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What Are the Themes and Symbols of the Glass Menagerie

  • Date Submitted: 03/22/2010 11:32 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 59 
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The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams is a play about the reflections of a man named Tom, who abandoned his family in order to pursue his own future. The entire play is centered around the theme of abandonment starting with the father of Laura and Tom abandoning the family when they were just children, Jim’s abandonment of Laura after their date despite the family’s high hopes that they will be married, and finally Tom’s selfish abandonment of his family who is entirely dependent on him. Throughout the play different symbols exist to add a deeper message to the plot…

There are many symbols in classic literature, but those in The Glass Menagerie are particularly unique. The use of technology’s advancement represents the outside world. Mr. Wingfield with his telephone company fell in love the long distances he could only hear and not see. This leads to his abandonment of his family and the subsequent devastation left behind. Jim, who is most passionate about the newest advances in radio and television for the heightening of his career, has no interest in marrying someone as unchanging and shy as Laura. As a result, he abandons her and leaves the Wingfields in total devastation. Finally, with Tom’s obsession with movies and the better lives he sees in them, his eventual abandonment of his family is derived from the alternative life’s allure.

Throughout the novel words and images are displayed on a screen behind the actors. This screen is used to emphasize a certain point such as a phrase, a word or a symbol that should be given extra attention. Sometimes the screen will reflect whatever is on the character’s mind, such as a recollection of an important event in the past or a fantasy playing out in their minds. Other times it is just a simple phrase describing a character on the screen. In any instance, the use of the screen is especially unique but has often been criticized for its pretension or its condescension. Others have praised it for its irony, but it...


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