Symbolism and Crossing the Rubicon in Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.”

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The masterful use of symbolism is delightfully ubiquitous in Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.” He uses a collection of dim, dark and shadowy symbols that constantly remind the audience of the lost opportunity each of these three characters continually experience. This symbolism is not only use to enlighten the audience to their neglected opportunities to shine, but it is also repeatedly utilized to reinforce the ways in which the characters try in vain to cross over turbulent waters into a world of light and clarity. It is thematically a wrenching story of life gone by, and the barren attempts to realize another reality that is made more poignant by symbolic language, objects, setting, lighting and music. The characters are trying to escape their own reality, and continue desperately to grasp at real life. The powerful use of symbolism in The Glass Menagerie exaggerates their missed opportunities, and their inability to step into a new reality. Through the use of symbolism, Williams continually illuminates the attempts of each character to break their bondage, and cross their own personal Rubicon into another reality. Because of his expert use of symbolism the audience can assuredly feel the full weight and impact of their imprisonment and actions.

The symbolic use of glass not only in the title, but also in the little glass animals Laura collects and the fourth wall used in the stage directions creates a window, or prison through which they view the world. This window keeps the characters separated from the real world and skews the view of the reality they see. It is often said that people view the world through figurative lenses, and that those lenses determine how people are willing to view and act in t...

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...uman wreckage along the way, and jailed them in again other ways. Perhaps the way to cross the Rubicon, or follow your dreams, best is in fact like Caesar. Let go of your past; be single minded, and focus completely on the future. Laura was unable to leave behind her disability, Amanda was unable to leave behind her youth, and Tom eventually was unable to let go of the images of his sister and his feeling of responsibility toward her, which really kept him on the banks of the river, perhaps, never really crossing it.

Works Cited

Ardolino, Frank. “Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie.” The Explicator, Vol. 68, No. 2, 131–132, 2010

Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie.” Backpack Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Third Edition. “Ed” X. J. Kennedy, Dana Gioia. Pearson: 2010, 2008, 2006. 993-1049.

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