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Glass Menagerie Symbolism

When we enter the realm of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie it is as if we are entering into an illusory world. The Wingfield’s are a crippled family. There is the mother, Amanda, who tries to keep up the pretense of the past, a time when her bloom was not yet off the rose, so-to-speak. There is the shy, withdrawn daughter, Laura, who hides her disabilities and dysfunctions from a harsh reality through illusions. Then there is the son Tom, a factory worker who yearns for adventure and the fulfillment of his dreams as a writer. Throughout the play symbolism and symbols are employed to illustrate the predicament of each and the family as a whole. Even the tenement apartment they live in stands as a symbol of their repression. As Williams tell us, the apartment is “symptomatic of the impulse of this largest and fundamentally enslaved section of American society to avoid fluidity and differentiation and to exist and function as one interfused mass of automatism” (400). This analysis will look at the three main characters in the play and illustrate how symbols and symbolism are utilized by Williams to illustrate the predicament of each. A conclusion will address why symbolism is used by writers as a creative device to enhance drama.

It is difficult to study The Glass Menagerie and avoid encountering symbols. The fire escape represents Tom’s small respite from the stultifying atmosphere of the apartment, the factory, and his mother’s incessant nagging. The fire escape also represents safety to Amanda who is locked inside a world of memories. As one critic argues, “She cannot live in the present, and the lack of a front door makes it easy for her to avoid real life....She has become trapped by her memories” (The 1). The picture of the patriarch who took off and abandoned the family hangs as a reminder on the wall of irresponsibility and escapism. So, too, the phonographs that Laura continually plays are...

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Glass Menagerie Symbolism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:08, September 24, 2020, from