In Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie; he uses symbols to represent the reoccurring theme of the failure to accept reality and Tom's theme of escape. Like his narrator, Tom, Williams has a poet's "weakness for symbols" and the most prominent of these symbols is Laura's glass menagerie, which is very central to the play and links all the themes together.
The first symbol, presented in the first scene, is the fire escape. This represents the "bridge" dividing the illusory world of the Wingfields and the world of reality.
The apartment faces an alley and is entered by a fire-escape, a structure whose name is a touch of accidental poetic truth, for all of these huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation.
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 he lives in with Amanda and Laura and an entrance into the world of reality.
This also symbolises how Tom wants to escape from "the trap" he calls home and lead a more adventurous life. Therefore, he is drawn to the fire-escape to be in touch with the outside world and to forget the problems inside. It can be argued that "inside" is full of people who lead unrealistic lives, and that is Tom's reality. This is evident when Tom stands on the fire escape to smoke, showing that he does not enjoy being at home; to be a part of the illusory world of both Amanda and Laura, which they both find security in.
For Laura, the fire escape is the way into her world, which is her escape from reality from the outside world she fears. She thinks of...