The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie

Length: 1670 words (4.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
To what extent does Williams create characters as merely symbolic representations used to teach the audience about human nature? And what other techniques does he use in the Glass Menagerie?

Tennessee Williams uses symbolism to reveal, in depth, attributes of characters and what they represent. the play is constructed so that each character has a defining symbol which resembles their personality. Brechtian techniques also contribute to the motifs and themes of the play.

We are presented a symbol straight away in the first scene which is the fire escape. This symbolises a "bridge" between the illusionary world of the Wingfields and the world of reality outside of their apartment.

Tom-"I'm going for a smoke!"

Laura-"I'm all right. I slipped, but I'm all right

From this The "bridge" initially seems to be a one way passage, but the for each character the direction varies. The fire escape, for Tom, is escape out of the world of Amanda and Laura and an entrance into the world of reality. The fire escape however, for Laura, is a way into her world and an escape from reality. Examples of both characters can clearly be seen: whenever Tom smokes he goes out on to the fire escape, showing that he does not like to be inside and be a part of the illusionary world. Yet on the other hand, Laura, thinks of the fire escape as a way in and not a way out. An example of this can be seen when Amanda tells Laura to go to the store: Laura trips on the fire escape. This idea suggests that Laura's emotions and fears enormously affect her physical condition. Much more so than normal people.

The most predominant and frequently referred to symbol which is rather obvious is Laura's glass menagerie. Her collection of glass represents her own private world which she frequently use as an escape from reality. Her place where she can hide and be safe. The events that happen to Laura's glass affects Laura's emotional state greatly. When Tom breaks the glass menagerie Laura is affected tremendously and this can be deciphered from her reaction.

"(shrilly) My glass!- menagerie".
"(from stage directions after the menagerie is broken) Laura clings weakly to the mantel with her face averted."

The shattered glass represents Laura's understanding of Tom's responsibilities to her. Also, the reaction to the unicorn breaking "(shrilly) My glass!- menagerie"., which is important, represents Laura directly because her fragility is represented; it is as if she has broken herself.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Glass Menagerie." 17 Jul 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Glass Menagerie By Tennessee Williams Essay

- Most objects are often regarded based on its physical appearance but often more times than not there is a deeper meaning behind them. Objects often have more symbolic meanings to them than what meets the eye, and if we take the time to really look below the surface we can often come to a much deeper understanding. In “The Glass Menagerie” written by Tennessee Williams, he uses a glass unicorn to symbolize one of the main characters, Laura Wingfield, to represent her life as an outcast, her fragility, and her prosperous ways when she is in the right company....   [tags: The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams]

Research Papers
735 words (2.1 pages)

The Importance of Symbolism in The Glass Menagerie Essay

- The Importance of Symbolism in The Glass Menagerie     Tom Wingfield is the narrator and a major character in Tennessee William’s timeless play, The Glass Menagerie. Through the eyes of Tom, the viewer gets a glance into the life of his family in the pre-war depression era; his mother, a Southern belle desperately clinging to the past; his sister, a woman too fragile to function in society; and himself, a struggling, young poet working at a warehouse to pay the bills. Williams has managed to create a momentous play using a combination of different elements, including symbolism....   [tags: Glass Menagerie Tennessee Williams]

Research Papers
1610 words (4.6 pages)

Free Glass Menagerie Essays: Symbols

- Symbols in The Glass Menagerie In the play, The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, Williams uses many symbols which represent many different things.  Many of the symbols used in the play try to symbolize some form of escape or difference 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" seems to be a one way excursion.  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 a world of new dimensions.  For Laura, the fire escape is a way i...   [tags: The Glass Menagerie]

Free Essays
1276 words (3.6 pages)

Essay on Tom in The Glass Menagerie

- The Character of Tom in The Glass Menagerie   Tom Wingfield has a dual role in The Glass Menagerie. The first Tom is the narrator, who introduces his second self, the character. In his fifth soliloquy, Tom the narrator indicates that time has detached him from the drama, "for time is the longest distance between two places" (Williams 1568). In the closing soliloquy Tom recounts how he lives and re-lives the story in his memory, though he is detached from the participants in the original affair....   [tags: Glass Menagerie essays]

Research Papers
586 words (1.7 pages)

Escape Mechanisms in The Glass Menagerie Essay

- Escape Mechanisms in The Glass Menagerie In Tennessee Williams’ play, The Glass Menagerie, all four members of the Wingfield family have chosen to hide from reality. Amanda tries to relive her past through Laura, and denies anything she does not want to accept. Laura is terrified of the real world, and choses to hide behind her limp, her glass menagerie and the victrola. Tom hides from his reality by going to the movies, writing poetry, and getting drunk. Mr Wingfield hides from his reality by leaving his family and not contacting them after he has done so....   [tags: Glass Menagerie essays]

Research Papers
1330 words (3.8 pages)

Important Symbols in The Glass Menagerie Essay

- 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....   [tags: Glass Menagerie essays]

Research Papers
1189 words (3.4 pages)

Crushed Dreams in The Glass Menagerie Essay

- Crushed Dreams in The Glass Menagerie       Tennessee Williams is known for his use of symbols, tension, and irony. Williams uses all of these components to express the central theme of The Glass Menagerie - hope followed by despair. Each of the characters has dreams that are destroyed by the harsh realities of the world.               As the narrator blatantly admits, 'since I have a poet's weakness for symbols', symbols are central to The Glass Menagerie (Williams 30). Symbols are merely concrete substitutions used to express a particular theme, idea, or character....   [tags: Glass Menagerie essays]

Research Papers
1205 words (3.4 pages)

Misguided Love in The Glass Menagerie Essay

- Misguided Love in The Glass Menagerie The Glass Menagerie, written by playwright Tennessee Williams, is the story of a family torn apart by heartbreak from the past and tragedy from the present. Williams' parallels this play to his true life experience with his own family, which makes The Glass Menagerie an even more tragic version of what happens to a family when love is lost and abandonment is reality. Providing for a family can be an overwhelming responsibility, for there are many pitfalls along the way, some families are able to cope, some are not, and The Glass Menagerie gives us insight into what truly happens to a family when faced with abandonment....   [tags: Glass Menagerie essays]

Research Papers
1390 words (4 pages)

Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie Essay

- Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie If The Glass Menagerie were performed without the effects Williams wrote into the script, then the play would barely have a plot. Williams' use of music, lighting and a television screen add depth and meaning to the play. He uses effects to portray the feelings of the characters, rather than their words or actions. In Tom's opening speech he states that'The play is memory.' Because it is about his memories of his mother and her memories. They both spend the play living in the past....   [tags: Williams Glass Menagerie Essays]

Research Papers
951 words (2.7 pages)

Desperation in The Glass Menagerie Essay

- A 26 year-old woman kneels on the floor, childlike, playing with glass figurines upon a living room table. Too plagued by her own humility, Laura contemplates only one future for herself; seclusion from the outside world where bad encounters prevail the desire for good experiences. A lack of positive growth for Laura, along with the rest of her family, is the pitfall for Tennessee Williams where he pressurizes kindred desperation in The Glass Menagerie only to produce hopelessness as the ultimate outcome....   [tags: The Glass Menagerie essays]

Research Papers
771 words (2.2 pages)

Laura points out to Jim that the unicorn is different, just as she is different. She also points out that the unicorn does not complain of being different, as she does not complain either. And when Jim breaks the horn off the unicorn, Laura points out that now it is like the other horses, just as Laura has shed some of her shyness and become more normal. When she hands the broken unicorn to Jim, this might represent Laura handing over her broken love to Jim, as Jim has revealed that he is engaged to be married.

There are many symbolic attributes that Williams use to present Laura and the world she lives in. In the play Laura is presented as an awkward, emotionally insecure and fragile person. In her mind she doesn't have a connection to the real world and lives in her world of glass animals. The glass figurines represent the fragile relationship between the characters, and when they break the relationships fall apart. The glass unicorn is Lauras favourite figure and this represents he delicacy and fragility and her outcast status in the world. This idea of animals representing her a being fragility and being an outcast re-occurs many times throughout the whole play in many other forms. After Laura dropped out of college she consistently visited the zoo, and glass house of tropical flowers. She feels comfortable here because they are vulnerable and delicate just like her. Laura and Jim have a very brief love encounter , during this Laura is gaining more confidence about herself. This idea is as if she is starting to escape the illusionary world and entering reality. Jim accidentally knocked and broke Laura‘s favourite glass piece. Laura, who usually worships her glass collection more than anything else and would have been distraught, replied to his reaction with;

"He's lost his horn. It doesn't matter. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise."

"I'll just imagine he had an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less-freakish! Now he will feel more at home with the other horse, the ones who don't have horns....".

These two quotes suggest that Laura is finally escaping her illusionary world. Her encounter with Jim has made her think that she might have a chance to survive the real world. "I'll just imagine he had an operation", the unicorn is like Laura in this because it has lost its horn and it fits in with the rest of the figures. The meeting she has had with Jim is "the operation" she has had done to her and she feels as if she will fit in with the world now. Jim tells her the news that he is engaged and she gives him the unicorn as a souvenir which can be interpreted as her giving away her ability to fit in with the world and retreats into illusory world of the glass menagerie never to come out again.

Tom acts as two roles in the play; as the narrator and a character. He struggles with being a hard worker, a protector of his loved ones, and a fulfiller of his dreams. Tom wishes for a sense of independence by escaping the pressures that come from his dysfunctional family life. Tom needs to feel a sense of adulthood. He feels like a child because his mother is constantly telling him what to do. He uses forms of escapes to remove himself from the stresses and strains Laura and his mother place upon him, such as the cinema which he visits frequently through the play. He is imaginative and articulate which is contradictory to the attributes of Amanda. We can tell Tom yearns for a life of adventure and freedom, but feels he can‘t fulfil because he doesn't want to hurt Amanda and Laura

"I'm going to opium dens! Yes, opium dens, dens of vice and criminal hang- outs, mother. I've joined the Hogan gang, I'm a hired assassin, I carry a tommy-gun in a violin case…"

"…But the wonderfulness trick of all was the coffin trick. …he got out of the coffin without removing one nail. There is a trick that would come in handy for me- get me out of this 2 by 4 situation"

We can see from the imaginative vocabulary and ideas "I've joined the Hogan gang, I'm a hired assassin, I carry a tommy-gun in a violin case…" that Tom conveys through his speech he is very articulate and is destined for better things than working in a dead end warehouse job. He symbolises the average American struggling in his one dimensional live that wants to escape and break free in to a better life which they wish for. He is autobiographical for Tenessee Williams and therefore is the most complex character which can be seen from the way in which he treats Amanda and Laura. Sometimes he can be understanding towards them but can then be very indifferent towards them. The phrase "…he got out of the coffin without removing one nail. There is a trick that would come in handy for me- get me out of this 2 by 4 situation" completely summarises Toms intentions as a character as he uses this symbolic idea as a representation of his situation living in the Wingfield apartment and how he would like to escape. The nails symbolise Laura and Amanda and he reveals he doesn't want to remove one, which translates as he does not want hurt either of them. When Tom acts as the narrator it is a Brechtian technique to remind the audience it is a play and not a realistic situation. This emphasises all the characters in the play as merely symbolic representations.

The use of an onstage screen on which words and images of relevance to the action are projected is one of the play's most unique features. The idea of the screen is to emphasize the importance of something referred to by the characters. This is a Brechtian technique used to remind the audience they are in a play and going to learn something. An example of this is when an image of a gentleman caller appears on the screen; occasionally it refers to something from a character's past or fantasy, as when the image of Amanda as a young girl appears in Scene Six because she is obsessed with her past and her illusory world is her past.

"Ou sont les neiges"

"Blue roses"

The purpose of the screen is to generally emphasize a themes or symbol that has already been encountered and established obviously by the action of the play. This makes the device seem, at best an ironic device, but slightly patronising occasionally. Productions of the play have been, for the most part, very hesitant about the effectiveness and value of the screen as a device. The screen as a device is, however, an interesting personification of Williams's Brechtian theatrical style, which makes expressionist life portrayals to convey an idea the main priority rather than realistic portrayals of life.

Williams does create characters as merely symbolic representations used to teach the audience about human nature because of the use of Brechtian techniques such as the screen and a narrator .Also we learn so much from the characters through symbolism that it is difficult to imagine them as real people because they seem to unrealistic and only created to teach the audience a lesson.
Return to