Essay on The Glass Menagerie And Symbolism

Submitted By tmaxwell90
Words: 1581
Pages: 7

The Glass Menagerie and Symbolism
Tammy Maxwell
Bethel University
Writing about Literature
Bill Shelton
October 29, 2012

The Glass Menagerie and Symbolism In The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, there are certain objects in the play that symbolize the desires of the characters. Such symbols are seen throughout the play and affect every character. From the beginning of this play, we immediately start to see symbolism. Tom is standing outside in his pea coat, which is often worn by members of the Merchant Marines. The pea coat symbolizes Tom’s desires to escape from the small apartment and his overbearing and protective mother, Amanda. We know that he has already enlisted; now he is just trying to find a way to leave. Throughout the play, we see Tom stepping onto the fire escape to smoke. This smoking on the fire escape also represents Tom’s burning desire to escape. Going to the movies is another way that Tom escapes from reality. He is able to live through the lives of the actors. According to Fordyce, when Tom goes to the movies he is trying to escape from the reality of the shoe warehouse as well as his troubles at home (1998). Both of the environments symbolize a life of being trapped (Fordyce, 1998). One night, he sees a magician escape from a coffin. This coffin is another symbol. Tom sees his life as going nowhere unless he is able to leave the confines of the family apartment and the shoe warehouse he works at. It is almost like he is trapped, just like the magician was when the coffin was nailed shut. However; Tom, like the magician, eventually escapes. It is no wonder that Tom dreams of escaping from his home life considering he has no space for himself in the family apartment. Apparently, when his father left, Tom had to assume the paternal role for Laura and Amanda; therefore, he is just trying to have another chance at childhood (Single, 2010). Tom became the one to support the family financially and emotionally. Amanda attempted to pick up some of the financial burden, but ultimately Tom had to support the family. Tom lets us know from the beginning that this is a memory play. Even after his escape, his memory of Laura is still following him. He constantly thinks about his sister. He is finally released from Laura when she blows out the candles at the end of the play (Panesar, 2007). Laura, Tom’s sister, also uses objects to symbolize her desires. When trying to leave the apartment, she trips and falls on the fire escape. Falling symbolizes the loss of hope that we will see later in the play. She used to wear a leg brace. This brace represents her desires to be like everyone else. It can also be symbolic of a crutch. She could possibly feel that the brace was keeping her from being a normal young lady. When the brace was worn, she could use this as an excuse. She was also taking business classes that she could not complete because she was so shy. The anxiety of the classes made her sick. Withdrawing from school also symbolizes her unwillingness to change and her lack of faith in herself. According to Single, when Laura dropped out of school, she would spend time at the park (2010). Single said “this image and the solitary activities associated with it suggest a coldness about Laura. Like the image, Laura is lovely but cold and frozen in time” (2010, p. 162). This statement represents the desire to avoid living for the future, to live solely in the present. On occasion, Laura retreated to her Victrola. The Victrola also signified her desires to hang onto the past. This was something that her father enjoyed before he abandoned his family. The title of the play also acts as a symbol. We can assume just by reading the title that something is going to get broken. The unicorn in the glass menagerie symbolizes Laura’s desires to be accepted even if she is special and unique. The loss of the unicorn horn symbolizes that Laura is just like everyone else,