Alienation in Tennessee Williams', The Glass Menagerie
Life is a lonely tale of alienation, as Tennessee Williams conveys though his play, “The Glass Menagerie.” Williams surrounds Laura in isolation from a world in which they wish to belong to by using various symbols. The symbolic nature of the motifs hidden within the lines of this play provides meaning to the theme found consistent throughout the play: Individuals are all alone in the world.
Williams brilliantly illuminates the idea of isolation through the symbolic use of glass. The symbolism of the glass is directly connected with the character of Laura. Similar to glass Laura is extremely fragile, her soul and image faces the possibility of being easily damaged and destroyed. Her character is tragically transparent as it is simple to decipher. However, glass objects, unlike a painting or photograph, have three dimensions. It is possible to examine every side of Laura’s fragile character, just as it is a glass figurine. Laura is trapped into a mold of glass, unable to move or break from its pattern; she is trapped in her own world of alienation. Yet, in a different light, glass reflects a rainbow of personality and beauty. Similar to the rainbow given off by glass Laura aids characters in achieving a sense of beautiful and colorful self-awareness.
Williams contrasts light and dark to bring attention to Laura’s isolation from the world, and illuminate it as moments of the beauty that exists in human differences. The candlelight that flickers during a moment between Laura and Jim suggest images of human beauty and individuality. The candlelight seems to “light her inwardly” (Williams 1846) and symbolically shadows her disability, as Williams vividly describes in a side note of the play. The scene thereafter illuminates how a unicorn is tragically different from all other animals in Laura’s collection. At the Paradise Dance Hall al glass sphere slowly turned from the ceiling in a different delicate rainbow of colors suggesting a joyful moment. This symbolized another beautiful moment as Laura and Jim dance together, uniting two separate flames to create many colors of the rainbow.
Laura’s physical problems provide more alienation to her character and greater meaning to the central theme that individuals are all alone in the world. Laura’s handicap is the greatest characteristic of her loneliness. “I had a brace on my leg—it clumped so loud!” Laura blames her slowness upon her brace and is self conscious about how loud it is. Yet Jim claims, “I never heard any clumping” (Williams 1846). Laura was the only person who realized and continues to recognize her handicap. It causes her to stand out from the others, surrounding her. She finds it to be completely alienating, which separates her from the rest of the world. Jim interprets Laura’s handicap as something...