In Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, how has Laura Wingfield changed as a result of her relationship with Jim?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fragility also means dependence, as Laura needs Tom precisely because of her shy and delicate demeanor. We also see the relationship between physical and mental fragility, as it seems that Laura’s shyness arises from a physical defect: her crippled leg.

In Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, Laura Wingfield survives in the harsh world around she becomes unable to go to school or find work.  Her shyness debilitates her and keeps her from being normal.

Like her mother, Laura finds living in the present is too hard. Her music and animals help her to find solace. Laura weeps for the struggles of her brother, Tom.  She understands that he is not happy at home, particularly with his mother constantly nagging him about work, laziness, his goal, his etiquette, and his needing to help Laura.

Amanda asks Laura if she ever liked a boy.  Laura tells about Jim who called her Blue Roses. He was engaged and Laura did not like his fiancée Emily. The foreshadowing here connects Jim to Laura and establishes the fact that Jim will not call on Laura again.

I didn’t care for the girl that he went out with. Emily Meisbaum.  Emily was the best dressed girl at Soldan.  She never struck me, though, as being sincere…It says in the personal section –they’re engaged, That’s six years ago. They must be married now.

When Tom brings home the “gentleman caller,” surprisingly it is the same Jim as Laura had previously mentioned. The evening appears to be a glowing success until Jim admits that he has a fiancée Betty.  Jim has deceived Laura.  He flirts with her, dances with her, kisses her, and tells her how pretty she is.  He does not mean to hurt her, but he does.    During their time together, the unicorn loses its horn and becomes just another horse.  As he gives Laura his undivided attention, Jim helps Laura to appear like any other girl.

In the end, Laura gives Jim the broken unicorn as a souvenir.  The unicorn symbolically represents all that Jim has taken from her.  When she is with Jim, Laura becomes animated and happy.  Jim realizes that Laura is unusual and appreciates her qualities. It is difficult to foresee how Laura will be different after Jim leaves.  Her first reaction is to sink back into the world of her music although Amanda tells her not to go there.

Tom looks back at the last scene of the play when Amanda comforts Laura. Whatever Amanda says to Laura seems to help her because Laura finally lifts her head and smiles at her mother. The two of them will go on despite Tom’s absence.

In his narration, Tom tells the audience that he had wanted to forget Laura, but she stays in his memory. 

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The Glass Menagerie

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