Important Symbols in The Glass Menagerie Essay

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Important Symbols in The Glass Menagerie


In his play The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams uses a multitude of symbols. From these symbols, there comes a deeper understanding of the relationships between the play's four characters. The most obvious symbol in this play is Laura's glass menagerie, representing the world she lives in. Another recurring symbol is that of the fire escape. Outside the fire escape is the dance hall, a symbol for the reality of the outside world. Candles and rainbows are often mentioned in the play and carry a variety of meanings. Each symbol is a concrete substitution used to express a particular theme, idea, or character.

One of the most obvious symbols in this play is Laura's glass menagerie.
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She is different from the others, as unique as the glass unicorn and as easily broken. When Jim bumps into the table and knocks it over, he breaks off the unicorn's horn. Part of the innocence that had kept Laura unique was lost - both Laura and her glass unicorn are broken when exposed to the outside world, represented by Jim. When she gives Jim the unicorn, she is also giving him the innocence and hope that he had destroyed. Laura is still not part of the the outside world but she has come closer to it. She has experienced the world outside of her glass menagerie.

Another recurring symbol in the play is that of the fire escape. It is the entrance and exit for the apartment and it is a representation of the path to the outside world. It is a means of escape for Tom when faced with Amanda's nagging and the cramped apartment. It is the link between the outside world that Tom longs to have and the world that exists in the Wingfield apartment. On the other hand, Laura sees the fire escape as the door to her world; the place that she hides in. She is afraid to open that door for Jim; to let him into her world. When Laura leaves the apartment in this play, she trips and falls. She is unable to function properly outside the security of the apartment building.

Outside the fire escape is the dance hall. It is a symbol for reality and what lies outside the Wingfield apartment. The dance hall is first mentioned before Tom talks to Amanda…

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