Symbolic illustration of Laura's hands holding a glass unicorn

The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

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In The Glass Menagerie, discuss the symmetry and symbolism between the start of scene 3 and end of scene 5.

Quick answer:

In The Glass Menagerie, scene 3 begins just as scene 5 ends, with the symbolic image of the "gentleman caller." The symmetry of this shows how long Amanda has clung to the same plan, without progress. The "gentleman caller" symbolizes salvation for Amanda, though he is a frightening figure for Laura.

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In The Glass Menagerie, scene 3 begins with the image of the "gentleman caller," and scene 5 ends with the same image, now that a real gentleman caller has been found. For Laura, any gentleman caller, however meek, is a frightening figure. For Amanda, however, the gentleman caller is not only a nostalgic image of her own youth as a Southern belle but a symbol of salvation for Laura and the whole family. It is notable that in the middle of scene 5, she is already thinking about Laura being married to a man she has not met.

At the beginning of scene 3, Amanda has recently discovered that Laura is not attending business college. The chances of her earning her own living, therefore, appear slender. The "gentleman caller" is Amanda's new plan, and the one best-suited to her romantic view of life. An eligible young man must fall in love with Laura and save the whole family, like a knight in shining armor. The symmetry of the beginning and end of these two scenes shows how this obsession of Amanda's has continued, with no progress, over the intervening period. The audience can only imagine how galling this must have been for Laura, though some indication of this is given by Amanda's attempts to transform her unwilling daughter into "a pretty trap."

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