Important Symbols and Themes of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

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Important Symbols and Themes of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams Tennessee Williams' play, The Glass Menagerie is considered a memory play because it is told from the memory of the narrator. The narrator, who is also a character, is Tom Wingfield, the youngest member of the Wingfield family. The other characters are Amanda Wingfield, his mother; Laura Wingfield, his older sister; and Jim O'Connor the gentleman caller. A fifth character is represented by the photograph of Mr. Wingfield, who left the family a long time ago. It is this departure by Mr. Wingfield that represents the theme of escape throughout the play. The Glass Menagerie is set in the apartment of the Wingfield family during the mid 1930's. By description, it is a cramped, dinghy place, similar to a jail cell. Of the Wingfield family members, none of them want to live there. Poverty is what traps them to live within their present environment. Williams uses many symbols to help the Wingfield's escape their surroundings, and differentiate between reality and illusion. The first symbol, presented in the first scene, is the fire escape. This represents the "bridge" between the illusory world of the Wingfields and the world of reality. This "bridge" may be a one-way passage, but the direction varies for each character. For Tom, the fire escape is the way out of the world of Amanda and Laura, and an entrance into the world of reality. Amanda sees the fire escape as an opportunity for gentleman callers to enter their lives. This would be an example of reality entering the Wingfields illusionary lives. For Laura, the fire escape represents a way to hide from rea... ... middle of paper ... ...elming. He cannot seem to get over it. Everything he sees is a reminder of her. Tom is now truly following in the footsteps of his father. Too late, he is realizing that leaving is not an escape at all, but a path of even more powerful desperation. Williams uses the theme of escape throughout "The Glass Menagerie" to demonstrate the hopelessness and futility of each character's dreams. Tom, Laura and Amanda all seem to think, incorrectly I might add, that escape is possible. In the end, no character makes a clean break from the situation at hand. The escape theme demonstrated in the fire escape, the dance hall, Mr. Wingfield and Tom's departure prove to be a dead end in many ways. Perhaps Tennessee Williams is trying to send a message that running away is not the way to solve life's problems. The only escape in life is solving your problems, not avoiding them.

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