Symbolic illustration of Laura's hands holding a glass unicorn

The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

Start Free Trial

Editor's Choice

In The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, what does the Victoria symbolize?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Many of the characters and items in The Glass Menagerie are symbolic. The story takes a look at different types of people and their actions through life, so almost everything has some representative meaning beyond the straightforward narrative of the plot.

The Victoria is used by Laura after she is overwhelmed by anxiety and fear when attempting to take a rest for business school. Laura, having a disability and typically being incapable of work or socialization, retreats into her own world mentally, focusing on the records from the past, choosing to listen to music her mother used to enjoy. This nostalgia prevents her from socializing and expanding her horizons. In this way, the Victoria symbolizes memories and nostalgia that envelope people, who use it as a crutch instead of legitimately stepping out of their comfort zone, both socially and professionally.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Interestingly, the characters of Tennessee Williams's play, The Glass Menagerie, are themselves somewhat symbolic.  For, Williams's play is not realistic; instead, it is expressionistic, and so the characters represent types of people.  Laura, a character not unlike Williams's sister Rose, is physically disabled and emotionally crippled.  For, because of her leg, she avoids socializing, which in turn causes her not to know how to socialize.  So, when she tries to take the speed test at Rubicum's Business College, Laura is traumatized and leaves the school to walk about at the zoo during class time.  When her mother Amanda learns of Laura's failed attempts at business school, the nervous Laura retreats to the victrola and plays the music of her mother's past, thus finding comfort in the lyrical memories of the past.

Later on, Amanda tells Tom that Laura cannot spend the rest of her life listening to the victrola, indicating that memories are further crippling Laura and depriving her of any future. So, while the music of the victrola and its old memories protects Laura from the real world, it furthers Laura's illusions and emotional fears.   Like the unicorn and the other glass animals of the menagerie, the victrola symbolizes Laura's fear of a reality that she can only live in briefly.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial