How does Laura resemble the glass animals and what does the unicorn represent at first and after its horn has been broken?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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This symbol, at the base of the play, has been exhaustively discussed for fifty years.  First, a unicorn is a fantasy animal, a part of a make-believe world, which Amanda is living in and makes her children live in—the menagerie, like the pre-Civil War South, is a make-believe world that is fragile, transparent, and gathered in child-like naivete by Amanda and by Laura.  Second, when the romantic imagination is taken away (signified by the breaking off of the horn), the  imaginary child-like becomes the real – a unicorn without its horn is just a horse.  Tom’s rebellion against this fantasy world is signified by his knocking the unicorn over when he grabs his jacket in anger and in an attempt to escape the household.  He, too, is captivated by the fantasy—of movies and of an adventurous life.  What makes the little unicorn so successful as a symbol is all this integration of the play’s layers of make-believe.

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