In Tennessee Williams's play The Glass Menagerie, we are introduced to a young lady named Laura. Being shy, to an extreme, Laura lives in a world of her own making. It is a socially limited world where she is safe from all life's painful embarrassments. Laura has wrapped herself in a blanket of protection within the walls of her family's lower middle-class apartment. There in her protected fortress she cares for her collection of glass animals, a collection her mother calls the glass menagerie. There is a consistent parallel between Laura and her collection. Laura's glass collection is a physical extension of herself, representing her lifeless existence and the absolute fragility within her. The glass unicorn specifically represents Laura's uniqueness, purity, and innocence.
"The principal symbol in the play is, as the title suggests, the glass menagerie. It is specifically Laura's symbol, the objective correlative of her fragile, other-worldly beauty. Its stylized animal forms image her own immobilized animal or sexual nature, her arrested emotional development, and her inability to cope with the demands of a flesh-and-blood world" (145) says Judith J. Thompson, author of the essay, "Symbol, Myth, and Ritual." We are first shown the connection between Laura and her glass collection in Scene 3, during an argument between Tom and Amanda. Tom, in a burst of anger, hurls his overcoat across the room striking the table where Laura's collection is placed on display. Stage direction indicates "there is a tinkle of shattering glass. Laura cries out as if wounded" (Scene 3). It is as if Laura and the collection of glass are one. The glass breaks, but she cries out as if she physically felt the pai...
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...3). So ultimately, like the shattered horn of the mythical unicorn, Laura's life is seemingly left to remain in a shattered state-beyond any foreseeable repair
Nelson, Benjamin. Tennassee Williams: The Man and His Work. New York: Obolensky, 1961.
Presley, Delma E. The Glass Menagerie: An American Memory. Boston: Twayne, 1990.
South, Malcom. Mythical and Fabulous Creatures. Westport, Conneticut: Greenwood, 1987.
Thompson, Judith J. "Symbols, Myth, and Ritual." Tennessee Williams: Thirteen Essays. Ed. Jac Tharpe. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1981. 139-71.
Tischler, Nancy M. Tennessee Williams: Rebellious Puritan. New York: Citadel, 1961.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. An Introduction to Literature. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, Morton Berman, and William Burto. Expanded ed. New York: HarperCollins. 1994. 1286-1329.
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