What is the effect of Laura on the characterization of other characters in The Glass Menagerie? 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An interestingly strong case can be made that Laura provides an element that makes other characters more intricate and compassionate in Williams' drama. This means that someone who is seen as more crippled and handicapped than others is able to bring out the "better angels" in those who are probably more emotionally crippled and handicapped than Laura.  In this light, Laura can be seen as almost heroic in her characterization in the Williams' drama.  Laura brings peace between Tom and Amanda.  When both of them fight and Tom is almost about to leave, it is Amanda that is able to bring him back.  It is because of Laura that Amanda has some level of empathy, for it becomes evident that the mother wants only her best for her daughter.  Even with Jim O'Connor, it is Laura's interaction with him where his ability to be more honest with himself as a human being becomes more evident.  While she might be frail, Laura's strength is able to bring out the more human and, frankly, more likable qualities of the other characters.  It is here where Laura is a force to be understood and accepted. Additionally, Laura's effect on the other characters is to make them more accepting of reality, something that impacts them all in different ways.  It is interesting, and might even be a bit deliberate, that Williams' constructs the one character who is challenged in reality to help others be more able to accept it. When the ending of the play presents Laura by herself blowing out the candles to her own birthday cake, it might be a representation of how her strength, demonstrated in the frailties of others, might be the best birthday wish that is bestowed upon her.