Symbolism in the Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

Essay by Sven KohnHigh School, 12th gradeA+, March 1997

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The Glass Menagerie uses an extensive pattern of symbolism that describes the characters of

Tom,Amanda,Laura and Jim. Glass,light,color and music constitute the substance of the dominant

symbols and motifs,serving to reveal deeper aspects of characters and underlying themes of the

play.Tennessee Williams wrote the play so that each character had a special symbol which resembled

their personality.But he didn't only give the characters of the play a a resembling symbol;he also

mentions the apartment blocks to be hivelike conglomerations of cellular living-units resembling a

beenstock.The way he describes their location also has a lot of symbolism in its roots because he

describes them to be flowering as warty growths in overcrowded urban centers.

Tennessee Williams used many symbolic aspects to describe Laura and the world she lives

in.In the play,Laura represents the very fragile,shy and emotionally crippled girl.In her mind she lives

in a world of glass animals and doesn't have a connection to the real world.

The managerie of glass also

represents the fragile relationships among all the characters.The glass unicorn is most obviously a

symbol of Laura--delicate,sadly different,an anomaly in the modern world.The glass motif recurs

throughout the whole play in many other forms.When Laura dropped out of college she constantly

visited the zoo,a glass house of tropical flowers that are as vulnerable as she is.During Laura's and

Jim's brief romantic encounter,Laura is gaining more confidence about herself.It seems as if she is

starting to escape her

world of illusions.When they started dancing together,Jim accidently knocked the little glass horse

over.Laura,who usually worships her glass collection more than anything else,replied to his

excuse;'He's lost his horn.It doesn't matter.Maybe it's a blessing in disguise.' and 'I'll just imagine he

had an operation. The horn was...