Symbolic illustration of Laura's hands holding a glass unicorn

The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

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Why is Laura the tragic hero in "The Glass Menagerie"?

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Of all of the characters in "The Glass Menagerie", Laura's situation is the most tragic. Tom is able to escape his circumstances by joining the Merchant Marines. Jim leaves the apartment and, apparently marries Betty and goes on with his life. Amanda is older and can still retain her memories of "Blue Mountain." Laura, however, has never had a good life to be able to remember. She has always been terribly shy and obsessed with the idea that everyone notices the fact that she is crippled. Her one hope for a happier life occurs when Jim visits and, for a few brief moments, seems to fall in love with her. However, Jim soon reveals that he is engaged to another girl and Laura's hopes are dashed. This can be seen through two symbols. First, the unicorn, which symbolizes Laura because it,like Laura, cannot exist in the modern world, loses its horn and becomes "like all the other horses". However, Laura gives the unicorn to Jim as a reminder that she was one "normal" but he is taking that normalcy away with him. In addition, the candelabrum, which is also "deformed" like Laura, is lit during the scene between Jim and Laura. However, at the end of the play, Tom tells Laura to "blow out her candles". The light of her life is gone and it is going to be almost impossible for her to exist without anyone to take care of her.

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