Tennessee Williams' play, The Glass Menagerie, describes three separate characters, their dreams, and the harsh realities they face in a modern world. The Glass Menagerie exposes the lost dreams of a southern family and their desperate struggle to escape reality. Williams' use of symbols adds depth to the play. The glass menagerie itself is a symbol Williams uses to represent the broken lives of Amanda, Laura and Tom Wingfield and their inability to live in the present.
The glass menagerie symbolizes Amanda Wingfield's overwhelming need to cling to her past and her fulfilled fear of being alone. Amanda resents the poverty-stricken neighborhood in which she lives so much that she needs to mentally escape from it by invented romance and self-deception. Williams describes her as having "endurance and a kind of heroism, but she is also silly, snobbish, sometimes cruel and sometimes pathetic in her well-intentioned blundering"(Williams 1865). Abandoned by her husband, Amanda comforts herself with recollections of her earlier, more gracious, southern life in Blue Mountain when she was pursued by "gentleman callers". Amanda is desperate to find her daughter, Laura, a husband, the kind of gentleman caller that she herself longed for, who would not have deserted her. "Well, in the South we had so many servants. Gone, gone, gone. All vestiges of gracious living! Gone completely! I wasn't prepared for what the future brought me." (Williams 1893). She foists her illusions on her unwilling children, lives in the past with pretensions to glory.
Laura's collection of glass animals represents her hypersensitive nature and fragility. The glass menagerie is ...
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...tle glass animals came to represent in my memory all the softest emotions that belong to the recollection of things past. They stood for all the tender things that relieve"(Williams 64). They retreat into their own separate worlds to escape the harshness of life. Amanda, Laura, and Tom are incapable of living in the present. Mirroring the social and economic despair in the U.S., The Glass Menagerie is nostalgia for a past world and its evocation of loneliness and lost love, which celebrates, above all, the human need to dream.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Crandall, George. The Critical Response to Tennessee Williams. Westport: Greenwood, 1996.
Martin, Robert. Critical Essays on Tennessee Williams (Critical Essays on American Literature). New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997.
Williams, Tennessee. "The Glass Menagerie". New York: Random House, 1985.
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