It is a common theme that authors highlight the values of a culture or society by using characters who are alienated from the typical social norms. A primary example would be Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie, where Williams depicts a character named Laura as very isolated from the world and those around her. Laura is a very shy young woman who fears her mother and fails to meet up to her mother’s expectations and previous footsteps with gentlemen callers. Throughout the entire play a reader will notice how the central theme involves how individuals are all alone in the world.
Clear from the start, the reader can differentiate the dynamics of the family introduced. Laura is isolated, Tom is unhappy and wants to leave his family, but realizes that they need him, and the mother is obsessed with the idea of Laura getting married. This unfunctional family increases Laura’s need of isolation from her family and world. Williams describes Laura’s isolation through the symbolic use of glass. Similar to glass Laura is extremely fragile, she faces being easily damaged and destroyed. Glass objects have three dimensions very easily seen similar to Laura. It is easy to see every damaged side of Laura, just as it is on the glass figures. Laura is trapped in her own world of alienation. Glass reflects a rainbow of personality and beauty. Similar to the rainbow given off by glass, Laura has a sense of beauty and a colorful self-awareness.
Williams also brings attention to Laura’s isolation from the world, to magnify the idea that there is beauty in human differences. The candlelight that flickers during a moment between Laura and Jim shows individuality. The candlelight seems to be a symbol of her disability. Laura describes to Jim how her favorite glass in her menagerie is her unicorn, this symbolizes how a unicorn is tragically different from all other animals in Laura’s collection. Just like the unicorn Laura is different from anyone else her age.
Williams makes it clear through his writing about the obsession of everyone surrounding Laura urging her to get married. Every time the topic is mentioned near Laura, Williams writes her as uncomfortable due to her insecurities of not being as great as her mother. Her mother’s constant prideful memories creates an uncomfortable moment for Laura, knowing that she can never compare to her, believing that she is not good enough for any man that could potentially enter her life. When Jim arrives, she believes can find a chance at happiness, starting to act bolder than she would usually behaves. However, when it is revealed that Jim is engaged, Laura quickly shuts down and return to her isolated behavior. She is quickly put down by one man and decides to give up completely in her search for a man. Laura no longer wants to comply to social norms and what her family wanted for her.
Williams use of highlighting Laura’s disability allows the reader to know that her disability cause more alienation to her character, creating a greater meaning to the central theme of the play, that individuals are all alone in the world. Laura’s handicap is the greatest characteristic of her loneliness. Laura blames her loneliness in highschool upon her brace and is self conscious about how loud it is. Yet Jim claims, he never noticed any loud sound. Laura was the only person who realized and continues to recognize her handicap. It causes her to stand out from the others, surrounding her. She finds it to be completely alienating, which separates her from the rest of the world.
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