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Important Symbols and Themes of The Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams’ play, The Glass Menagerie is considered a memory play because it is told from the memory of the narrator. The narrator, who is also a character, is Tom Wingfield, the youngest member of the Wingfield family. The other characters are Amanda Wingfield, his mother; Laura Wingfield, his older sister; and Jim O’Connor the gentleman caller. A fifth character is represented by the photograph of Mr. Wingfield, who left the family a long time ago. It is this departure by Mr. Wingfield that represents the theme of escape throughout the play. The Glass Menagerie is set in the apartment of the Wingfield family during the mid-1930s. By description, it is a cramped, dinghy place, similar to a jail cell. Of the Wingfield family members, none of them want to live there. Poverty is what traps them to live within their present environment. Williams uses many symbols to help the Wingfield’s escape their surroundings, and differentiate between reality and illusion.

The first symbol, presented in the first scene, is the fire escape. This represents the “bridge” between the illusory world of the Wingfields and the world of reality. This “bridge” may be a one-way passage, but the direction varies for each character. For Tom, the fire escape is the way out of the world of Amanda and Laura, and an entrance into the world of reality. Amanda sees the fire escape as an opportunity for gentleman callers to enter their lives. This would be an example of reality entering the Wingfields illusionary lives. For Laura, the fire escape represents a way to hide from reality by staying inside the illusionary world of the apartment. Across the street from the Wingfield, the apartment is the “Paradise Dance Hall” (Williams 252). Just the name of the place is a total anomaly in the story. Life with the Wingfields is as far from paradise as it could possibly be. Morning after morning, the only thing Tom and Amanda do is argue.

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Laura appears to find solace in playing the same records repeatedly again, day after day. Could the music floating from the dance hall to the apartment represent Laura’s escape that she is afraid to take? With war ever-present in the background, the dance hall could be the last chance for paradise. Another symbol presented deals more with Tom than any of the other characters. Tom’s habit of going to the movies shows us his longing to leave the apartment and head out into the world of reality, a place where one can find adventure. Tom, who considers himself a poet, can understand man’s need for romance and adventure. The number one obstacle keeping Tom from entering reality is Amanda, who criticizes him for being a “selfish dreamer” (Williams 281). Tom has already taken steps to ensure his escape into reality by transferring the payment of the light bill to pay for his dues in the “Union of Merchant Seamen” (Williams 264).

Jim O’Connor represents a symbol for both Laura and Amanda. To Laura, Jim represents the one thing she fears and does not want to face, reality. To Amanda, Jim represents the days of her youth, when she “received seventeen gentlemen callers” (Williams 236). Although Amanda wants to see Laura settled down with a nice young man, it is hard to tell whether she wanted a gentleman caller to be invited for Laura or for herself. One symbol which is rather obvious is Laura’s glass menagerie. Her collection of glass represents a safe place to hide from reality. The events that happen to Laura’s glass collection throughout the play affect her emotional state. When Amanda tells Laura to practice typing, Laura instead plays with her glass collection. When Amanda is heard walking up the fire escape, Laura quickly hides her collection. This is to keep her secret world of glass within her mind. Tom accidentally breaks some of Laura’s glass while leaving for the movies.

The shattered glass represents Laura’s understanding of Tom’s responsibilities to her. By far, the most symbolic piece of glass is the unicorn. Laura and the unicorn share a common characteristic, both are different. Laura is different from the others with her shyness and her disability. The unicorn is different from the other pieces of glass because of the horn. Laura points out to Jim that the unicorn “doesn’t complain” about being different either (Williams 275). I feel this is symbolic of Laura’s acceptance of being different. Jim accidentally drops the unicorn which in turn breaks the horn off. Laura points out that now it is like the other horses, just as Laura has shed some of her shyness and become more normal. When she hands the broken unicorn to Jim, this may represent Laura handing over her broken love to Jim, as Jim has revealed that he is engaged to be married.

Mr. Wingfield, the absent father of Tom and Laura and husband to the shrewish Amanda, is referred to often throughout the story. He is the ultimate symbol of escape. This is because he has managed to remove himself from the bad situation that the rest of his family is still living in. His picture is featured prominently on the wall as a constant reminder of better times and days gone by. Amanda always makes negative comments about her missing husband, yet his picture remains. Tom always makes jokes about his dad, and how he “fell in love with long distances” (Williams 234). This is Tom’s attempt to ease the pain of abandonment by turning his father’s action into something humorous.

It is inevitable that the thing Tom resents most in his father is exactly what Tom himself will carry out in the end . . . escape! Through his father, Tom has seen that escape is possible, and though he is hesitant to leave his sister and even his mother behind, he is being driven to it. Tennessee Williams uses the theme of escape throughout “The Glass Menagerie” to demonstrate the hopelessness of each character’s dreams. Tom, Laura, and Amanda all seem to think escape is possible. In the end, however, no character can completely escape their illusionary world. Could Williams be suggesting the only way to “escape” is to solve life’s problems?

The Characters of The Glass Menagerie. Generally, when someone writes a play they try to elude some deeper meaning or insight in it. Meaning about one’s self or about life as a whole. Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” is no exception the insight Williams portrays is about himself. Being that this play establishes itself as a memory play Williams is giving the audience a look at his own life, but being that the play is a memory some things are exaggerated and these exaggerations describe the extremity of how Williams felt during these moments (Kirszner and Mandell 1807). The play centers itself on three characters. These three characters are Amanda Wingfield, the mother and women of a great confusing nature; Laura Wingfield, one who is slightly crippled and lets that make her extremely self-conscious; and Tom Wingfield, one who feels trapped and is looking for a way out (Kirszner and Mandell 1805-06). Williams’ characters are all lost in a dreamy state of illusion or escape wishing for something that they don’t have.

As the play goes from start to finish, as the events take place and the play progresses each of the characters undergoes a process, a change, or better yet a transition. At the beginning of each character’s role, they are all in a state of mind which causes them to slightly confuse what is real with what is not, by failing to realize or refusing to see what is illusioned truth and what is the whole truth. By the end of the play, each character moves out of this state of dreamy not quite factual reality and is better able to see and face facts as to the way things are, however not all the characters have completely emerged from illusion, but all have moved from the world of dreams to truth by a whole or lesser degree.

Tom Wingfield makes a most interesting transition. He changes twice during the course of the entire play. One change occurs at the end of the memory part of the play, then he is changed again sometime between when the actual play took place and the time that he returns after serving in the merchant marines. In the beginning, Tom Wingfield, the main character and the narrator of the play, feels trapped like a caged animal who needs to be set free which sometimes causes him to seem to be without pity or remorse (Kirszner and Mandell 1806). As a result of this, he is often very frustrated and one of the only ways he can get the slightest sense of freedom is by going to the movies, which he later expresses his discontent for (Book Summary – The Glass Menagerie).

The thing that frustrates Tom the most is the fact that he reduces himself to a slave working at the factory to support his mother and sister, yet his mother says to him that all he thinks of is himself, she says this because he desires to have some freedom in his life (Kirszner and Mandell 1817). Things continue in this direction for Tom and it lasts quite a while. Yet Tom tries to cope with it and even obeys his mother in some of the things she asks him to do. However, her persistence about Tom’s selfishness continues and finally comes the last straw when Laura’s gentleman caller turns out to be engaged. Amanda believes that Tom brought him home to play a joke on them, of course, Tom had no way of knowing, and as a result of this Amanda accuses Tom of being selfish (Kirszner and Mandell 1854). This is where Tom’s first transition takes place. Up until this time Tom had merely been dreaming of a future doing what he wanted to do, simply dreaming of putting all of his miseries behind him and being free.

He had not taken any real definite steps in the direction of achieving his goals, sure he paid his dues to the merchant marines, but until he was to actually join, this is the equivalent of taking out a magazine subscription. But now, now he is making his dream a reality, for when Amanda played down the last straw, accusing him of being selfish when he was only doing what she asked him to do in the first place, so plain and clear, now he decides to put it all behind him. A few days later he leaves his family altogether in search of a better life as a merchant marine (Kirszner and Mandell 1854). Now that he has left home, he has also left behind a world of illusion, an illusion of being trapped without escape for when he did escape it was no longer an illusion, it became reality. Yet what he did not fully understand was that the world he was escaping from, the world of illusion, he was merely trading for another world of illusion. This time instead of the illusion of being trapped, it was an illusion of being free.

He was not free, for it is said in Tom’s final speech in the play that he was forever haunted by the memory of Laura where ever he went, and he could not shake that memory (Kirszner and Mandell 1854). When he comes back to their apartment it is seen that sometime between when he was last seen and now he has undergone another transition. This time he leaves the world of illusion altogether and completely accepts reality. He now realizes that there is no escape from misery and suffering and that the only way to be free of it is to do something that solves the problem. This is shown in his final speech when he is pretending to talk to Laura. He tells her that he is sorry for leaving her behind and that he should have helped her out of her situation before he himself left. Then he asks her to blow out her candles (Kirszner and Mandell 1854). When he does this he is asking her to forgive him so that he can finally be set free from his memory, for there is no escape there is only, a freedom that must be given by forgiveness.

The mother, Amanda Wingfield, was once the belle of the ball during her glory days of the Old South, but now she is fragile and struggling for survival (Kirszner and Mandell 1864). At the beginning of the play, Amanda is totally immersed in her own little world of illusion. She is constantly reminiscing of her olden days in the south, and when she is not doing that she is worried about the survival of the family. This is why she enrolled Laura in business school so that when Tom left Laura would be able to take care of both herself and Amanda. When Amanda learns of the news that Laura had dropped out of business college she is very disheartened and worried as to how they will survive (Kirszner and Mandell 1813). This is when she gets the idea that Laura should marry wealthy, and as to proceed with this plan she asks Tom to invite someone over for dinner (Kirszner and Mandell 1824). So when Tom does invite someone over Amanda becomes overly excited and wants to make sure everything is perfect for Laura, everything has to be perfect and she struggles to make it so in the only way she knows how (Kirszner and Mandell 1862).

Amanda makes her transition from illusion to the truth when she finds out that Laura’s suitor turned out to be engaged. Unlike Tom who changes of his own free will, Amanda is jerked out of her world and thrown into reality. This is when she realizes that unless there is a major change on Laura’s part, that Laura will never be suited for a business career nor will she be married. She also breaks her own rule by finally admitting to herself that Laura is in fact cripple (Kirszner and Mandell 1854). This realization prompts Amanda to deal with her distress in the only way she knows how which is to take it out on Tom which causes Tom to leave. Tom’s leaving, in turn, causes further distress for Amanda and Laura which is not covered in the play. When Amanda suddenly enters reality it causes her to explode at Tom which shows that she did not spend enough time, in reality, to know how to deal with distress. Unlike her children Amanda is in a state of illusion but convinced that she is not, this makes her flawed and responsible for the tragedy that befell them even though she didn’t realize it (The Glass Menagerie Tennessee Williams Analysis of Major Characters).

Laura Wingfield, a romantic, has a physical defect that causes her to limp slightly, and also fragile emotions which cause her to lose herself in a world made completely of dreams (Bert Cardullo). Of all the Wingfields Laura is in the greatest peril, because she lacks the strength of Amanda and the ability to escape like Tom (Mary Bromberg). Laura is so incredibly shy, so much so that she can’t even compose herself for a business class at the local college (Kirszner and Mandell 1813). After she drops out she maintains herself in a world of fiction by not telling her mother that she dropped out and pretending to continue to go to school every day while instead visiting the zoo and the Jewel Box (Kirszner and Mandell 1813). Both of these places representing places of illusion, dreams, and fantasy. Laura’s change briefly into reality comes when Jim O’Connor arrives for dinner, or more precisely when Jim and Laura are talking after dinner.

She completely opens up to him. She tells him of how she let her disability get in her way, she tells him of how she was, and still is for that matter, very shy and didn’t have luck making friends, and she even admits to him that she liked him in high school (Kirszner and Mandell 1843-45). After they talk for a while Jim and Laura start dancing, this is where Laura starts to loosen up, she allows herself to be carried by Jim’s moves, and she is coming out of the fake world she created for herself (Kirszner and Mandell 1844). Then Jim moves in to kiss her, he kisses her, now all of a sudden Laura has become a real person, she completely forgets about the broken piece of glass (Kirszner and Mandel 1844). She is seeing now what she could have if she would only come out of her shell if she would come out of her world of glass if she would come into reality. She is completely changed. But this is not enough. For when Jim breaks the news that he is engaged Laura looks in her hand at the broken piece of glass and then slips back in almost instantly forgetting about what just happened (Kirszner and Mandel 1844).

She slips back into the world of beauty that she has created for herself, but in actuality, she is unknowingly dwelling in a world of despair. Laura does go through a transition, she is shown a glimpse of what she could and can have, but almost as quickly as it came it left leaving her to reside with her glass. The Wingfield family all existed in a state of fantasy or at least a false sense of reality. They could not easily differentiate between what was truth and what was fiction (W.R. Theirfelder III). All of the three main characters make the transition from a world of dreamy illusions, to a world of truth, it affects each character differently according to how they perceive and encounter truth. Truth does not always bring happiness, in fact, few people really like to hear the truth. But truth always, no matter how painful it is, benefits in the end. Hopelessness, Futility and Escape in The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie is set in the cramped, dinghy apartment of the Wingfield family. It is just one of many such apartments in this lower-class neighbourhood. Not one of the Wingfield family members desires to live in this apartment. Poverty is what traps them in their humble abode. The escape from this lifestyle, this apartment and these relationships is a significant theme throughout the play. These escapes may be related to the fire escape, the dance hall, the absent Mr. Wingfield and Tom’s inevitable departure. The play opens with Tom addressing the audience from the fire escape. This entrance into the apartment provides a different purpose for each of the characters. Overall, it is a symbol of the passage from freedom to being trapped in a life of desperation. The fire escape allows Tom the opportunity to get out of the apartment and away from his nagging mother. Amanda sees the fire escape as an opportunity for gentleman callers to enter their lives.

Laura’s view is different from her mother’s and her brother’s. Her escape seems to be hiding inside the apartment, not out. The fire escape separates reality and the unknown. Across the street from the Wingfield, the apartment is the Paradise Dance Hall. Just the name of the place is a total anomaly in the story. Life with the Wingfields is as far from paradise as it could possibly be. Laura appears to find solace in playing the same records over and over again, day after day. Perhaps the music floating up to the apartment from the dance hall is supposed to be her escape which she just can’t take. The music from the dance hall often provides the background music for certain scenes, The Glass Menagerie playing quite frequently. With war ever-present in the background, the dance hall is the last chance for paradise.

Mr. Wingfield, the absent father of Tom and Laura and husband to the shrewish Amanda, is referred to often throughout the story. He is the ultimate symbol of escape. This is because he has managed to remove himself from the desperate situation that the rest of his family are still living in. His picture is featured prominently on the wall as a constant reminder of better times and days gone by. Amanda always makes disparaging remarks about her missing husband, yet lets his picture remain. Tom always makes jokes about his dad, and how he “fell in love with long distances.” This is his attempt to ease the pain of abandonment by turning it into something humorous. It is inevitable that the thing which Tom resents most in his father is exactly what Tom himself will carry out in the end…escape! Through his father, Tom has seen that escape is possible, and though he is hesitant to leave his sister and even his mother behind, he is being driven to it.

Tom escapes reality in many different ways. The first and most obvious is the fire escape that leads him away from his desolate home. Another would be the movies that Amanda is always nagging him about. She thinks he spends too much time watching movies and that he should work harder and find a suitable companion for Laura. The more Amanda nags, the more Tom needs his movie escapes. They take him to another world for a while, where mothers and sisters and runaway fathers do not exist. As the strain gets worse, the movie watching becomes more frequent, as does Tom’s drinking. It is getting harder and harder for Tom to avoid real life. The time for a real departure is fast approaching. Amanda eventually pushes him over the edge, almost forcing him out, but not without laying overpowering guilt trips on him. Tom leaves, but he’s going away is not the escape that he craved for so long. The guilt of abandoning Laura is overwhelming.

He cannot seem to get over it. Everything he sees is a reminder of her. Tom is now truly following in the footsteps of his father. Too late, he is realizing that leaving is not an escape at all, but a path of even more powerful desperation. Williams uses the theme of escape throughout The Glass Menagerie to demonstrate the hopelessness and futility of each character’s dreams. Tom, Laura and Amanda all seem to think, incorrectly I might add, that escape is possible. In the end, no character makes a clean break from the situation at hand. The escape theme demonstrated in the fire escape, the dance hall, Mr. Wingfield and Tom’s departure proved to be a dead-end in many ways. Perhaps Tennessee Williams is trying to send a message that running away is not the way to solve life’s problems. The only escape in life is solving your problems, not avoiding the symbols in The Glass Menagerie

In the play, The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, Williams uses many symbols which represent many different things. Many of the symbols used in the play try to symbolize some form of escape or difference between reality and illusion. The first symbol, presented in the first scene, is the fire escape. This represents the “bridge” between the illusory world of the Wingfields and the world of reality. This “bridge” seems to be a one-way excursion. But the direction varies for each character. For Tom, the fire escape is the way out of the world of Amanda and Laura and an entrance into a world of new dimensions. For Laura, the fire escape is a way into her own world. A way to escape from reality. Amanda perceives the fire escape as a way for gentlemen callers to enter their lives. She is also trying to escape her own vacant life. Our author, Tennessee Williams utilizes the fire escape as a literal exit from his own reality as well. His way of escaping is through the play. In Tom’s opening speech, he says, “I give you the truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”

This quote refers to Williams’ own life told through the play. Everyone in the play seeks haven from their lives, attempting to escape into an imaginary fallacy world. In “The Glass Menagerie,” Williams’ fire escape portrays each of the character’s need to use the fire escape as a literal exit from their own reality. The Glass Menagerie is set in the apartment of the Wingfield family. By description, it is a cramped place located in the city of St. Louis. It is one of many apartments in the neighbourhood. Of the Wingfield family members, none like living in the apartment. The only reason that traps them in their submissive dwelling in poverty. The concept of escaping their own lives and retreating into an illusion world has entered each of the character’s minds. Escaping from this lifestyle, this apartment, and these relationships is a significant theme throughout the play. These escapes are linked with the symbolic “fire escape” as well as the absent Mr. Wingfield.

Mr. Wingfield left his family for a life on the road. “He worked for the telephone company and fell in love with long distances.” This action left Tom with all of the responsibilities in the family including taking care of his half-mad, overbearing mother, Amanda and a disabled sister, Laura. With all of the responsibilities on Tom’s shoulders he is forced to take a job at a warehouse in order to take care of the family and pay rent. Tom is unsatisfied with his life and is always seeking for a way to escape his misery. In Tom’s eyes, the fire escape serves as a transit between “truth” and “illusion.” It detaches reality of the outside world, which in this case, the city of St. Louis, from the world of the Wingfields. Tom’s way of dealing with his misery is to remove himself from his locale and go to the movies. He claims that he loves the adventure. “I go to the movies because- I like adventure. Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies” (p. 415).

Amanda seeks for an escape from her own empty life. She had high hopes of marrying a wealthy man but instead, she settled for a telephone man who eventually abandons her and the kids. This incident made Amanda live her life in bitterness and paranoia. “The future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it” (p. 421). She constantly nags at Tom’s habits and tries to contour Laura into the girl that she wasn’t. Amanda repeatedly lectures and corrects her children on how to present themselves, how to live life, and how to act. She tries to take control of her children’s lives as if she is trying to fit them in a mold of perfection. “Try and you will SUCCEED! Why, you – you’re just full of natural endowments! Both of my children – they’re unusual children! Don’t you think I know it? I’m so proud! Happy and – I feel I’ve – so much to be thankful for” (p. 414). Amanda has two fears in her life. One of her worst fears is having Tom grow up to be his father. “Promise, son, you’ll – never be a drunkard!” (p. 414). “When I see you taking after his ways! Staying out late – and – well, you had been drinking the night you were in that – terrifying condition” (p. 415). Amanda’s other fear in life is having Laura grow old without a gentleman caller. “We have to be making plans and provisions for her. She just drifts along doing nothing. It frightens me terribly how she just drifts along” (p. 416). Tom suggested to Amanda that Laura just might be what people call home girls but Amanda refuses to believe it. “There’s no such type, and if there is, it’s a pity! That is unless the home is hers, with a husband” (p. 416). Therefore, Amanda sees the fire escape as a way to escape her own problems and invite gentlemen callers into their lives for Laura.

Laura has issues of her own and she also finds the need to escape them. Laura leads a life of simplicity and has a difficult time dealing with the outside world. “I put her in business college – a dismal failure! Frightened her so it made her sick to her stomach. I took her over to the Young People’s League at the church. Another fiasco. She spoke to nobody, nobody spoke to her” (p. 417). Even though, Laura sees the fire escape as a literal exit from her reality, her way of escaping differs from that of her mother and brothers. For her, escape is hiding inside the apartment. At a young age, Laura suffered from an illness called pluerosis that forced her to be slightly crippled. The illness made Laura become anti-social and insecure about herself. “I- I never had much luck at making friends” (p. 436). She dropped out of high school due to being ill and for the next six years she has done nothing but start a glass collection in which she calls her “glass menagerie.” For her, escape is hiding inside the apartment. The fire escape sets apart the unfamiliar life outside of her shielded life.

Our author, Tennessee Williams, uses the fire escape as well. His escape is through the story of the play. The play represents Williams’ own distraught family. The characters in the play are intended to depict his family members. Laura is modelled after his sister, Rose, who too, had various mental issues. Tom’s character reflects Williams’ hunger to escape his responsibilities of the family and lead a life of adventure due to his absent father. Growing up, Williams could not rely on his father much because he was an alcoholic. This could explain why Williams’ childhood was “lonely and miserable.” He did not have a male figure to look up to. Williams’ method of coping with all of these issues is through the story. “The Glass Menagerie,” exhibited an array of symbolism. Williams’ fire escape represents the “bridge” between truth and illusion. The use of the fire escapes altered for each character depending on their own issues. Williams’ fire escape portrayed each of the character’s need to utilize the fire escape as a literal exit from their own reality. Everyone in the play searches for a refuge from their lives, entering into a fantasy world.

In the play The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, Williams uses many symbols which represent many different things. Many of the symbols used in the play try to symbolize some form of escape or difference between reality and illusion. The first symbol, presented in the first scene, is the fire escape. This represents the “bridge” between the illusory world of the Wingfields and the world of reality. 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 of Amanda and Laura and an entrance into the world of reality. For Laura, the fire escape is a way into her world. A way to escape from reality. Both examples can readily be seen: Tom will stand outside on the fire escape to smoke, showing that he does not like to be inside, to be a part of the illusionary world. Laura, on the other hand, thinks of the fire escape as a way in and not a way out.

This can be seen when Amanda sends Laura to go to the store: Laura trips on the fire escape. This also shows that Laura’s fears and emotions greatly affect her physical condition, more so than normal people. Another symbol presented deals more with Tom than any of the other characters: Tom’s habit of going to the movies shows us his longing to leave the apartment and head out into the world of reality. A place where one can find adventure. And Tom, being a poet, can understand the needs of man to long for adventure and romance. But he is kept from entering reality by Amanda, who criticizes him as being a “selfish dreamer.” But, Tom has made steps to escape into reality by transferring the payment of a light bill to pay for his dues in the Merchant Seaman’s Union. Another symbol, which deals with both Amanda and Laura, is Jim O’Connor. To Laura, Jim represents the one thing she fears and does not want to face, reality. Jim is a perfect example of “the common man.”

A person with no real outstanding quality. In fact, Jim is rather awkward, which can be seen when he dances with Laura. To Amanda, Jim represents the days of her youth, when she went frolicking about picking jonquils and supposedly having “seventeen gentlemen callers on one Sunday afternoon.” Although Amanda desires to see Laura settled down with a nice young man, it is hard to tell whether she wanted a gentleman caller to be invited for Laura or for herself. One symbol which is rather obvious is Laura’s glass menagerie. Her collection of glass represents her own private world. Set apart from reality, a place where she can hide and be safe. The events that happen to Laura’s glass affects Laura’s emotional state greatly. When Amanda tells Laura to practice typing, Laura instead plays with her glass. When Amanda is heard walking up the fire escape, she quickly hides her collection. She does this to hide her secret world from the others. When Tom leaves to go to the movies in an angered rush, he accidentally breaks some of Laura’s glass.

The shattered glass represents Laura’s understanding of Tom’s responsibilities to her. Also, the unicorn, which is important, represents Laura directly. Laura points out to Jim that the unicorn is different, just as she is different. She also points out that the unicorn does not complain of being different, as she does not complain either. And when Jim breaks the horn off the unicorn, Laura points out that now it is like the other horses, just as Laura has shed some of her shyness and become more normal. When she hands the broken unicorn to Jim, this might represent Laura handing over her broken love to Jim, as Jim has revealed that he is engaged to be married. As can be seen, there are quite a few symbols in this play. And a number of them have diverse meanings. Most of these symbols have a direct meaning in the author’s own life. This is understandable seeing that the play is supposed to be “memory play.” It is obvious that this memory play is based on Williams’ own memories “The Glass Menagerie” is set in the apartment of the Wingfield family. By description, it is a cramped, dinghy place, not unlike a jail cell. It is one of many such apartments in the neighbourhood.

Of the Wingfield family members, none of them want to live there. Poverty is what traps them in their humble abode. The escape from this lifestyle, this apartment and these relationships is a significant theme throughout the play. These escapes may be related to the fire escape, the dance hall, the absent Mr. Wingfield and Tom’s inevitable departure. The play opens with Tom addressing the audience from the fire escape. This entrance into the apartment provides a different purpose for each of the characters. Overall, it is a symbol of the passage from freedom to being trapped in a life of desperation. The fire escape allows Tom the opportunity to get out of the apartment and away from his nagging mother. Amanda sees the fire escape as an opportunity for gentleman callers to enter their lives. Laura’s view is different from her mother’s and her brother’s. Her escape seems to be hiding inside the apartment, not out. The fire escape separates reality and the unknown.

Across the street from the Wingfield, the apartment is the Paradise Dance Hall. Just the name of the place is a total anomaly in the story. Life with the Wingfields is as far from paradise as it could possibly be. Laura appears to find solace in playing the same records over and over again, day after day. Perhaps the music floating up to the apartment from the dance hall is supposed to be her escape which she just can’t take. The music from the dance hall often provides the background music for certain scenes, The Glass Menagerie playing quite frequently. With war ever-present in the background, the dance hall is the last chance for paradise. Mr. Wingfield, the absent father of Tom and Laura and husband to the shrewish Amanda, is referred to often throughout the story. He is the ultimate symbol of escape. This is because he has managed to remove himself from the desperate situation that the rest of his family are still living in. His picture is featured prominently on the wall as a constant reminder of better times and days gone by.

Amanda always makes disparaging remarks about her missing husband, yet lets his picture remain. Tom always makes jokes about his dad, and how he “fell in love with long distances.” This is his attempt to ease the pain of abandonment by turning it into something humorous. It is inevitable that the thing which Tom resents most in his father is exactly what Tom himself will carry out in the end…escape! Through his father, Tom has seen that escape is possible, and though he is hesitant to leave his sister and even his mother behind, he is being driven to it. Tom escapes reality in many different ways. The first and most obvious is the fire escape that leads him away from his desolate home. Another would be the movies that Amanda is always nagging him about. She thinks he spends too much time watching movies and that he should work harder and find a suitable companion for Laura. The more Amanda nags, the more Tom needs his movie escapes. They take him to another world for a while, where mothers and sisters and runaway fathers do not exist. As the strain gets worse, the movie watching becomes more frequent, as does Tom’s drinking.

It is getting harder and harder for Tom to avoid real life. The time for a real departure is fast approaching. Amanda eventually pushes him over the edge, almost forcing him out, but not without laying overpowering guilt trips on him. Tom leaves, but his going away is not the escape that he craved for so long. The guilt of abandoning Laura is overwhelming. He cannot seem to get over it. Everything he sees is a reminder of her. Tom is now truly following in the footsteps of his father. Too late, he is realizing that leaving is not an escape at all, but a path of even more powerful desperation. Williams uses the theme of escape throughout “The Glass Menagerie” to demonstrate the hopelessness and futility of each character’s dreams. Tom, Laura and Amanda all seem to think, incorrectly I might add, that escape is possible. In the end, no character makes a clean break from the situation at hand. The escape theme demonstrated in the fire escape, the dance hall, Mr. Wingfield and Tom’s departure proved to be a dead-end in many ways.

Perhaps Tennessee Williams is trying to send a message that running away is not the way to solve life’s problems. The only escape in life is solving your problems, not avoiding them. “The Glass Menagerie” is set in the apartment of the Wingfield family. By description, it is a cramped, dinghy place, not unlike a jail cell. It is one of many such apartments in the neighbourhood. Of the Wingfield family members, none of them want to live there. Poverty is what traps them in their humble abode. The escape from this lifestyle, this apartment and these relationships is a significant theme throughout the play. These escapes may be related to the fire escape, the dance hall, the absent Mr. Wingfield and Tom’s inevitable departure.

The play opens with Tom addressing the audience from the fire escape. This entrance into the apartment provides a different purpose for each of the characters. Overall, it is a symbol of the passage from freedom to being trapped in a life of desperation. The fire escape allows Tom the opportunity to get out of the apartment and away from his nagging mother. Amanda sees the fire escape as an opportunity for gentleman callers to enter their lives. Laura’s view is different from her mother’s and her brother’s. Her escape seems to be hiding inside the apartment, not out. The fire escape separates reality and the unknown. Across the street from the Wingfield, the apartment is the Paradise Dance Hall. Just the name of the place is a total anomaly in the story. Life with the Wingfields is as far from paradise as it could possibly be. Laura appears to find solace in playing the same records over and over again, day after day. Perhaps the music floating up to the apartment from the dance hall is supposed to be her escape which she just can’t take.

The music from the dance hall often provides the background music for certain scenes, The Glass Menagerie playing quite frequently. With war ever-present in the background, the dance hall is the last chance for paradise. Mr. Wingfield, the absent father of Tom and Laura and husband to the shrewish Amanda, is referred to often throughout the story. He is the ultimate symbol of escape. This is because he has managed to remove himself from the desperate situation that the rest of his family are still living in. His picture is featured prominently on the wall as a constant reminder of better times and days gone by. Amanda always makes disparaging remarks about her missing husband, yet lets his picture remain. Tom always makes jokes about his dad, and how he “fell in love with long distances.” This is his attempt to ease the pain of abandonment by turning it into something humorous. It is inevitable that the thing which Tom resents most in his father is exactly what Tom himself will carry out in the end…escape!

Through his father, Tom has seen that escape is possible, and though he is hesitant to leave his sister and even his mother behind, he is being driven to it. Tom escapes reality in many different ways. The first and most obvious is the fire escape that leads him away from his desolate home. Another would be the movies that Amanda is always nagging him about. She thinks he spends too much time watching movies and that he should work harder and find a suitable companion for Laura. The more Amanda nags, the more Tom needs his movie escapes. They take him to another world for a while, where mothers and sisters and runaway fathers do not exist. As the strain gets worse, the movie watching becomes more frequent, as does Tom’s drinking. It is getting harder and harder for Tom to avoid real life. The time for a real departure is fast approaching. Amanda eventually pushes him over the edge, almost forcing him out, but not without laying overpowering guilt trips on him. Tom leaves, but he’s going away is not the escape that he craved for so long. The guilt of abandoning Laura is overwhelming.

He cannot seem to get over it. Everything he sees is a reminder of her. Tom is now truly following in the footsteps of his father. Too late, he is realizing that leaving is not an escape at all, but a path of even more powerful desperation. Williams uses the theme of escape throughout “The Glass Menagerie” to demonstrate the hopelessness and futility of each character’s dreams. Tom, Laura and Amanda all seem to think, incorrectly I might add, that escape is possible. In the end, no character makes a clean break from the situation at hand. The escape theme demonstrated in the fire escape, the dance hall, Mr. Wingfield and Tom’s departure proved to be a dead-end in many ways. Perhaps Tennessee Williams is trying to send a message that running away is not the way to solve life’s problems. The only escape in life is solving your problems, not avoiding them.

THEMES. The main theme of Glass Menagerie is appearance vs. reality. All of the Wingfields live in a world of dreams and illusions. Amanda romanticizes her past, living the belief that she was a wealthy Southern belle with lots of suitors. She also refuses to accept the limitations of her children. She wants Tom to attend college and make something of himself, but he lacks ambition. Amanda refuses to see Laura as a cripple with eccentric behaviour; instead, she dreams of marrying her daughter to a gentleman caller who will take care of her forever. Both of Amanda’s children also escape from reality. Tom hates his boring and depressing existence and escapes by going to the movies and dreaming of his own real-life adventures. He thinks about sailing to South Sea islands and going on safaris; he even admits that “I seem dreamy.” Laura hates being a cripple and facing the outside world; she hides away in the coffin-like apartment, playing with her glass menagerie and listening to her father’s phonograph records. None of the Wingfields can successfully function in the real world.

The name Wingfield even suggests an unreal and illusory life, as if they were birds on flights of fancy. The title of the play, Glass Menagerie, supports the theme of illusions. A menagerie, a zoo, refers to a group of inhuman creatures. Since the creatures are glass, they are very fragile and not real. The title specifically refers to Laura’s collection of glass animals, mainly horses. To escape the harshness of her real existence, Laura spends hours playing with the menagerie; it is an illusory world for her. But the glass menagerie is larger than just Laura’s collection. All of the Wingfields are strange creatures who are fragile enough to break easily. Each of them burns “with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation.” Like animals in a zoo, they are trapped in their dreary existence, barely making ends meet. The box-like apartment, entered from a fire escape, is a perfect symbol of their confinement.

The theme of illusion is further developed by the glass unicorn, a symbol for Laura. Like the strange horse with an aberration on its head, Laura feels that her handicap is an aberration; it keeps her from participating in life. It is significant that while she is dancing with Jim, an act engaged in by active people with average lives, the couple accidentally bumps against the table; the unicorn falls over, and its horn breaks off. Laura notices that the hornless unicorn looks more natural and states that it will now “feel more at home with the other horses”. For an illusory moment, Laura herself has forgotten her handicap and appeared “normal” for the first time in the play. The breakage of the unicorn also foreshadows the outcome of the play. Jim breaks the dreams of Amanda and Laura by revealing that he is engaged to Betty. There is also a religious theme running throughout the play. Amanda is portrayed as being a woman who practices religious rituals, yet she fails to live out Christian beliefs by treating her children with a lack of respect and ignoring their individual needs.

Tom and Laura obviously sense the hypocrisy of their mother’s religious overtures and are not at all religious themselves. Tom uses Christian terms only in blasphemous ways, saying things like, “What in Christ’s name.” Amanda always denounces his curses. At both mealtimes, when Amanda demands that Grace be said, the prayer is interrupted, first by Tom in Scene One and then by Laura in Scene Six. There are additional small religious images to be found in the play. Amanda tells an impatient Laura to “possess your soul in patience.” She also fears that if Laura does not marry, she will have to eat “the crust of humility” all her life. Amanda denounces Tom’s philosophy of living by instinct and tells him that “Christian adults don’t want it”. The music played for Amanda is “Ave Maria”, and there is a martyred look on her face when Laura admits she has stopped attending business school.

The most important of the religious symbols is the fact that Jim is depicted as a potential saviour for Amanda and Laura. It is appropriate, therefore, that the scene where Amanda learns that Jim is scheduled to come to dinner the next evening is aptly titled “Annunciation.” With an air of expectancy about Jim’s arrival, both women dress ritualistically. Amanda “resurrects” a girlish dress from the trunk, and Laura wears a new frock. It is also appropriate that Amanda has chosen to prepare fish for dinner, and both she and Laura serves him. When Laura is alone with Jim in the living room, her reactions to him are described in religious terms; she “is lit inwardly with altar candles.” The stage direction after Jim’s kiss informs the reader that “the holy candles in the altar of Laura’s face have been snuffed out.” Jim is not to be her saviour. Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. Albert Einstein.

The most important theme in The Glass Menagerie is the difficulty people have in accepting and relating to reality. As a result of their inability to overcome this difficulty, the characters withdraw into a private world of illusion to find the comfort they can’t find in real life. Out of the three Wingfield family members, Laura probably is the one living furthest away from reality. There are several symbols in the play that represent that in some way. Her glass collection that she carefully takes care of, is the imaginary world she lives in to escape the real-life where she doesn’t finish high school, fails typing class, and doesn’t have any “gentlemen callers” like her mother expects her to. Another symbol for Laura’s personality is “Blue Roses”, the nickname Jim gives her in high school. Blue roses are, although beautiful, not real and can’t be found in nature, which refers to Laura’s uniqueness but also to her very own, special beauty that lies beyond her differentness and inability to live in reality.

Overall, Laura is a very important character, because the whole story is basically about her (Tom tells us) and she also is the one who is most concerned with the play’s theme of withdrawing from reality. At first sight, Tom seems to be the only one in the Wingfield family who is capable of functioning in the real world, interacting with strangers, and holding down a job to finance his mother and sister. But he also withdraws into his illusions to abscond the never-ending conflicts with his mother and his frustration about his monotone, meaningless life. During the play, Tom often mentions “the movies” he’s going to all the time, which represent his attempt to escape all this and to give him the illusion of adventure. The same goes for the fire escape to where Tom often withdraws whenever the “fire” of conflict and arguing with Amanda gets too hot.

Tom’s attitude toward his sister puzzles the reader since even though he clearly cares for her, he is frequently indifferent and even cruel. Not once in the play does he behave kindly or lovingly toward Laura, not even when he knocks down her glass menagerie. Laura on the other side is the only character who, despite the selfishness that characterizes the Wingfield family, never does anything to hurt anyone else. Instead, she cries over Tom’s unhappiness, as described by Amanda. Although both Tom and his sister Laura build their own world of illusion to escape from their problems, it doesn’t satisfy them both the same way. While Laura overall is content with her (imaginary) life, Tom doesn’t and not even leaving home means true escape for him, because he senses that he harms his mother and sister by doing so and we clearly see the guilt he feels about doing so.

I think the whole theme of people building imaginary worlds of illusions to protect themselves from the hard reality still is very current and will probably always be because there are always people who can’t afford to be confronted with their lives. I know what I’m talking about because I had the same problem some time ago. I was having a lot of trouble with school, parents, and some more things I felt I couldn’t deal with any longer so I began to play an online computer game, for hours every single day, escaping into this digital world where I was a mighty warrior, appreciated and valued by other players from all over the world. It made me feel better but in the end, I had to accept that life isn’t a computer game and I worked myself out of that vicious circle. Real-life may be hard sometimes, but – you just have to face your problem and solve it!

Glass Menagerie By Tennesse Williams. “The Glass Menagerie” is set in the apartment of the Wingfield family. By description, it is a cramped, dinghy place, not unlike a jail cell. It is one of many such apartments in the neighbourhood. Of the Wingfield family members, none of them want to live there. Poverty is what traps them in their humble abode. The escape from this lifestyle, this apartment and these relationships is a significant theme throughout the play. These escapes may be related to the fire escape, the dance hall, the absent Mr. Wingfield and Tom’s inevitable departure. The play opens with Tom addressing the audience from the fire escape. This entrance into the apartment provides a different purpose for each of the characters. Overall, it is a symbol of the passage from freedom to being trapped in a life of desperation. The fire escape allows Tom the opportunity to get out of the apartment and away from his nagging mother. Amanda sees the fire escape as an opportunity for gentleman callers to enter their lives. Laura’s view is different from her mother’s and her brother’s.

Her escape seems to be hiding inside the apartment, not out. The fire escape separates reality and the unknown. Across the street from the Wingfield, the apartment is the Paradise Dance Hall. Just the name of the place is a total anomaly in the story. Life with the Wingfields is as far from paradise as it could possibly be. Laura appears to find solace in playing the same records over and over again, day after day. Perhaps the music floating up to the apartment from the dance hall is supposed to be her escape which she just can’t take. The music from the dance hall often provides the background music for certain scenes, The Glass Menagerie playing quite frequently. With war ever-present in the background, the dance hall is the last chance for paradise.

Mr. Wingfield, the absent father of Tom and Laura and husband to the shrewish Amanda, is referred to often throughout the story. He is the ultimate symbol of escape. This is because he has managed to remove himself from the desperate situation that the rest of his family are still living in. His picture is featured prominently on the wall as a constant reminder of better times and days gone by. Amanda always makes disparaging remarks about her missing husband, yet lets his picture remain. Tom always makes jokes about his dad, and how he “fell in love with long distances.” This is his attempt to ease the pain of abandonment by turning it into something humorous. It is inevitable that the thing which Tom resents most in his father is exactly what Tom himself will carry out in the end…escape! Through his father, Tom has seen that escape is possible, and though he is hesitant to leave his sister and even his mother behind, he is being driven to it.

Tom escapes reality in many different ways. The first and most obvious is the fire escape that leads him away from his desolate home. Another would be the movies that Amanda is always nagging him about. She thinks he spends too much time watching movies and that he should work harder and find a suitable companion for Laura. The more Amanda nags, the more Tom needs his movie escapes. They take him to another world for a while, where mothers and sisters and runaway fathers do not exist. As the strain gets worse, the movie watching becomes more frequent, as does Tom’s drinking. It is getting harder and harder for Tom to avoid real life. The time for a real departure is fast approaching. Amanda eventually pushes him over the edge, almost forcing him out, but not without laying overpowering guilt trips on him. Tom leaves, but he’s going away is not the escape that he craved for so long. The guilt of abandoning Laura is overwhelming. He cannot seem to get over it. Everything he sees is a reminder of her. Tom is now truly following in the footsteps of his father. Too late, he is realizing that leaving is not an escape at all, but a path of even more powerful desperation.

Williams uses the theme of escape throughout “The Glass Menagerie” to demonstrate the hopelessness and futility of each character’s dreams. Tom, Laura and Amanda all seem to think, incorrectly I might add, that escape is possible. In the end, no character makes a clean break from the situation at hand. The escape theme demonstrated in the fire escape, the dance hall, Mr. Wingfield and Tom’s departure proved to be a dead-end in many ways. Perhaps Tennessee Williams is trying to send a message that running away is not the way to solve life’s problems. The only escape in life is solving your problems, not avoiding them.

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