the aisle with everyone watching! Jim: You shouldn?t have been self-conscious. Laura: I know, but I was (93). Laura suffered all the way through high school. Unfortunately, she scored poorly on her final examinations and dropped out of school. After such a failure, her fragile self-esteem dropped from low to almost non-existent, and she could not face going back. Six years later, with pressure from her mother,