Symbolism Glass Menagerie

Symbolism in “The Glass Menagerie”

“The Glass Menagerie” is often regarded as Tennessee Williams’ most pivotal work.   His use of symbolism is easy to observe due to the limited backdrop and set of characters. Williams’ dialogue allows each character’s weaknesses to come alive through their interaction with the objects they come in contact with.   There are four main characters in the play: Amanda (mother), Laura (daughter and sister), Tom (son and brother) Wingfield, and Jim.   Amanda is an aging Southern belle who has unrealistic aspirations for her children.   Laura is a disabled girl in her twenties who lacks self-confidence and ambition.   Tom, both the narrator and one of the main characters, is a poet and admits he has a weakness for symbols.   Instead of pursuing his dreams of writing and adventure, he works in a factory in order to support his mother and sister. Jim, a proposed suitor for Laura, is a pleasant young man who accepts an invitation for dinner from his co-worker, Tom.
One major symbol presented in the play is the Wingfield’s fire escape, which has a different meaning for each member of the family.   For Tom, it is a means of escape from "the slow and implacable fires of human desperation."   This is especially true of Tom’s apartment because of the unbearable restraints his mother and sister have created in his life.   His mother, devastated after Laura’s failure to cope in college-level business courses, becomes obsessed with finding her a gentleman caller so that she can marry and be well-supported.   When a caller finally comes, Amanda believes this dream is finally being fulfilled. As Jim and Laura dance and eventually kiss, he abruptly apologizes announcing he is engaged and dashes her hopes.   The ever-fragile Laura, temporarily drawn out of her dream-world shell of her glass collection, draws further back into herself.   Now a terrible desperation fills the apartment, and Tom decides he must escape the suffocating environment to follow his true...