Glass Menagerie Essay, Research Paper
Laura, Amanda, Tom, and Jim resort to various escape mechanisms to avoid
reality. Laura, fearful of being denigrated as inferior by virtue of her
innate inability to walk, is shy and detaches herself from the unfeeling
modern world. Amanda tries every means to integrate her into society, but to
no avail. She sends her to business school and invites a gentleman caller to
dinner. She is both unable to cope with the contemporary world’s
mechanization represented by the speed test in typing and unable to make new
acquaintances or friends due to her immense inhibition with people. Her life
is humdrum and uneventful, yet it is full of dreams and inundated with
The actual animal collection, or glass menagerie, symbolizes each character and the story. Like the glass animals, the character’s realities are very fragile and in danger of being shattered. It is also as though the characters are stuck in glass, unable to move or change, also like the glass animals. They are inanimate, as the characters have learned to be to hide and escape from the pain that life has given them. Laura loves the glass animals because her family is like them. It will not take much, like Tom leaving, to shatter their whole world.
Laura is symbolized by her fragile collection of glass animals, the glass menagerie. Her favorite animal is the unique unicorn. The unicorn is different because it has a horn. When Laura was in high school, she wore a brace. The unicorn and Laura are alike in this way.
Whenever the outside world threatens Laura, she seeks solace and retreats to
her glass animal world and old phonograph records. Amanda, her mother hints
at the alternative of matrimony for failure in business careers and Laura
“utters a startled, doubtful laugh. She reaches quickly for a piece of
glass.” The glass menagerie becomes her tactile comfort.
The little glass ornaments represent Laura’s self and characterize her
fragility and delicate beauty. In particular, the glass unicorn greatly
symbolizes her. As the unicorn is different from all the other glass horses,
it adds a unique quality and virtual “freakishness” to her very
When Jim dances with Laura, he knocks over the unicorn and the horn breaks off. Now it is like all of the other horses. “The unicorn losing its horn is a symbol. The unicorn in its original state symbolizes something different. It is delicate, beautiful, and precious in it’s own unique way. This could symbolize Laura has natural beauty in an “unearthly way” that is hidden by her shyness and limp.
Laura’s physical handicap differentiates her from others. She is just as
easily broken as the glass unicorn is as unique. She instantly regresses,
just as it appears that Laura finally overcomes her shyness and
hypersensitivity with Jim, the gentleman caller. To comfort Laura, he kisses her and then shatters her hopes and dreams by telling her he is engaged. Both Laura and the glass menagerie break upon exposure to the outside world. Laura offers Jim her broken unicorn, symbolizing her broken heart that Jim will take with him. She is unable to cope with the truth and once again retreats to her fantasy world
of glass figurines and Victrola records. Laura can only live a brief moment