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Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie sample essay


Thesis: Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie, uses symbolism to explain how illusion is used as as an escape from reality in the lives of the Wingfield family. The four major symbols used in the play are: Laura’s Glass Menagerie (subtopic 1); the Fire Escape (subtopic 2); the Glass Unicorn (subtopic 3); and “Blue Roses” (subtopic 4).

Body Paragraphs

Subtopic 1: Laura’s Glass Menagerie

What critics say

Glass menagerie as escape from reality

Subtopic 2: The Fire Escape

What critics say

The Fire Escape as escape from reality

Subtopic 3: the Glass Unicorn

What critics say

The Glass Unicorn as escape from reality

Subtopic 4: “Blue Roses”

What critics say

What is Pleurosis

Blue Roses as escape from reality


The author uses symbols in order to fully develop the plot of the play “The Glass Menagerie. and emphasize his viewpoints about illusion and reality through symbolism.

Illusion as Escape from the Gloomy Reality:

An Analysis of the Main Symbols in “The Glass Menagerie”

When Tom uttered at the beginning of the play “I have a poet’s weakness for symbols” (Williams 292), one can conclude that the author will use different symbols in order to express his main point of view. Tennessee Williams’ concept in the play is about illusion as an escape from reality and he tries to explain it by using different objects and representation. There are four symbolisms used in the play: Laura’s Menagerie, the Fire Escape, the Glass Unicorn and the “Blue Roses.”

Laura’s glass menagerie is a representation of her personal life and her privacy which was sooner revealed. Her collection of glass animal figurines signifies her personality as a person. She is an old fashioned lady who is fragile yet original and full of creativity. Her devotion is to collect glass stuffs that portrays her imaginative thinking and how she sees the world on her own. But then this can be viewed as an illusion because her collection, although considered beautiful and colorful cans till be broken into pieces anytime if improper handling occurs.

Laura values her precious collections and as shown in the second scene of the play she sees to it that her collections are clean and well polished (Williams 294). This costs much of Laura’s life that’s why during the time that Tom accidentally hit her collection with his coat, She cried out as if she was also wounded like the pieces of her glass collection that were damaged by Tom. Her glass menagerie gave her comfort and importance amidst the tension going on whenever her mother Amanda and her brother Tom had arguments.

Despite of her physical disability, her glass menagerie makes her feel normal. Jim asked her why she is very fond of collecting glass animal figures, she replied “My glass collection takes up a good deal of time. Glass is something you have to take good care of” (Williams 319). From here, Laura connects her role very similar to her collections.

When Laura surrenders to the timeless world of her glass animals, it is not simply because she wishes to escape from the present toward fantasy but because she can look the present fully in the face even just a moment (Bluefard 516). She keeps such fragile objects just like the way she wanted to preserve her privacy as a person. She is like those little glasses that never complain nor argued with anyone. Just like her collection who never uttered anything she also remains silent when argument is going on between Amanda and Jim. Her collection gives her the chance to experience a quiet and peaceful world fee from any harm.

The second symbolism used in the play is the Fire Escape. it is used as the entry and exit point of the Wingfields. When Tom used the fire escape to free himself from Amanda, he made it to go out of chaotic experiences from their house. His frustration was over upon using the fire escape to gain liberty from his mother. Tom successfully made it to freedom while Laura is left behind powerless to make an exile from the fire escape because eof her disability. The fire escape is a symbol of freedom from all the fiery argument and dysfunctional way of living inside the Wingfields house.

Tom uses the fire escape to regularly go inside their house after going to work or after catching up some movies in the darkened movie houses (Bluefard 515). This is also his way outside When Amanda does her all time favorite, bickering to Tom. Smoking also takes place in the fire escape whenever Tom wanted to contemplate on things like his unwanted responsibility to carry out his family and earn living for them.

Tom wanted to go out totally of the St Louis tenement he shares uncomfortably with his mother and sister. Tom’s escape to sea is is essentially a romantic escape, an escape whose vistas point away from Amanda’s past and his own present towards a brighter future (Bluefard 515).

In the case of Laura, the fire escape symbolizes how incapable she is to see the world outside without slipping or falling down. When tasked to do an errand she always slips in going in and out of the fire escape.

Laura’s self representation is in the third symbolism being used by Williams. The unicorn is considered to be Laura’s oldest and favorite piece (Williams 320). The unicorn serves as her individuality amidst the real world. It is where she drew strength to recall the past and bring her again to the present world where reality speaks harshly for her. The unicorn also symbolizes her uniqueness since she can handle the difficulties the world has to offer on her. As Bluefard on his article about the Glass Menagerie describes Laura as:

Laura, unlike her brother and her mother, can face the present but only to the extent that she recognizes the truth about herself in that present (Bluefard 516).

The unicorn serves as Laura’s best friend since it is with her for as long as thirteen years. It also symbolizes her short-lived security in Jim’s presence when she entrusted the unicorn to Jim. Only Jim sees Laura as one person to commit with without any emotional involvement. This is proven when the unicorn’s horn breaks and as Jim kisses Laura, the uniqueness and fragility of the object has been marred representing the hurt and exploitation Laura experiences in the hands of the only man she trusted and even loved since high school.

Right then. Laura is forced to face the lonesome reality of her world, “She bites her lip which was trembling and then bravely smiles. She opens her hand again on the broken glass ornament. Then she gently takes his hand and raises it level with her own. She places the unicorn in the palm of his hand, then pushes his fingers closed upon it” (Williams 323-324). She gives Jim the broken unicorn as a “souvenir,” somehow to let him be reminded of his carelessness and for her to forget her false hopes and unpleasant experience with Jim.

The last symbolism used by Williams is “Blue Roses” it represents Laura’s uniqueness. This is Jim’s high school nickname for Laura . It also signifes the attraction of Laura to Jim. Her enjoyment to the kind treatment given to her by Jim.

The name Blue Roses originated from Pleurosis that Laura experienced in high school. Jim is not familiar with the term. But then in order to understand the word Pleurosis means a person’s lungs is covered by a membrane and causes inflammation to the pleura. This causes a person to cough and some chest pains.

Secretly, Laura cherishes the nickname Blue Roses because she feels being noticed by the man of her affection. Even years after high school, the memory is fresh and it seems to give her self worth and affection from the opposite sex. However, when she finally meets the man of her dreams, her world crumbles for the man is already engaged and will only continue to be an unreachable star, just a fragment of her imagination.

Williams effectively used symbolisms in order to develop the plot of the play. He was able to define the superficiality and fragility of the world of the Wingfield family. To both Tom and Laura, the glass menagerie, the fire escape, the glass unicorn and “Blue Roses” are illusions that give them an escape from the harsh reality of their lives. These symbols offer them momentary solace, significance, and a world of peace and quiet in the midst of the depressing and turbulent reality they both experience in the presence of their mother and in the absence of their father.

Works Cited

Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie.” Gaver, Jack. Critic’s Choice: New York Drama Critic’s Circle Prize Plays 1935-55. New York: Hawthorne Books Inc. Publishers, 1955. 290-326.

Bluefarb, Sam. “The Glass Menagerie, Three Visions of time”. College English, Vol. 24, No. 7. April 1963. 513-518.

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