The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
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In The Glass Menagerie, what symbols/images and their relationships are used?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Amanda, Tom and Laura's mother is both a symbol and an image in the play.  Symbolically, she represents a time gone by, a genteel time, when a lady was called upon by her gentleman callers and her future was secured through a prosperous marriage. 

 Laura, on the other hand has no such environment on which to rely for her future.  Amanda, between her behaviors, attitudes and her southern charm, keeps the old south alive in the play, so that the reader is constantly imagining what her life was like.  On the other hand, Amanda's image, of a washed out old debutante who is stuck in the past...

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As the title of the play informs us, the glass menagerie, or collection of animals, is the play's central symbol. There are many symbols used in the play. In fact, the play is so rich that it overflows with them. The core symbol is, of course, the glass menagerie that gives the play its title—Laura's precious glass animals. When Tom breaks one, it represents not just an accident but a shattering of part of her innocence.

Like the glass unicorn, “Blue Roses,” Jim's high school nickname for Laura, symbolizes Laura's unusualness yet allure. The name is also associated with Laura's attraction to Jim and the joy that his kind treatment brings her. Furthermore, it recalls Tennessee -Williams's sister, Rose, on whom the character of Laura is based. —Blue Roses—is something that is never found naturally out in the world, and would only exist in a hothouse situation; the same is true of Laura, and so it becomes a symbol of her.The characters themselves are no less symbolic. Amanda herself is  a symbol and an image in the play.  Symbolically, she represents a time gone by, a genteel time, when a lady was called upon by her gentleman callers and her future was secured through a prosperous marriage.  Laura, on the other hand has no such environment on which to rely for her future.  Amanda, between her behaviors, attitudes and her southern charm, keeps the old south alive in the play, so that the reader is constantly imagining what her life was like.  On the other hand, Amanda's image, of a washed out old debutante who is stuck in the past reflects the hopelessness of the situation in the family.

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