In The Glass Menagerie there are many main symbols these are stage props, stage lighting and stage sounds. In regard to stage props the main ones are the glass menagerie, the fire escape and Mr. Wingfield’s picture. Also in terms of stage lighting the main symbols are the candles, spotlight and the moonlight. And finally the main symbols for stage sounds are the Glass menagerie music, paradise dance hall music (PDH) and Laura’s Victorola. Tennessee Williams generally uses symbolism in the play to deepen our understanding of characters and to emphasis the play’s themes. The characters we understand in the play throughout this are Tom, Laura, Amanda, and Jim. The themes that are particular highlighted are dreams, time, communication and imprisonment.
One of Tennessee Williams’s first main symbolic symbols is his use of stage props. My first main focus is on the glass menagerie itself.
First of all the glass menagerie symbolises Laura‘s delicacy, just like glass the reason for this is because Laura is very fragile and can easily be broken, mentally and physically. There is one specific part in the play where Jim is admiring her menagerie. There is one glass object that Laura really likes which is a unicorn, so she picks it up and gives it to Jim then Jim accidentally drops it. As it hits the ground the horn from the horse falls off, this breakage of the horse‘s horn could symbolise Laura’s heart being broken by Jim. Laura used to really admire Jim when they were in school together, but now that she knows that he is engaged her heart has been broken. When the horn from the horse falls off this could also symbolise Rose‘s prefrontal lobotomy. In every play Tennessee Williams wrote, he dedicated something to her, whether it be a character or a stage prop. The unicorn also has certain uniqueness to it compared with the other horses in the glass menagerie because of its horn, but if you take away its horn, it becomes normal like the other ones. This is exactly what happens to Laura; usually she never talks and is incredibly shy but then when Jim comes around she finds that human communication is better than talking to her glass menagerie.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Now one of Tennessee Williams‘s second symbolic props is the fire escape.
A fire escape is meant to help you escape from a burning building of course, but not in this case as in Laura’s, Tom’s and Amanda’s house this fire escape reinforces the idea of imprisonment as the fire symbolises lots of raging emotions and conflict between the following characters in the house. In the opening sentence it states ‘burning with slow and implacable fires of human desperation’ which means that they are ridden with felling that there is no escape from their painful and slow suffering. This also gives them a fear of the future, as they don’t know what is going to happen. There is also another part symbolically in the play were Laura trips on the Fire escape steps, this represents Laura’s insecurity and her terror of the outside world, which too links to the theme of imprisonment and Jim’s relationship with Laura.
Now one of Tennessee Williams‘s third and final symbolic features is Mr.Wingfield‘s picture.
In the Glass menagerie and in Tom, Laura and Amanda’s apartment there is a picture that hangs on their wall, this picture is of Mr. Wingfield, which is Amanda‘s husband. The way that the picture hangs on the wall the family are always reminded of his presence, it’s almost like he is looking dawn on his family and laughing them like some sort of evil spirit. Mr Wingfields picture is really only associated with Amanda and Laura, as both of them talk to his picture during the play. Laura and Amanda both have different views on Mr Wingfield. Laura looks up to the picture of her father and goes to it and the old victrola for comfort when she is frightened. Amanda however is the complete opposite of Laura and always speaks of him when she talks about bad things, e.g. when she talks about the men she could’ve married but then speaks ill of him.
The second main symbolic feature of Tennessee William’s is his use of stage lighting and the first main focus is on the candles.
There is one part in the play where Amanda blows out the candles this symbolises the end of her emotional life as it is and perhaps the future and hopes for love and a happy family. A candle also symbolises Laura ‘s need for Tom as a support in life just like a candle the flame needs the candle for support but what’s a candle with out a flame so it works both ways Laura needs Tom as a support and Tom needs Laura as a support.
Also whenever we see candles we often refer to them as a holy symbol, like something you see at church. This idea of a church also links to Laura, because you don’t only get candles in churches but you also get nuns. Laura is like a nun in a way because nuns shut themselves away and chose to do so in the name of God so does Laura but not in the name of God but of her own free will. The reason for this is because she would not be able to cope or even survive mentally with the outside world, without some sot of support like Tom by her side.
One of Tennessee Williams is third main uses of symbols is sound. The first main focuses are on the glass menagerie music.
The glass menagerie music symbolises peace and harmony in the house and the play because classical music is normally very relaxing which the menagerie music is for example the music shows that Laura is delicate and fragile just like the her menagerie.
The second focus is on the Paradise Dance hall music.
The Paradise Dance hall music is mainly used when Amanda is talking and thinking about Blue Mountain. It reminds her about how exciting her life used to be in the Old South.
Tennessee Williams writes ‘All the world is waiting for the sun to rise,’ this could mean that Amanda is waiting for joy and good things to happen in her life, for example, for Laura to marry a rich young man so she can live with them instead of living in the grubby apartment. It could also mean the same for Tom when he thinks about leaving to go and join the merchant marine. This will also make the audience fell more……..
The paradise dance hall music, as I have said, represents Amanda mainly when she is talking and thinking about the old south and Blue Mountain. As this music is also very different from their apartment. The music is very upbeat and lively, unlike the apartment, which is boring. On page 30 when this happens, she looks at Mr Wingfields picture which signified her downfall in her life.
This piece of music reflects emotion, mostly of hurt from Laura because she is always feeling guilty when Amanda is always complaining about the apartment. The theme is this particular piece of music is imprisonment, because Laura is imprisoned by her mother’s expectations and dreams for her becoming a great woman when she is older.
When it states that ‘All the world is waiting for the sun to rise,’ this has two main meanings. The first being it could mean that Amanda is waiting for good things to happen in her dismal life, e.g.: Laura to get married so Amanda can go and live a better life. The second is that it could mean the same for Tom in that he has always wanted to get away from the apartment. This could be when he talks and things about going into the Merchant Marine. This suggests a connection with the Great Depression because Tom’s dreams are always slipping away from him.
First of all the Great depression started off in 1929 and ended in 1939 which means it lasted for 10 years. As soon as the depression began there was a massive economical slump this slump was the worst the country ever had. Stock prices fell by 20%, banks were also in big trouble this also meant that individual people suffered because they were unable to take any money out from there bank. There was also one massive problem businesses also failed so then there was no demand for products therefore there was massive unemployment by 30% world-wide. So many of these problems happened over a short period of time. You must be thinking what relevance does this have to the play. Well this war explains Amanda‘s desperation for Laura to get a job. The war also has some relevance to the play because when the lights go out in Amanda’s apartment this to symbolises the optimism in the economy declining. In the play there are lots of themes. There is the theme of dreams, time, imprisonment and communication but the great depression focuses more on the theme of time. In the theme of time Tennessee William‘s shows us that Amanda is seeking a sort of decline from her childhood into a great depression.
American civil war
The American civil war started in 1861 and ended in 1865. The two army’s that were fighting were the confederate states and the United States. The main reason why the civil war started was because the confederate states wanted to self govern and there was a very big problem with slavery because the Negro’s as they were called, were being kept as slaves and made to pick cotton from the cotton fields. The war lasted for 4 years and the people who come out on top were the Yankees. What effects did the war have on the country though? Well first of all slavery was abolished therefor there was no cotton picking and the Negro slaves had more privileges for example they got to vote for the next presidential election.
Spanish civil war
The Spanish civil war began in 1936 and ended in 1939. This time there were lots of nations involved. The fight was between the nationalists (the bandies) who were made up of Germany and Italy, and the republicans (goodies) which are made up of England and France. The nationalists were very strong, powerful and rich they also had powerful leaders by the name of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, but the republicans had England and France and later on in the battle the Russians came for support. During the war the nationalists were planning to attack by dropping bombs on the republicans they hit many public buildings but they also missed most of their major army basses.