The Glass Menagerie

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"The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams is widely regarded as one of the finest plays in all of American literature. The story is about a small family living in St. Louis, Missouri, and it takes place during the late 1930's Great Depression. Throughout the play, Williams uses many symbols to give different meanings and themes; however, the dominate symbol is the glass menagerie. The three main characters in "The Glass Menagerie" are symbolic of the menagerie itself. Like the tiny glass animals, Laura, Amanda, and Tom are trapped by fragile illusions and are unable to move forward from a world of fantasy into reality. However, of the three main characters Laura is the most important to the play because she is the axis around which the characters, the play, revolve.

From the title of the play to its symbols and characters, everything is relevant to Laura. "The Glass Menagerie" is Laura's collection of little animals which represent the facets of her personality. Like her collection, Laura is delicate and easily breakable. Glass is transparent, but when filled with light, it creates a rainbow of color. Similarly, Laura, who is almost non-existent, is beautiful when one looks in the right light. Bert Cardullo wrote in "The Explicator", [t]he physically as well as emotionally fragile Laura escapes from her mid-twentieth-century urban predicament in St. Louis, to which her family has migrated from the rural-pastoral South, as someone of a Romantic temperament would, through art and music – through the beauty of her glass menagerie, the records she plays on her Victrola […] (….)". This is true; the menagerie is the only world Laura devotes herself to. The old records Laura plays on the Victrola are strong reminders of Mr. Wingfield, and this is not coincidence; Williams wants Laura to allow Mr. Wingfield to live through her. This world that Laura lives in is colorful and enticing, but it is based on fragile illusions. She lives in a world locked...
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