The Glass Menagerie Questions and Answers
by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
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In The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, what is the symbolism of the Victoria?

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Kale Emmerich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Many of the characters and items in The Glass Menagerie are symbolic. The story takes a look at different types of people and their actions through life, so almost everything has some representative meaning beyond the straightforward narrative of the plot.

The Victoria is used by Laura after she is overwhelmed by anxiety and fear when attempting to take a rest for business school. Laura, having a disability and typically being incapable of work or socialization, retreats into her own world mentally, focusing on the records from the past, choosing to listen to music her mother used to enjoy. This nostalgia prevents her from socializing and expanding her horizons. In this way, the Victoria symbolizes memories and nostalgia that envelope people, who use it as a crutch instead of legitimately stepping out of their comfort zone, both socially and professionally.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Interestingly, the characters of Tennessee Williams's play, The Glass Menagerie, are themselves somewhat symbolic.  For, Williams's play is not realistic; instead, it is expressionistic, and so the characters represent types of people.  Laura, a character not unlike Williams's sister Rose, is physically disabled and emotionally crippled.  For, because of her leg, she avoids socializing, which in turn causes her not to know how to socialize.  So, when she tries to take the speed test at Rubicum's Business College, Laura is traumatized and leaves the school to walk about at the zoo during class time.  When her mother Amanda learns of Laura's failed attempts at business school, the nervous Laura retreats to the victrola and plays the music of her mother's past, thus finding comfort in the lyrical memories of the past.

Later on, Amanda tells Tom that Laura cannot spend the rest of her life listening to the victrola, indicating that memories are further crippling Laura and depriving her of any future. So, while the music of the victrola and its old memories protects Laura from the real world, it furthers Laura's illusions and emotional fears.   Like the unicorn and the other glass animals of the menagerie, the victrola symbolizes Laura's fear of a reality that she can only live in briefly.

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