How is the use of symbolism integral to the meaning of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, the name of the play is symbolic. Laura is as fragile as her glass collection. The unicorn is symbolic in that Laura is as unique as is the unicorn. This is evident in the play when Jim and Laura are dancing. They accidentally knock over the unicorn and his horn breaks off. Now he is a normal horse. Laura feels normal when she is dancing with Jim. The fact that he is sharing an intimate moment with Laura makes her feel normal. Before, she has felt as strange as the unicorn, or she has felt that she has been considered as strange as the unicorn.

Dancing with Jim gives Laura the self confidence she has needed for so long. The fact that Jim shows an interest in Laura makes her feel more sure of herself. That is why she does not really mind when the unicorn is broken. In some way, she feels as if something strange has broken off her as well. She does not feel as freakish:

While they dance, they bump the table; the unicorn falls off and breaks its horn, though Laura says now he's like the other horses rather than being "freakish."

Even after learning that Jim is engaged, Laura still has gained so much confidence from the dance. She is grateful that Jim was willing to dance with her, even though she has a brace on her leg. Although Laura has a brace, a handicap, she is not handicapped in her mind. She realizes that Jim enjoyed the dance as much as she did. This dance has set her free in so many ways. She has longed to be a normal horse. Now, she is no longer a unicorn whose horn sticks out. She is a normal horse and can fit in with the crowd.

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The Glass Menagerie

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