The Glass Menagerie: portrayal of fragile, vulnerable, and defeated character who wrestles with the fact of his or her defeat.

Essay by SarahLUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, May 2004

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The Glass Menagerie conforms to the expectation that Williams' plays consistently portray fragile, vulnerable and defeated characters. Such characteristics form a bond of shared experience, as those portrayed in this play struggle to cope in a world of reality that is changing beyond recognition. Their ability to deal with reality and the choices that they make in their attempts to cope highlight the extent of their vulnerability, fragility and defeat as Williams seeks to capture "the truth of human experience"(Bigsby, 36).

The Glass Menagerie is infused with symbolism, a device that enables and supports the exploration of vulnerability, fragility and sense of defeat apparent in the characters of this play. However, we are also guided by the production notes and stage directions both of which enable us to designate the one character that best encompasses the fragile, vulnerable and defeated characteristics consistent with Williams' work; that of Laura Wingfield. Williams states that when looking at a piece of delicately spun glass, we should be reminded of two things: "how beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken" (231). From a symbolic standpoint, the "lovely fragility of glass"(231) is reflective of Laura's image whilst the extensive directions that refer to Laura's character seek to develop her sense of defeat. Laura's gestures exude nervousness (239) and panic (278), her speech is breathless, desperate, and despairing (279). Whilst her smile is faint and apologetic (240); her laughter is tinged with doubt (246). The reality of "being alone with a stranger"(291) is perceived as an "almost intolerable strain"(291) for Laura. It is as an escape from reality that the glass menagerie provides Laura with an opportunity to retreat to "...a world of her own - a world of little glass ornaments..."(272). Its physical presence allows Laura a basis in which to...