To what extent does Williams create characters as merely symbolic representations used to teach the audience about human nature? And what other techniques does he use in the Glass Menagerie?Tennessee Williams uses symbolism to reveal, in depth, attributes of characters and what they represent.
the play is constructed so that each character has a defining symbol which resembles their personality. Brechtian techniques also contribute to the motifs and themes of the play.We are presented a symbol straight away in the first scene which is the fire escape. This symbolises a "bridge" between the illusionary world of the Wingfields and the world of reality outside of their apartment.
Tom-”I’m going for a smoke!” Laura-”I’m all right. I slipped, but I’m all rightFrom this The "bridge" initially seems to be a one way passage, but the for each character the direction varies. The fire escape, for Tom, is escape out of the world of Amanda and Laura and an entrance into the world of reality. The fire escape however, for Laura, is a way into her world and an escape from reality. Examples of both characters can clearly be seen: whenever Tom smokes he goes out on to the fire escape, showing that he does not like to be inside and be a part of the illusionary world. Yet on the other hand, Laura, thinks of the fire escape as a way in and not a way out.
An example of this can be seen when Amanda tells Laura to go to the store: Laura trips on the fire escape. This idea suggests that Laura's emotions and fears enormously affect her physical condition. Much more so than normal people. The most predominant and frequently referred to symbol which is rather obvious is Laura's glass menagerie. Her collection of glass represents her own private world which she frequently use as an escape from reality. Her place where she can hide and be safe.
The events that happen to Laura's glass affects Laura's emotional state greatly. When Tom breaks the glass menagerie Laura is affected tremendously and this can be deciphered from her reaction. “(shrilly) My glass!- menagerie…”. “(from stage directions after the menagerie is broken)Laura clings weakly to the mantel with her face averted.”The shattered glass represents Laura's understanding of Tom's responsibilities to her. Also, the reaction to the unicorn breaking “(shrilly) My glass!- menagerie…”.
, which is important, represents Laura directly because her fragility is represented; it is as if she has broken herself. Laura points out to Jim that the unicorn is different, just as she is different. She also points out that the unicorn does not complain of being different, as she does not complain either. And when Jim breaks the horn off the unicorn, Laura points out that now it is like the other horses, just as Laura has shed some of her shyness and become more normal. When she hands the broken unicorn to Jim, this might represent Laura handing over her broken love to Jim, as Jim has revealed that he is engaged to be married. There are many symbolic attributes that Williams use to present Laura and the world she lives in. In the play Laura is presented as an awkward, emotionally insecure and fragile person.
In her mind she doesn't have a connection to the real world and lives in her world of glass animals. The glass figurines represent the fragile relationship between the characters, and when they break the relationships fall apart. The glass unicorn is Laura‘s favourite figure and this represents he delicacy and fragility and her outcast status in the world. This idea of animals representing her a being fragility and being an outcast re-occurs many times throughout the whole play in many other forms. After Laura dropped out of college she consistently visited the zoo, and glass house of tropical flowers. She feels comfortable here because they are vulnerable and delicate just like her.
Laura and Jim have a very brief love encounter , during this Laura is gaining more confidence about herself. This idea is as if she is starting to escape the illusionary world and entering reality. Jim accidentally knocked and broke Laura‘s favourite glass piece. Laura, who usually worships her glass collection more than anything else and would have been distraught, replied to his reaction with; "He's lost his horn. It doesn't matter. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise.
" "I'll just imagine he had an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less-freakish! Now he will feel more.