Symbolic illustration of Laura's hands holding a glass unicorn

The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

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Discuss the importance and background of the Victrola in scene 2 of The Glass Menagerie.

In scene 2 of The Glass Menagerie, the Victrola symbolizes Laura's need to escape from the harsh realities of life, as she uses it to avoid contact with Amanda. Later in the play, Laura uses the Victrola in a similar way to avoid talking to Jim.

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The Victrola in scene 2 of The Glass Menagerie is symbolically associated with Laura's need to escape from reality. All the Wingfield family are escapists and fantasists, but Laura is more fragile than her mother and brother and retreats into familiar music to soothe her wounded feelings. In scene 2, she uses the Victrola to escape from Amanda's nagging about her failure to attend Rubicam's business college. When Tom brings Jim home to meet her, Laura again behaves in the same way, immediately retreating to the phonograph and using it as an excuse for her cold hands. Jim remarks that she must have been playing classical music, since "a little hot swing music" would warm her up.

Although Jim is clumsy in the way he approaches Laura, his words contain an important truth, which is already evident in scene 2, when Laura winds the phonograph to avoid talking to Amanda. The Victrola is not used for enjoying and enhancing life. Laura does not play swing music or any kind of dance music. Instead, she plays familiar tunes which will have a calming effect after any unwelcome contact with harsh reality. The Victrola company was founded in 1901, and by 1944, when The Glass Menagerie was first performed, its phonographs had come to seem old-fashioned. Laura's Victrola is connected with childhood, nostalgia, and pacification, giving her a sense of security which the people around her do not.

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