In “The Glass Menagerie” Williams’s use of symbolism represents several different themes. Many of the symbols used in the play signify the impossibility of true escape, the differences between illusion and reality, abandonment, and the power of memory (as it is a memory play).
One of the more obvious symbols that we notice is the fire escape. It represents the connection between the illusionary world of the characters and the “real” world. The fire escape represents something different for each character. For Tom, the fire escape is a way out of the almost fantasy-like world that Laura and Amanda live in and a way into the “real” world. For Laura, it works the opposite way. When she enters through the fire escape into the apartment, it’s like coming into her own created fantasy and keeps her out of the harsh reality of the outside world. Tom often goes out onto the landing to smoke, foreshadowing his final escape at the end of the play. When Amanda sends Laura to the store, she stumbles on her way out, almost as if she’s hesitating to leave. Throughout the play Laura tries to get involved in the outside world, but she is much too fragile, like her little glass animal collection.
Laura’s glass menagerie, the most important and recurring symbol in the play, represents her fantasy world – intriguing and appealing but based on fragile illusions. It’s entirely set apart from the “real” world and a place where she can feel secure in herself and where we see her emotionally stable rather than the frail girl we see in most of the scenes. It also signifies Laura’s personality – delicate, fanciful, and in some ways traditional. Throughout the dramatic piece, when something happens to her collection, it deeply disrupts her emotional state. When Tom shatters some of the pieces as he rushes out angrily after an argument, it’s a sign of his irresponsibility to her. The menagerie also represents the fragile relationships these characters share.... [continues]
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