Symbolism in the Play the Glass Menagerie

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In the play The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams uses many symbols which represent the lives of the characters and the lives of his family. Many of the symbols used in the play symbolize escape and illusion. This essay will individualise and analyse the symbols, and will try to connect them with other symbols. Many of the symbols only appear on the set, such as the glass menagerie and the fire escape. Williams does this in order to give us a better understanding of the play before the show has even started. The fire escape is an important symbol for Tom because he uses it to escape from the imprisonment of his home. He hates being in the apartment and tries to get out as often as possible, even if that means going to the warehouse that he loathes. Another symbol is the glass menagerie. It symbolises Laura’s fragility, showing that if “you breathe [on her], it (she) breaks”. It also shows Laura’s childlike qualities, playing with the menagerie when she is upset, favouring one of her glass animals. Laura’s limp is an interesting symbol. The limp implies that Laura can’t continue with her life, moving away from the time she was disabled, because she thinks that she can’t do anything that’s slightly difficult for her. The family itself is a symbol of the family that Williams had. He is placing them as characters because this “memory play” that Tom describes, is in actuality Williams’ memory. The fire escape also has an element of irony to it, because even though Tom tries escape his responsibilities, he always comes back down, returning from the attempt of freedom. Laura, on the other hand, feels the opposite way to Tom because she wants to escape the outside world and stay inside the apartment where she feels security, for example when she tells her mother that she had left school because she was nervous, or when she told Jim that her brace made a “clumping” sound that was as loud as “thunder” to her. The first symbol, presented in the Tom’s introductory speech,...
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