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Discuss the title of the play and whether or not Williams should rename it or leave it...

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ramos21 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:56 PM via web

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Discuss the title of the play and whether or not Williams should rename it or leave it as it is.

I am writing a paper on The Glass Menagerie and in the paper I have to argue whether or not Williams should keep the name of the play as it or change it to something else.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted October 31, 2010 at 12:22 AM (Answer #1)

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When looking at the title of a play or book, one must read through the material and then look back to see if the title has more than one meaning. A title usually means one thing to the person who initially sees it and then the further into the plot one gets, the title takes on a different meaning.

In the play "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams,  the girl in the play has fixated on a glass menagerie of small figurines that she collects.  However, for the girl, the figures are more than pretty things to look at.  They are an escape from the real world that has been cruel to her because she is a social misfit.  She also has to limp because of a malformed foot which makes her leg shorter than her other leg.

The mother is in many ways is also trapped in the menagerie, because she has a false perception of her daughter and her own life.  As the play begins to unfold and the reality of their situation becomes more apparent, the glass figures topple and some are broken.

The figures then begin to signify the broken lives that the girl and her mother live.  Each of them is trapped in the menagerie which is one of mental illness that can be broken apart like the glass breaks.

Williams chose a very fitting title for the play.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 31, 2010 at 12:30 AM (Answer #2)

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Since authors select carefully their titles, the reader must look for the implicit and explicit meanings of these titles.  Of course, the significance of the menagerie for Laura becomes apparent as the play progresses.  For, like the delicate little animals, she too is enclosed in a fragile, small world that is subject to break at any time.  Like the unicorn, she is markedly different both physically and spiritually.  By her brother she is treated with care and by her mother she is handled as though she is only of certain dimensions.

Besides Laura, the other characters exhibit behaviors that are of those looking through glass.  Whether Williams intended it or not, with respect to Amanda and Tom, the reader is reminded of the line from 1 Corinthians 12:

For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I also am known.

As Tom stands outside the screen of Williams's stage directions, he sees through a sort of "glass darkly" as he selfishly abandons Amanda and Laura.  Likewise, Amanda has seen "darkly" in that she has only focused on the financial well-being of the family and not the interior conflicts of Laura and Tom.  At the end of the play, as yet part of the unusual "menagerie," Tom muses about his remembrances of his family from whom he has fled,

I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold.  The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shatter rainbow. 

Indeed, the symbolism of glass and the fragility of the enclosed and shelved menagerie is a trope of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie; the title is truly fitting. 

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