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Symbolism in The Glass Menagerie - Essay Example

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Tennessee Williams creates an atmosphere of depression, gloom, and at the same time, magic and love in The Glass Menagerie. The plot of the play in based on the three characters of a family: Amanda, Tom, and Laura. Jim is the supposed suitor who makes an entrance at the end of the play, yet leaves significant marks on the lives and events of all three family members. …
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Symbolism in The Glass Menagerie
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Symbolism in The Glass Menagerie

For example, the glass menagerie, the urge of the protagonist to forget her sister, and the blowing out of the candles at the end of the play all employ a deeper layer of meaning. Williams employed the use of symbolism to introduce themes, characters, morals and values, and then to link them all together. Being a memory play, the glass menagerie allows not only for the director but also the reader of the play “to be presented with unusual freedom of convention” (Williams, ‘production notes, the Glass Menagerie’750). The nature and material of the play allow the employment of “unconventional techniques” like “expressionism” (Williams, ‘production notes, the Glass Menagerie’ 750). However, as Williams puts it, he does not allow for the plot to waver away from the truth, rather it is used only as a tool to bring the experience closer to “reality” (Williams, ‘production notes, the Glass Menagerie’ 750). Since the play is based in memory, the use of such techniques makes it more realistic rather than unreal. Williams considered symbolism an important technique in play writing. According to him, “Art is made out of symbols the way your body is made out of vital tissues” (cited in Barnard 1). Symbolism acts as a binding force in the play and links all the characters, themes and environments together. Symbolism is such a vital part of the glass menagerie that critics, and even Williams himself, have often referred to it as an allegory (Barnard 7). The Glass Menagerie is considered a personal account from Williams’s life. The play is autobiographical in nature, with the characters of the play symbolising the true family of Williams and his experiences. Even the objects in the play, like the glass menagerie, belong to the real life of Williams (Barnard 6). For example, in the opening scene of the play Tom indicates that he is, “The opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion” (Williams, ‘the Glass Menagerie’). He points out that this is not an unrealistic story; rather, beneath the layers are found real characters, experiences, and relations. It is believed that when Williams’s sister Rose was treated with a prefrontal lobotomy for schizophrenia, which debilitated her for life, the experience resulted in the writing of this play (Bard 6). Rose and her memories are unarguably central to, and an inspiration of, many of Williams’s plays and characters (Southeastern). Amanda is symbolic of her mother, and the character Tom symbolizes Williams in actuality, as Tom is Williams’s legal name (Barnard 2). Williams and Tom both lived in a St. Louis apartment, and Tom, at the end of the play, becomes a wanderer like Williams (Barnard 3). However, some critics believe that Williams is represented in the play not by Tom, but by the character of Laura (Bard 6). Due to his effeminacy during childhood, his father called Williams ‘Miss Nancy’ because he was like a little girl (Bard 6). According to Gross, Williams was very shy as a boy and did not like to socialize, causing him to be teased by his peers (cited in Bard 6). It can be assumed that Williams does identify himself with the character of ... Read More
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