The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

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Using The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and the symbol of the gentleman caller, explain how this symbol gives insight into one of the main characters and how Williams uses this symbol to...

Using The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and the symbol of the gentleman caller, explain how this symbol gives insight into one of the main characters and how Williams uses this symbol to reinforce a meaning in the work.

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In the first scene of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Tom Wingfield (as the narrator) tells us that we are going to meet what turns out to be the only non-Wingfield character in the play. Jim is the gentleman caller, and Tom says he is symbolic of

the long delayed but always expected something that we live for.

Of course, Tom is a self-confessed poet who has an affinity for symbols, so we are not surprised that he sees things symbolically. In the same scene, however, Tom also says that Jim is

the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from.

Tom is actually correct on both accounts, but the description is incomplete.

You ask about how Jim gives insight into one of the characters, and the most obvious person in that regard is Laura. On a real level, we learn some truths about Laura that we might have suspected but now we know are true. 

Laura thinks her "slight defect" is a loud, noticeable thumping every time she walks. We learn now that in high school she did have a slight limp but nothing as outrageously noticeable as Laura believes. The fact that she is shy is confirmed, of course, but we no know that most of the insecurities which have kept her from truly living her life are more imagined than real.

Because Laura has turned inward, her life has gotten very small, In fact, her life is centered around and symbolized by a small collection of glass figures which is the "glass menagerie" to which the title refers. Her favorite piece in the collection is a fragile glass unicorn, an obvious representation of her own life. 

The unicorn is so fragile that Laura says:

If you breathe, it breaks!

Laura is not made of glass, of course, but she is delicate and...

(The entire section contains 627 words.)

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