In The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, the glass menagerie is a clear and powerful metaphor for each of the four characters, Tom, Laura, Amanda, and the Gentleman Caller. It represents their lives, personality, emotions, and other important characteristics.
Laura is the owner and caretaker of the glass menagerie. In her own little fantasy world, playing with the glass animals is how she escapes from the real world in order to get away from the realities and hardships she endures. Though she is crippled only to a very slight degree physically, her mind is very disabled on an emotional level. Over time, she has become very fragile, much like the glass, which shatters easily, as one of the animals lost its horn; she can lose control of herself. Laura is very weak and open to attack, unable to defend herself from the truths of life. The glass menagerie is an unmistakable metaphor in representing Laura’s physical and mental states.
Amanda is also well characterized by the glass menagerie. The glass sits in a case, open for display and inspection for all. Amanda try’s to portray herself as a loving mother, doing everything she can for her children, and caring nothing for herself, when in fact, she is quite selfish and demanding. Amanda claims that she devotes her life to her children, and that she would do anything for them, but is very suspicious of Tom’s activities, and continually pressures Tom, trying to force him in finding a gentleman caller for Laura, believing that Laura is lonely and needs a companion, perhaps to get married. Like the glass, her schemes are very transparent, and people can see straight through them to the other side, where ...
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...Laura. If he had been what Amanda had wanted him to be, Laura would have become happy and so would have Amanda, and then Tom would have been able to go his own separate way, being freed of his duties to his mother and sister. However, as it turns out, the shelf seems to have broken, because the gentleman caller actually ignites the greatest fight of all between Tom and Amanda, and Laura is left shattered after she loses whatever she had left within her because the gentleman caller turned out to be a disappointment.
Although the glass menagerie is meant as a direct metaphor for Laura, it also serves as a metaphor to the other characters in the play through various means. They are all interconnected in some way, depending on each other, and when things don’t turn out right, everything begins to fall into a downward spiral, with little or no hope for improvement.
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