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Laura is a character in Tennessee Williams “The Glass Menagerie”, which is set in past day St. Louis. The play is about the Wingfield family; Amanda, the mother, Tom, her son, Laura, the daughter, and Jim O’Connor, a gentleman caller. Tom is the provider for the family and the play is told from his memory. Laura is an extremely shy young lady because of a childhood illness that left her crippled with one leg slightly shorter than the other. She is controlled by her mother whom is living in the past and trying to live her dreams out through Laura. This play is bursting with symbols, from images projected on the screen throughout the play, music played in the background, and in the play itself. This leads to the question, what symbolizes Laura throughout “The Glass Menagerie”? After analyzing the material, Laura is symbolized by the blue roses, her glass menagerie, and the unicorn.
In “The Glass Menagerie”, one way Laura is symbolized is through Jim calling her blue roses, which shows her uniqueness. When she returned to school after an attack of pleurosis, one of her classmates, Jim O’Connor thought she said she had blue roses so he called her that throughout school (289). Blue roses are extremely rare just like Laura is. Tom says that “Laura is very different from other girls” (304). Most girls her age in the time period were focused on finding a husband and settling down, but Laura does not care about things like this. “She lives in a world of her ownâ€¦” (304), Tom said while talking to his mother about Laura. The blue roses are also used to symbolize the affection Jim has for Laura that is showed at the end of the play. He goes on telling of how wonderfully different and beautiful she is. Jim says “. . . being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Because other people are not such wonderful people. . . They walk all over the earth. You just stay here. They’re common as-weeds, but-you-well, you’re-Blue Roses!” (324)
Laura is also symbolized through her glass menagerie, which shows her fragileness. It is stated that “â€¦she is like a piece of her own glass collection, too exquisitely fragile to move from the shelf” (281). Laura is extremely fragile where her emotions are concerned. At one point in the play Tom throws his jacket across the room and breaks one of her glass figurines which cause Laura to have a breakdown. She cries out “My glass!-menagerieâ€¦” Laura covers her face and cried as if she were wounded, (292-293) this proves how fragile Laura’s sprit is; the smallest incident causes her to break. When Jim comes to eat supper with the Wingfield family, Laura is so shy that she does not want to open the door for him and she pretends that she is sick and cannot eat” (308-309). All these examples prove how fragile Laura is.
Finally, Laura is symbolized by the unicorn, which shows her growth. Throughout the course of the play it is evident how important the glass menagerie is to Laura. When Jim is over for dinner she lets him hold the unicorn; this alone is a huge step for Laura because she does not let anyone touch her beloved glass figurines. He places the unicorn on the table and he and Laura begin to dance. They accidently bump into the table knocking the unicorn of the table which broke his horn off. Previously in the play Laura broke down when Tom broke one of her figurines, but now she has grown and accepts what happened and takes is as a blessing in disguise, and says that he will fit in better now with the other horses. (322-324) This is symbolic of Laura by showing how much she has grown throughout the play. In the beginning of “The Glass Menagerie”, Laura is just a fragile young girl who’s only passion in life is her glass menagerie, but as the play progresses she grows into a stronger young lady who does not let material things break her as before. It also shows that she is no longer letting her handicap hold her back from the things she aspires to do.
On the other hand, people may not believe that blue roses, glass menagerie, or the unicorn symbolize Laura. Others may argue that the blue roses are just Jim teasing Laura and do not represent Laura as a unique young lady but, the text proves that they are used to symbolize her. Jim even calls her blue roses again to explain how different she is. (324) Also critics may believe that the glass menagerie does not symbolize Laura. They may say it is only a toy that she is obsessed with, because in reality it is only a toy, but Laura identifies with it. Just as she is fragile, so are the glass figurines; the slightest fall will cause both Laura and the figurines to break. Yes, they may also say that the unicorn is only one of her glass ornaments she gave to Jim and that it does not mean anything, but in actuality it proves how much Laura has grown throughout the play. At the end of the play, Laura’s heart is broken when Jim tells her that he will not be able to call her because he has a girlfriend. The once weak-minded Laura would have had a breakdown because of this but; instead she briefly gets comforted by her mother then gets herself together, blows the candles out and moves on. (329)
Throughout the course of “The Glass Menagerie” Laura has been symbolized in many ways; the blue roses, the glass menagerie, and the unicorn; all of which symbolize her in a different ways. The blue roses show how beautiful and unique she is. Her glass menagerie symbolizes how fragile Laura is, and the unicorn represents her growth. Laura went from a painfully shy, scared little girl into a more confident, open young lady.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. Exploring Literature: Writing and Arguing About Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and the Essay. Ed. Frank Madden. 4th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. 281-329. Print.
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