Introduction Tennessee Williams followed the style of playwriting of the twentieth century adopted by the leading American theatrical expressionist Eugene O'Neil who was noted both for his realistic and anti-realistic works. In his play, "The Glass Menagerie", Tennessee Williams found realism to be an insufficient way of approaching emotional experience. For that reason, Williams blended elements such as poetic imagery, fantasy, realism, social commentary, and antirealism into that single play.
Roger B. Stein, professor of the history of art at the University of Virginia, comment on that is: "Williams wanted his play to be more than a social and personal tragedy."DiscussionThe Dramatic Elements used in the Glass Menagerie:The play's style is expressionistic in which underlying meaning is emphasized at the expense of realism. Since the story is told from Tom's memory, this indicates the absence of realism.
A play drawn from memory, however, is a product of real experience and hence does not need to drape itself in the conventions of realism in order to seem real.In scene 1 , at the beginning of the play, Tom comments about the play by saying:" it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic. In memory everything seems to happen to music." To give the play a spiritual and deeper meaning, Williams packed "The Glass Menagerie" with Christian symbols. Amanda, the mother, condemns instinct and urges her son Tom to think in terms of the mind and spirit as "Christian adults" do.
She urges her daughter Laura by saying "possess your soul in patience". She frequently inserts religious words in her speech as an example:when speaking of the dress for the dinner scene as "resurrected" from a trunk. As a girl, she could only cook angel food cake. Her music is "Ave Maria". She sells subscriptions to her friends by waking them early in the morning and then be supportive with them as "Christian martyrs.
"One of the other Christian symbols used is the image of a rainbow to portray the concept of promise in the play. Tom talks about rainbows at the beginning of the fifth scene, just before he announces to Amanda that he has invited Jim. He describes the dance hall next door to their apartment, and the "Glass sphere that hung from the ceiling. It would slowly turn about and filter the dusk with delicate rainbow colors." The symbol of rainbow shows the illusion of hope for as soon as the characters get within reach of attaining what they hope for , the rainbow fades to vanish.
Tom describes the scene outside the dance hall and the concept of adventure and change in the world, but ends commenting that they have only "Hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars, and movies, and sex that hung in the gloom like a chandelier and flooded the world with brief, deceptive rainbows."Jim's visit is described as a rainbow because it carries the hope of a promise for an expected caller for Laura, but unfortunately that hope disappears as Jim was found to be engaged. Laura's glass animals are also used as a symbol of this illusion of hope. In the seventh scene, when Laura is talking to Jim, she shows Jim the glass unicorn and says, "Hold him over the light, he loves the light! You see how the light shines through him?" . As Jim holds the unicorn it gives off little rainbow rays, making it appears as if the glass itself were rainbow colored.
When Jim sees that, he comments "It sure does shine,". This unicorn comes to symbolize the spiritual beauty of love that Laura has been waiting for, but like the rainbow light of the glass unicorn, this hope of love is just an illusion. Laura's glass animals are not only a symbol of illusion of hope but they are actually the most important symbol for Laura and her fragility. Her engagement with the tiny animals reveals how painfully afraid she is of interaction with other humans. The qualities of glass comparable Laura's personality: like the tiny glass animals, she is delicate, beautiful in her oddness and terribly fragile. The little collection, like Laura, is locked completely in the realm of the home.
The animals must be kept on a little shelf and polished; there is only one place where they truly belong. In a similar way, Laura is kept and cared for, dependent on her mother and brother for financial support. Laura's high school nickname "Blue Roses" is another important symbol of Laura. The image of blue roses is a beautiful one. But blue roses are also pure fantasy, non-existent in the real world. Laura, like a blue rose, is special, unique, but she is also cut off from real life.