Symbolism in the Glass Menagerie

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Writers often use symbols to present a deeper meaning in their writing. A symbol is used to communicate meaning by representing a physical entity, a situation, or an emotion. Using symbols is an effective way to add dynamics to a storyline. It is a way to display a mood or theme without simply stating it. Tennessee Williams uses several symbols in the play, The Glass Menagerie.

One of the biggest symbols in The Glass Menagerie is Laura’s glass collection. Laura is a shy, delicate girl. In a way, her collection of glass animals is a perfect representation of herself. Like the glass, she is fragile, unique and “breaks so easily” (Williams 86). The glass collection can also represent the world Laura sees; a place she goes to explore her imagination.

The glass unicorn is the best representation of Laura. The unicorn is her favorite figurine because it is unique. Just like Laura, the unicorn is “extinct in the modern world” (83). Laura is quite old-fashioned and “very different” (87). While the unicorn still has its horn, it is representing the shy, reserved Laura. She used to be utterly self-conscious because when she walked into a classroom with her leg brace on, “it sounded like thunder” (75). When Laura begins to loosen up and dance with Jim, the horn of the unicorn breaks off; this causes the unicorn to look like all “the other horses, the ones that don’t have horns” (86). Laura is somewhat like a unicorn who has just lost her horn in that she finally seems somewhat normal. She came out of her shell and danced with a man, something she never would have thought she would do.

The character Jim is also a symbol in The Glass Menagerie. Jim is Laura’s high school crush. She considers him far out of her league. He symbolizes hope. Laura discovers a new side of herself through Jim. For the first time she lets her guard down and begins to feel like there is a chance for her and Jim. For the first time in her life, she is told, “you’re...
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