"The Glass Menagerie", by Tennessee Williams, is a play that has captured the hearts of Americans for numerous generations. The simple hopefulness of its characters is shown through the obvious but intricate use of symbols. Williams, just like his narrator,Tom, is a poet with a "weakness for symbols". Four main elements of setting are used as symbols in this play; the fire escape, the glass unicorn, the photograph of Mr. Wingfield, and the warehouse were Tom works.
The fire escape is a means of escape and retreating for different characters. The play shows throughout Tom's frustrating attempts to get out of his intolerable job, situation, and life. Williams writes in the stage directions "huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation" showing how truthful the term fire escape is for the characters. Tom feels this desperation to leave and be free but stays for the sake of his sister.
He is constantly on the fire escape landing smoking as a reference to his desire to leave and in his anticipation of the last time he will be on that fire escape. The fire escape also symbolizes the retreating that Laura, the sister, is doing. Laura, being afraid of the outside world due to her small deformity and the shyness that stems from it, trips on the fire escape when she goes out to get butter for the mother. This exemplifies her inability to escape from her current situation as she is to afraid to meet the outside world.
Laura's glass menagerie has one very special inhabitant, the unicorn, The unicorn, like Laura, is unique and special and the most fragile of the collection. Laura identifies with the unicorn because it too is physically different from the rest of the world. Jim,