Symbolism plays a fundamental part in Tennessee Williams’s play, “The Glass Menagerie”. Examples of the use of symbolism include the fire escape, as an escape from the family, the phonograph, as an escape from reality, the unicorn, as a symbol for Laura's uniqueness and the father’s photograph, representing something different to each character. Through recognition of these symbols, a greater understanding of the play’s theme is achieved.
Throughout the play, Tom Wingfield was torn by the responsibility to provide for his mother and sister and the need to be his own man. He used the fire escape frequently in the play. He went outside to stand on it when he smoked, to escape the nagging from his mother, and to make his final independence from his family. Tom didn't like being responsible for his mother and sister, working day-in and day-out at a job he hated. He wanted to escape down those stairs and never come back. In scene V, Tom speaks to the audience about what he observes from the fire escape, Paradise Dance Hall. “Couples would come outside, to the relative privacy of the alley. You could see them kissing behind ash-pits and telephone poles. This was the compensation for lives that passed like mine, without any change or adventure. Adventure and change were imminent this year” (Williams 1197). The dance hall to him was what he wanted. Its name, Paradise Dance Hall, is a contrast to the lives of the characters, and to the current situation in the world as seen in the play.
Another symbol in the play that remains constant is the record player and collection of records. These belonged to her father who has deserted the family. At times of great stress or frightfulness, Laura runs to the record player to play the dated records. She listens to the record player and enjoys the peacefulness that contrasts the argumentative members of her household. It is an escape for her, as is her glass collection, but it takes on... [continues]
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