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Symbolism in the Glass Menagerie

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Symbolism in the Glass Menagerie John Bailey June 2009 In the play "The Glass Menagerie," Tennessee Williams the author presents the glass menagerie as a metaphor for the Wingfield family and other families during the Great Depression. The author highlights the concept of the family's vulnerability and how easily it can be shattered like glass. Laura shares a connection with the glass, and through the descriptive stage directions the audience can view the bond that links her to the collection. Williams uses foreshadowing through the breaking of a symbolic figurine to show the events that will occur within the Wingfield family and how everything will be forever different and broken, just like the figurine. A menagerie is a varied mixture or a collection of foreign animals that are kept especially for exhibition. The glass menagerie is a metaphor for the Wingfield family. Each character is a different piece of glass that when together composes a family within a menagerie. Through their differences from the outside world the Wingfields a menagerie that is stared at for being different from the rest of the world. Laura and Tom are dreamers, but they cannot act on their dreams and desires. ...read more.


The feeble layer of glass that contains the family within the menagerie is shown to be easily broken, and Williams shows that without the proper care it will surely shatter. Laura shares a personal relationship with the figurines, because unlike her father and nonexistent friends, they can never leave or forsake her. Whenever she is nervous about anything, her immediate tendency is to reach for the glass: "Laura utters a startled, doubtful laugh. She reaches quickly for a piece of glass." The ability to have her glass friends available whenever necessary is comforting to Laura; unlike so many other factors in her life, these animals are in her control. Over time, Laura's bond with the animals deepens until they are almost a part of her. When describing the glass to Jim, Laura is basically describing herself: "Oh, be careful- if you breathe, it breaks." Here Laura is telling the audience here how fragile she is, and that she is worried that Jim might crush her. When he holds the figurine Laura is delighted that he is taking an interest in her collection: "you're holding him gently! ...read more.


The Wingfield family members rely upon each other, and as Tom realizes that Laura will be dependent upon him for much longer than expected, he knows that if he wishes to do something for himself he must leave. Here the stage directions read: "Tom smashes his glass on the floor. He plunges out on the fire escape." Tom breaks the glass and his departure symbolizes that just like his shattered glass, the impact this will have upon his family can never be repaired. With Tom leaving, the Wingfield family is shattered. Amanda is lost in her past, Tom in his hopes for a future, and Laura in her imaginary world of glass. The ties that the family share as so strong, though, that even when running away Tom cannot escape from his sister. "The window is filled with little pieces of coloured glass...then all at once my sister touches my shoulder." Glass will forever symbolize his sister, and thus his shattered family. The Wingfield family is to be forever changed and it will never again be pieced back together. Tennessee Williams uses glass throughout the play as symbolism for the Wingfield family and to foreshadow later events. The "glass menagerie" is a unique and effect way to portray this troubled, fragile family. 1181 words 1 ...read more.

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