The apartment that Amanda, Laura, and Tom Wingfield share is in the middle of the city and is among many dark alleys with fire escapes. Tom and Laura do not like the dark atmosphere and their mother always tries to make it as pleasant as possible. The two women do not get out much to socialize. Amanda sometimes goes to D.A.R. (Daughters of the Revolution) meetings, but Laura does not like to socialize at all. She has a slight limp and is extremely shy with people. When she does leave the apartment, she falls. She is unable to function in the outside world.
As previously stated, symbols play an important role in The Glass Menagerie. Symbols are substitutions that are used to express a particular theme, idea, or character. One symbol that is used over and over is the fire escape. This has different meanings to the characters. For Tom, it is a place where he can escape to. It is where he goes to escape from his mother¹s nagging. He is open to the outside world when he is on the fire escape. It is his way out. For Laura, it is where the gentleman caller enters and where the outside world is brought inside to her. But to Amanda, the fire escape is not only where the gentleman caller enters, but where he will come in and rescue her daughter from becoming a spinster.
Amanda feels that if the gentleman caller comes, then he will rescue Laura. The problem is that Jim, the caller, has not even met either of the two women yet. Amanda assumes that he will be the one for Laura. She has a difficult time distinguishing between reality from illusion. The same way she refuses to acknowledge Laura¹s handicap. She does not refer to it as a handicap, but rather as a ³little defect,² that is hardly noticeable.
In addition to the fire escape, Williams uses Laura¹s glass menagerie as an important symbol throughout the play. It represents Laura¹s sensitive nature and fragility. She is very innocent, very much like the glass that she polishes and looks at. Eventhough, it is very fragile, when put in the light the glass shines and produces a multitude of colors. This is the same way as Laura. When Laura is enrolled at the Business School she becomes very shy and embarrassed, hence causing her to become ill in the classroom. She cannot bare to face those same faces again the next day and decides to give up on going to her classes.
Laura chooses to spend her time with her tiny glass animals, and she treasures them more than actually participating in daily contact with other people. She does not want to become involved with the world outside of their apartment. She prefers the comfort of her home and of her glass animals. Laura is just as easily broken and hurt as the glass unicorn, and she is just as unique. When Jim accidentally bumps into the unicorn and breaks it, the unicorn no longer looks unique. It becomes like all the rest. During that time, Laura feels more accepted and less self-conscious. She begins to open up and glow. Jim notices this and takes advantage of it by dancing with her, and, eventually, kissing her.
Part of the innocence Laura has lost is symbolized in the breaking of the unicorn. When Jim tells Laura of his engagement she is heartbroken. She no longer feels that uniqueness she once shared with the unicorn, but becomes more common like Jim.
Therefore, when she gives the unicorn to Jim she is giving him her broken heart. She gives him something of hers to take with him when he leaves and, in a way, he has left something with her. He has only left her with shattered hopes. It is clear, at this point, that Laura and her glass menagerie break when they both become exposed to the outside world, represented by Jim.
In the same manner, although not very major, the use of rainbows and cigarette smoking are minor symbols in the play. The rainbows signify the hope in the future. Tom exhilarates Laura when he pulls out the rainbow-colored scarf and tells her how the magician changed a bowl of goldfish into canaries. He is thinking of the time when he will be able to escape also. In addition, at the end of the play Tom is speaking about looking into shop windows and seeing the pieces of glass perfume bottles, which remind him of Laura. He sees their rainbow-colored glass and remembers how his sister used to protect her glass animals. But, in the end, the rainbows, which at first were positive, all end in disappointments to each person.
Tom¹s use of cigarette smoking is a symbol of his constant strive for individualism. He is pursued by his mother to not smoke as much, but he does anyway. Neither Laura nor Amanda smoke, leaving this pleasure to only Tom. He can go out on the fire escape and smoke his cigarette knowing that neither of the other two will have a say in his decision. He escapes the everyday racket of his mother by smoking. Although, not as significant as the other symbols, Tom¹s cigarette smoking is one way he tries to relate to the outside world.
All of the characters in The Glass Menagerie retreat into their own separate worlds to escape the harshness of life. None of them are capable of living in the present. Each of them avoids reality in their own way.
For example, Laura is only able to live in the present very briefly. She retreats back into her little world of glass animals and listening to her old phonograph records. Even when it appears that she is overcoming her extreme shyness with Jim, she immediately goes back to playing the records on the Victrola after she finds out that he is engaged. She is more comfortable and less vulnerable in her own world.
In addition, Amanda is very obsessed with the past. She is always telling Laura and Tom about the time when she was younger and had received seventeen gentlemen callers. She considers those times to be better days than the present or the reality. She has difficulty in facing the fact that she is a single mother with two children.
Also, Tom becomes caught up in the past after he leaves home and is wandering the streets thinking about Laura. He had gone to movies and wrote poetry at work to escape the reality of living at home. It was his responsibility to support his mother, his sister, and himself with his work at the warehouse. He wanted to become a poet, but he was pressured by his mother to become responsible enough to take care of his sister. She wanted him to find Laura a mate that could rescue her. Actually, this search was a search for reality. Without that link to the outside world, they would continue to live in their world of delusions. Unfortunately, Tom left home, as did his father, and continues to be haunted by his memories of Laura.
Jim, on the other hand, tends to try to live his life in the present. He is that link to the outside that the family needs. He only lives temporarily in the past, only when he enters into the apartment. Jim is not happy with working at the warehouse either. He is taking night classes and wants to become an executive someday. He becomes the high school hero again when Tom and Laura remember his glory days. They are the only ones that give him the feel of importance, of self-worth. Jim talks about how he was constantly surrounded by women and he feels a bit disappointed that his future did not turn out like his high school days.
Jim is the only character in the play that still has a sense of reality. Even though he reminisces about high school, he still remembers that he is engaged. As Laura cannot handle the outside world, Jim cannot handle Laura¹s world. He eventually stumbles and breaks the glass unicorn. Neither of them are comfortable.
In The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams wrote about the struggles of an American family during the Depression-Era. He presented the problems of being constrained to monotonous work and how one¹s dreams may not always come true. He also stressed that not everyone is comfortable with living in the present day. There were always better times than the ones that are being lived now. He acknowledged that there are those who wish not to participate and are not comfortable living in the outside world. Through Williams¹ genius use of symbols he was able to convey his ideas to the reader. He made relationships with the symbols and the actions of the characters. Along with these symbols he also used the characters¹ incapability of living in the present to convey the harsh realities that they faced in the modern world.
In The Horse Dealer’s Daughter by D.H. Lawrence we have the theme of doubt, reliance, connection, desperation, escape and security. Taken from his Selected Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Lawrence may be, at the beginning of the story, exploring the theme of doubt. Through the narrator the reader learns that Mabel is unaware of what she will do now that her father has died. Despite her brothers appearing to have organised their lives (after their father’s death) Mabel’s future remains in doubt. Though she has the opportunity to leave the village and live with her sister, Lawrence never tells the reader whether Mabel will pursue this option, rather there is a sense that Mabel, if anything remains unsure as to what direction her life will take. It is only at the end of the story that the reader gets a clearer picture as to what Mabel’s plans may be.
Lawrence also appears to be exploring the theme of connection. It is while Mabel is tending to her mother’s grave that the reader senses that Mabel is making a connection with her mother. The reader is aware that as Mabel is cleaning her mother’s grave ‘she came into a subtle, intimate connection with her mother.’ It is possible that Lawrence is suggesting that Mabel longs for her mother and the life she lived when her mother was alive, when Mabel would have been taken care of. This is not the only occasion in the story whereby Lawrence suggests that Mabel has made a connection (with somebody who is dead). The reader also learns that after her mother’s death Mabel looked after her father, the connection between both of them remaining strong till Mr Pervin remarried again. It is also noticeable that Jack in some ways feels connected to Mabel after he has saved her life. Lawrence going as far as telling the reader that if anything Jack has fallen in love with Mabel.
There is also some symbolism in the story which may be significant. The fact that Lawrence describes the water in the pond as ‘dead’ and the fact that Mabel tries to kill herself by drowning in the pond suggests that Lawrence symbolically is using the pond to symbolise death (or at least a death of sorts). It is by trying to kill herself that Mabel’s life is rejuvenated or as some critics suggest Mabel goes through a rebirth, something the reader discovers when Jack proposes to marry Mabel at the end of story. Mabel’s attempt to kill herself in many ways can also serve to highlight the desperation that Mabel feels because she no longer has the security of her father or mother to protect her.
Lawrence also uses a lot of animal imagery in the story particularly when it comes to describing Mabel’s brothers. The reader learns that Joe, as he is watching the draught horses being led out of the yard by a groom, feels ‘the horses were almost like his own body’. By comparing the horses to Joe’s body and having them led by or following the groom Lawrence may be suggesting that Joe too will end up following someone. Something that is more obvious when the reader realises that Joe is marrying a woman whose father will be able to look after him. Just as Joe relied on his father, he is now reliant on someone else.
Lawrence also likens Fred Henry to an animal, telling the reader that ‘if he was an animal, like Joe, he was an animal which controls, not one which is controlled.’ However it is also noticeable that Lawrence tells the reader that (Fred Henry) ‘was not master of the situations of life.’ This line is significant as it suggests that like Joe, Fred Henry is reliant on others. However the person who appears to be most reliant on others is Mabel. Not only was she reliant on her mother and father to provide her with security but now that both are dead Mabel appears to be reliant on Jack to provide her with security. It is possible that Lawrence is highlighting to the reader the reliance or dependency that many women like Mabel (working or lower class women) had at the time the story was written on the male to provide them with security.
The ending of the story is also interesting. Though some critics argue that Mabel undergoes a rebirth in the story (having found love with Jack) it is more likely that Mabel will marry Jack not out of love but rather to escape from the possibility of a poverty stricken life that may await her now that her father is dead. Though Jack appears to have fallen in love with Mabel, there is no clear sign at least from Mabel that this love is reciprocated. At no stage in the story does Mabel tell Jack that she loves him, if anything Jack appears to be the vessel that will provide some security to Mabel’s life. Again it is possible that by writing the story, Lawrence may have been highlighting to the reader the reliance that some women had on men to provide them with security, again at the time the story was written.
McManus, Dermot. "The Horse Dealer's Daughter by D.H. Lawrence." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 4 Jan. 2015. Web.