Essay on the Symbolism of the Menagerie in The Glass Menagerie

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The Symbolism of the Menagerie in The Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams' play, The Glass Menagerie, describes three separate characters, their dreams, and the harsh realities they face in a modern world. The Glass Menagerie exposes the lost dreams of a southern family and their desperate struggle to escape reality. Williams' use of symbols adds depth to the play. The glass menagerie itself is a symbol Williams uses to represent the broken lives of Amanda, Laura and Tom Wingfield and their inability to live in the present.

The glass menagerie symbolizes Amanda Wingfield's overwhelming need to cling to her past and her fulfilled fear of being alone. Amanda resents the poverty-stricken neighborhood in which she lives so
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Tom ends the argument by calling Amanda an "ugly- babbling old -witch"(Williams 1875), and struggles to put his coat on, intent on leaving. When he cannot put the coat on properly, he becomes frustrated with his clumsiness and flings it across the room, breaking some of the glass collection. Laura "cries out as if wounded"(Williams 1875). This shows how fragile Laura really is and how she reacts when even the small balance of her apartment is shifted. The most prominent use of this symbol comes at the crisis of the story, when Jim is left alone with Laura. The conversation turns to Laura's glass collection, when she remarks "glass is something you have to take good care of."(Williams 1900), again showing her fragility. More parallels are drawn between Laura and the glass collection with the introduction of the unicorn. Jim says, "Poor little fellow, he must feel sort of lonesome"(Williams 1902) to which Laura replies, " He stays on a shelf with some horses that don't have horns and all of them seem to get along nicely together"(Williams 1902). The unicorn becomes a symbol for Laura because just like the unicorn she is different. When Jim and Laura dance, and Jim accidentally knocks the unicorn off the table and its horn is broken off, it loses its uniqueness. Similarly, when Jim kisses Laura and then shatters her hopes by telling
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