The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie book cover
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What is the meaning of the title The Glass Menagerie?

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The title The Glass Menagerie brings to prominence the collection of figurines composed of delicate glass and shaped like animals that the equally delicate Laura owns. This title also helps to draw attention to the symbolism of the fragile glass animals who come to represent anything that is too delicate to last in the day-to-day outside world.

Because life is harsh and difficult for Laura, she has fabricated an imaginary world symbolized by the glass menagerie. Laura is even compared to the glass animals in the stage directions in Scene 6:

She is like a piece of translucent glass touched by light, given a momentary radiance, not natural, not lasting. 

In a similar fashion, Amanda longs for the world of her youth, in which she was comfortable as a Southern belle. Tom desires a world that is beyond the mundane and trivial, escaping in books and at the picture shows (the movies).

Much like the glass menagerie, all three Wingfields prove to be unrealistic. They each hold another world in their minds, and, like the glass figures, it is a much too fragile world to last. Thus, the title of The Glass Menagerie helps to bring to the front the themes of illusions and impossible dreams.

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isaacsweeney | Student

The title The Glass Menagerie is a literal reference to Laura's collection of glass figurines, which are shiny but fragile, and they must be handled delicately. It is a fitting title for the play because each of the three main characters are similarly shiny but fragile.

Amanda is the shiniest, with her constant performing. She is always concerned with what others may think as she longs for her younger days, which were on an elaborate plantation. She was brought up to sort of put on a show and hide away all of her authentic emotions. Throughout the play, Amanda longs for her youth and hopes to live vicariously through Laura's gentlemen callers, of which there aren't any until Jim at the end.

Laura appears to be fragile like a piece of glass. She is so socially awkward that she gets physically sick and vomits just because a teacher calls her name in class. Tennessee Williams wants the audience to feel sorry for Laura, but also recognize that she is special in her own way. After all, she ends up spending her days in museums and such. Her shyness stems from her heavy limp, which she has inflated in her mind. It's an inferiority complex, like Jim points out. But Laura is like the unicorn in her collection because she is different from all the others, which makes her both beautiful and easy to break.

Then there's Tom. He likes to push his mother's buttons and his love for his sister is sincere. He is fragile because he could break at any moment. Tom is full of rage that is pounding to get out. He works a thankless job for the money to take care of his family, which is good, but it's also eating away at him. He presents the front to the family that he will stay and give them the money they need to survive, all the while making plans to work as a shipman on boats. One day he will disappear and he does.

The three Wingfields show just how beautiful and fragile they are in their actions and interactions with one another. This makes the title The Glass Menagerie a perfect fit. They are like the delicate collection Laura keeps.

Chantelm | Student

Laura who is one of the main characters own glass animals and she  cherishes and adorns them. She is crippled so she really doesn't have much to do so she cleans them all the time and cares for them extremely. She has a gentlemen caller over one day and he accidentally breaks the horn of the unicorn and it was one of her favorites. This was a big symbol in the story 

lit24 | Student

Tennessee Williams staged his play "The Glass Menagerie" in the year 1944 in Chicago.  The word 'menagerie' means a collection of wild animals kept privately or for the public to  view.

In the play Laura has her own private collection of glass animal dolls and the play is called "The Glass Menagerie" after Laura's collection of glass animal dolls. In Scene 7 Laura shows Jim the Gentleman Caller this  collection and remarks,

"most of them are little animals made out of glass, the tiniest little animals in the world. Mother calls them a glass menagerie!"

These glass dolls are of symbolic importance in the play. They are a source of comfort to Laura who is a cripple and suffers from an inferiority complex because of this. Whenever she is upset or nervous she plays with these dolls to cheer herself up.

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