The Glass Menagerie Questions and Answers
by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
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At the end of the story, Tom asks Laura to blow out the candles. What does that action symbolize to Tom?

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Joel Seligmann eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Certainly one of the most touching endings to any play I have read or seen...

Tom's monologue is timed to what is happening between Amanda and Laura in a silent tableau enacted in the background: Amanda comforts her daughter who is lost in disappointment. Laura then blows out the candles of the dream of the love of a long-awaited gentleman caller, as Tom asks for the memory of his sister to be extinguished from his thoughts.

But as he said at the beginning of the play, ..."memory is seated predominantly in the heart" and so he will never forget her no matter where he may go.

Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be !

I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger -anything that can blow your candles out!

[LAURA bends over the candles.]

- for nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura - and so good-bye.

[She blows the candles out.]

Oh my.

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