In the Glass Menagerie play by Tennessee Williams, he explains three characters, their fantasies and the discordant realities they face as life goes on. Tennessee Williams, use of symbolism computes depth and better representation to the play. The Glass Menagerie itself is a symbol to display the unsettled lives of Tom, Laura, and Amanda Wingfield and their inaptitude to live in the moment. Many symbols in the play show some form of escape or the contrast between illusion and reality. Three symbols in the play explains the characters they are the fire escape, the glass menagerie, and the typewriter.
The first symbol recognized in the first scene is the fire escape. This represents an exit for the characters, an escape from the pressures of the Wingfield household.
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The apartment faces an alley and is entered by a fire escape, a structure whose name is a touch of accidental poetic truth, for all of these huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation. The fire escape is part of what we see – that is, the landing of it and steps descending from it. (p.3)
All the characters use this fire escape as an entrance rather than a place to escape. In scene four, Laura slips on the fire escape symbolizing her inability to escape life’s situations. However, Tom visualizes the fire escape a different way; he frequently steps out and takes a smoke, awaiting his next adventure. For Amanda, these steps are not made for escaping, and she fears being alone. Tom uses the fire escape anticipating his next getaway, rather than the Wingfield women whom live in the apartment where there is no escape besides illusion.
The title of the play and most pronounced symbol, the glass menagerie. This symbol represents Laura’s fragility and the collection of animals is her imaginative world away from society. Laura herself is most like the unicorn, because, she is crippled, and her shyness is giving herself consciousness. However, Amanda tries to pull Laura out of this state of being but fails in process. Her brother Tom feels that Laura is being secluded from the outside world, true she devotes her time to old records, and her collection of glass figurines. “A fragile, unearthly prettiness has come out in Laura: she is like a piece of translucent glass touched by light, given a momentary radiance, not actual, not lasting.” (p.51) Both Tom and Amanda are worried about Laura and what the symbol the glass menagerie brings to her old-fashion and childlike self.
Although each symbol is important, the typewriter gives each character a scene that adds to their personalities. For Laura, the typewriter symbolizes her boundaries of college and by which she escapes by walking through the park and engulfing her life in the glass collection. For Tom, the typewriter allows him to break free of the mold set by his mother, and he uses it to compose of manuscripts. However, for Amanda it is to signify both Laura for abandoning business school, and Tom not fully committing himself to his job. “What are we going to do, what is to become of us, what is the future?” The symbol typewriter threw many question marks over the characters heads, but through the scenes they revolve their feelings.
Expressive is the word to describe all the symbols in the play The Glass Menagerie. These characters either refuse to join the society or cannot wait to get away to see what life has in store. The fire escape, the glass menagerie, and the typewriter each add a unique touch to the characters, rather good or bad. The Glass Menagerie itself is a symbol, that carries many more symbols that helps the reader understand special moments in each characters story.
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