Symbolic illustration of Laura's hands holding a glass unicorn

The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

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In "Glass Menagerie," what does Tom mean: "Oh Laura, I try to leave you behind me but I’m more faithful than I intended to be!"?

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Tom feels confined and trapped by his family situation. He hates his job, and he longs for escape. When he is finally able to break free and physically leave his home and work, he discovers that it is not so easy to break the emotional ties, especially to his sister, Laura. Even though he has been unfaithful by abandoning Laura, he still worries about her and cares for her in his heart, making him "unable to leave [her] behind." He meant to leave everything behind and start a new life with no thoughts of home, but he hasn't been able to do that.

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In The Glass Menagerie, Tom says he is "more faithful" to Laura than he meant to be. What does he mean by "faithful"?

Tom as narrator closes the play with a monologue explaining what his life became after he stormed out of the apartment in St. Louis, leaving his mother and sister behind. The theme of his speech is that no matter where he went or what he did, he was never really free of the past:

. . . all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes . . . .

Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!

Tom is faithful to Laura in that he cannot forget her or escape from his sense of responsibility and guilt. And he tries:

I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger--anything that can blow your candles out!

In this passage, the reference to finding something to blow out Laura's candles is metaphorical for managing in some way to forget her.

This candle motif, which occurs throughout the play, concludes the staging of the play. As Tom concludes his speech, Laura is seen simultaneously on stage in pantomime, leaning over lighted candles. He speaks to her silent figure saying "Blow out your candles, Laura--and so good-bye . . . ." Laura then blows out the candles, ending the play. Extinguishing Laura's candles ends the play, but there is no reason to believe that Tom's torment ends when their light dies.

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