Symbolism in Tennessee William’s ”The Glass Menagerie” Essay Sample

9 September 2017

In the first scene ofThe Glass Menagerie. Tom admits to a “poet’s failing for symbols. ” The semi-autobiographical resemblance between Tennessee Williams and Tom has been pointed out by critics ( Porter. 1969 ; Leverich. 1995 ) and this confession of failing could good be the dramatist’s ain. for in this drama more than any of his others. he makes a frequent and arguably overt. usage of symbols.

The most obvious of these symbols and decidedly the most discussed. is his usage of Laura’s glass menagerie to portray her submergence in an fanciful existence. She spends a batch of her clip engrossed in these small animate beings. She talks to them ; she plays with them ; she cleans them. The qualities of these animals and their small closed universe analogue Laura and her life. The menagerie “takes up a good trade of my clip. Glass is something you have to take good attention of. ” says Laura in Scene VII. And like glass. she excessively needs to be taken attention of and protected. Arthur Ganz ( 1965 ) points out that the character of Laura is a development of that of Matilda inYou Touched Me.Williams had himself described Matilda as holding “the delicate. about crystalline quality of glass” ( Williams as cited in Ganz. 1965. p. 206 ) and Laura is clearly no different. She confines herself to the flat. barely of all time embarking out. immersed in her menagerie and her father’s old records which she plays on the record player. She is delicate and easy broken. And like the unicorn. she is non a animal of this universe but fabulous and queerly beautiful. When Tom has a battle with Amanda in Scene III. he by chance knocks over Laura’s aggregation. which is possibly a symbolic reminder of his duty for the saving of Laura’s universe.

The unicorn. as Laura’s favourite animate being. becomes a particular symbol for her. Like ‘Blue Roses’ – Jim’s moniker for her. it does non suit into the natural order of the universe but exists in the imaginativeness ( Cardullo. 1998 ) . “Hold him over the visible radiation. he loves the visible radiation! You see how the light radiances through him? ” Laura tells Jim in Scene VII. Metaphorically. she could be speaking approximately herself as she “shines” in the “light” of Jim’s attending. When Jim by chance breaks the horn of the unicorn. it is symbolic of his attempt to pull Laura out and normalise her. Without its tattletale horn. the unicorn looks much more like any ordinary Equus caballus.

Laura excessively thinks that it is merely every bit good that the horn has broken because it makes the unicorn expression less capricious. She says that “now the unicorn will be like the other animate beings. ” She craves for normality every bit good. And Jim. as the foreigner. gives her a brief glance of it ( Ganz. 1965 ) . When he tells her that he is engaged. nevertheless. she is awfully wounded and her concluding gift to him of the broken unicorn is a symbol of her ain tattered love. Thompson ( 1989 ) describes this as the minute ofanagnorisisor acknowledgment common to several of Williams’s dramas when the supporter is “stripped of semblances and delusions” ( p. 5 ) and faced by world. “This symbolic minute of demythication. or rite of divestiture. is by and large dramatized by a gesture of interrupting. riping. or otherwise shattering the concrete symbol” ( p. 5 ) . InThe Glass Menagerie. the symbol takes the form of the unicorn.

There is another of import symbol that Williams uses to add deepness to Laura’s personality. She is a ‘cripple’ . lamed by a childhood disease. But this physical disability is besides an external symbol of her intensely diffident and nervous personality. The slippery thing about sing this to be a symbol is that her limping is besides the possible cause of her insecurity.

Amanda is an affectionate. if instead demanding and ruling. female parent to Laura and Tom. In the face of their straitened fortunes. she frequently escapes into her memories of an idyllic yesteryear in the South when she had “seventeen gentlemen companies call on one Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain. ” E. M. Jackson ( 1965 ) negotiations about Williams’ symbolic usage of his Southern heritage. He points out how Williams remains on the Southern periphery of American mainstream researching the fringy Southerners lost in little towns and fostering their isolation. These are delicate small universes. which necessarily crack up under the force per unit area of world merely like Amanda’s ain universe cracked up when her hubby deserted her. Yet in her memory. they still represent that ideal clip that she ever longs to travel back to through her dreams of security and a ‘gentleman caller’ for Laura.

The ‘gentlemen caller’ . which in Tom’s words is the “expected something that we live for. ” takes on the symbolism of a path for flight for Amanda. By happening a hubby for Laura. she hopes to set an terminal to their fiscal troubles and happen some peace in a more settled life for her girl. When he eventually appears in the form of Jim in Scene VI. she is every bit excited by Laura’s chances as by a opportunity to live over her young person. She dresses up in one of her old girlish outfits from the yesteryear. She is chatty and expansive about her flowers. Her exuberance embarrasses Tom but it is a consequence of her association of the ‘gentleman caller’ with her ain aureate old ages.

It is merely appropriate that the company should hold the personality of Jim. In his gap address. Tom himself mentions this. Jim is a courier from the existent universe. Williams’ symbol of the American Dream ( Haley. 1999 ) . He is s practical and ambitious whizz-kid who believes in self-reformation. He is fond of congratulations. sometimes selfish and careless with people’s feelings. It is the invasion of his trade name of world that eventually cracks up the Wingfield household.

Tom is the storyteller of the drama and there are many symbols woven around him to add texture to his personality and his peculiar quandary. His pick is an antique 1. The pick between personal freedom and duty to one’s household. He hates his occupation at the warehouse. which deadens his appetency for life and is a poet at bosom. To acquire off from the humdrum of his occupation. Tom goes to the films at dark. As Crandell suggests. the “cinema provides both the drift and a convenient alibi for flight from unpleasant company and inhospitable surroundings” ( 2001. p. 1 ) . Often he comes back rummy. The films become a symbol of illusive flight. They are non existent and Tom realizes every bit much when he tells Jim in Scene VI that the films sedate people and do them content to populate through other people’s escapades.

Tom’s enthusiasm over the charming show he sees is another illustration of a instead excessively obvious symbol for impermanent flight. But he remarks in the beginning of the drama that he is “the antonym of a phase prestidigitator. He gives you semblance that has the visual aspect of truth” . He is fascinated by a peculiar fast one that the magician performs ; he gets out of a nailed casket without taking out any of the nails. This is precisely the sort of charming fast one that Tom craves. He wants to get away from his current state of affairs. which is as dampening and stultifying as being stuck in a casket. But he wants to acquire out without damaging the casket. that is. his household. which is incarcerating him. When Tom gives Laura the scarf from the thaumaturgy show. he is possibly seeking to portion a spot of its bang and admiration with her and when he talks of the music from the Paradise Dance Hall. he is woolgathering of freedom and the outside universe.

Another unnoticeable but changeless reminder of the desire for flight. which imbues Amanda and Tom. is the big framed exposure of their male parent that is a portion of the set throughout the drama. He is the “telephone adult male who fell in love with long distances” and abandoned his household. Amanda keeps dwelling on his abandonment over and over once more but his ocular image serves more to remind the audience of the fact that he was the 1 who really got off as none of the other characters have managed to so far. The Christian symbolism of the absent Mr. Wingfield has besides been commented upon by critics. Harmonizing to Thompson ( 1989 ) . he embodies the modern twenty-four hours thought of a God who seems mostly absent and unapproachable.

The fire flight is seen in the background through the public presentation. The different characters use it otherwise to come in and issue. Williams makes its symbolism of flight copiously clear in his phase waies to the first scene. He says. while depicting its presence. that it is merely appropriate that it should be at that place as the cramped tenement edifices. the likes of which the Wingfield household lives in. are firing with the “implacable fires of human despair. ”

As a symbol. the fire flight is most closely linked with Tom. He uses it to come and travel from his nightly rovings. He delivers some of his addresss from it. He stands and listens to the music of the Paradise Dance Hall from its stepss. His place on it is representative of his place in life – he is standing in between the outside universe and his household.

When Laura uses the fire flight to travel out she stumbles on it. She is insecure of the existent universe and apprehensions every venture into it. She trips over the hurdle of her concern category and fails to happen success with her one ‘gentleman caller’ . Seen as such. all her raids into the universe outside the flat are flawed with insecurity and failure. Her hopes of a better hereafter are doomed to futility. Likewise Amanda uses the stepss to re-enter her claustrophobic small life in Scene II and she comes heavy with the weight of Laura’s failure and fraudulence after holding discovered that she has dropped out of concern school. When she calls Laura to it and asks her to do a want on the “silver slipper of a moon” after detecting that Tom is eventually conveying a ‘gentleman caller’ to dinner. she is trusting for outside forces to step in and better their boxed-in. personal lives. All things move from the exterior to the interior for Laura and Amanda.

In fact. in the drama. it is merely to Tom who can utilize the fire flight successfully. In the terminal of Scene VII. Tom stands on the fire flight – that metaphorical infinite between his two universes and Tells us that the twenty-four hours eventually came when he used those stepss one last clip to ne’er come back. The fire flight becomes Tom’s path to freedom and an independent life. Like his male parent. he becomes what Williams’s calls a “fugitive outcast” in Orpheus Descending ( p. 144 ) ; a adult male who merely runs off from a hard state of affairs ( Daley. 1999 ) .

In the background of the drama. the frequent mentions to World War II and Guernica represent the universe outside the closed universe of this household and its concerns. Its unrest closely matches the agitation in the drama. Besides audiences would hold been cognizant that the clip depicted in the drama is the immediate period before war broke out and its effects were felt in America every bit good. This baleful sense of predicting this creates symbolizes and anticipates the manner the troubles in the Wingfield family’s life are besides about to come to a caput with Tom’s going.

Possibly. any treatment of symbolism inThe Glass Menageriewill ever experience uncomplete because of the overplus of symbols Williams uses in the drama. In the phase waies. Williams even indicates topographic points in the text when slides – such as one picturing a blue rose – should be shown in the background during public presentation to add deepness to dialogue or reenforce the unreal. otherworldly experiencing of clip gone by. It is deserving sing that it isThe Glass Menagerie’s construction as a memory drama that allows it to acquire off with the instead ‘in-your-face’ trade name of symbolism that Williams employs. The text successfully uses a broad figure of images to make association and significance in much the manner existent memory does without looking pretentious. It may be the ground why all these assorted symbols blend together with easiness to make such an redolent and richly expressive ambiance.


Cardullo. B. ( 1998 ) . The blue rose of St. Louis: Laura. romanticism. andThe Glass Menagerie[ Electronic version ] .The Tennessee Williams Annual Review.

Crandell. G. W. ( 1998 ) . The cinematic oculus in Tennessee Williams’sThe Glass Menagerie[ Electronic version ] .The Tennessee Williams Annual Review.

Daley D. E. ( 1999 ) . “Certain moral values” : A rhetoric of castawaies in the dramas of Tennessee Williams. [ Electronic version ] Dissertation: Alabama University Press.

Ganz. A. ( 1965 ) . The despairing morality of the dramas of Tennessee Williams. In A. S. Downer ( Ed. ) .American play and its critics( pp. 203-207 ) . Chicago and London: Chicago University Press.

Jackson. E. M. ( 1965 ) .The broken universe of Tennessee Williams. Madison: Uracil of Wisconsin P

Leverich. L. ( 1995 ) .Tom: The unknown Tennessee Williams. New York: Crown.

Porter. T. E. ( 1969 ) .Myth and the modern American play. Michigan University Press.

Thompson. J. J. ( 1989 ) .Tennessee Williams’s plays: Memory. myth. and symbol. New York: Peter Lang.

Williams. T. . ( 1976 ) . Orpheus falling. InTennessee Williams: Four dramas.New York: Penguin.

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