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The Glass Menagerie 2 Essay, Research Paper

In The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams uses various types of symbolism. He uses the symbols to develop character and theme, to elaborate on what the characters aspire to be, and to identify what they actually are. Laura Wingfield is a very complex and important character to the play. It is from her that the name of the play derives from, being that she is the owner of the menagerie. Her nickname, Blue Roses, is one of the key symbols in the play. It shows the unusual imaginary quality of her otherworld nature. Roses are not naturally blue. Therefore, blue roses would be different, and so is Laura. Though, her nickname is an essential symbol, there is one symbol that is more vital than the others. This chief element would be her favorite piece of her collection, the unicorn.

One of the main themes of this play is escapism. Each member of the Wingfield family has their own way of escaping from reality. Amanda escapes from reality by believing that she is still in the past. When Tom wants to escape from reality he goes to the movie theatre and gets drunk. The glass menagerie is Laura s means of escape. She collects a large assortment of little glass ornaments that she is particularly fond of. The majority of these articles are animals, and they are the gateway to Laura s own little world. They represent her love of beauty, her dependence, and Laura is also fragile like glass.

It is especially significant that the unicorn is Laura s favorite, because she is the unicorn of the play. Like a unicorn compared to a common horse, Laura is unique and different from all the other characters in the play. Again, the second dimension of the unicorn, is that it is composed of glass. Just like glass, Laura too is delicate and fragile. The rest of the glass collection is the small world that she creates, and the unicorn is the representation of herself in that world.

When the unicorn is dropped and loses its horn, Laura cries out as if it was herself who had been struck. Its breaking showed Laura s fragility. She is dependent, and cannot survive on her own. She needs protection from reality, but she ends up breaking her heart because of it. The snapping of the unicorn s horn is also used to signify that something in Laura is changing. Now that the horn is gone, the horse supposedly feels less freakish , and at this instant, thanks to Jim, Laura feels less out of place too. Jim apologizes for being the cause of the broken glass, but what he does not realize, is that he is also the cause of Laura s alteration.

Near the end of the play, Laura decides to give Jim the broken unicorn as a souvenir. In this gesture of handing him the unicorn she is actually thanking him for his help. He helped her understand that being different was actually a wonderful thing. Giving him the unicorn was the only thing she could think of to help Jim remember what he has done for her. Not only is it her way of saying thank you, but it is also her way of showing that she did not need to be in the her miniature world of the glass menagerie anymore. She is showing that she will not have to escape from reality from now on.

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams uses various types of symbolism throughout the play. They develop character and theme, elaborate on what the characters aspire to be, and identify what they actually are. The name of the play comes from the glass collection of one of the central characters of the play, Laura Wingfield. Her nickname Blue Roses is one of the symbols to be mentioned in the play, but the most significant would have to be the relationship between Laura and her favorite piece of her glass menagerie, the unicorn.


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