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The Glass menagerie describes the harsh realities people face in a modern world. It also exposes the lost dreams of a southern family and their desperate struggle to escape into their illusions. Symbolism is a major aspect in this play that cannot be ignored. There is a deeper symbolism in the play that gives each character a depth. Tennessee Williams uses the symbols to develop character and theme, to elaborate on what the characters aspire to be, and to identify what they actually are. Tom Wingfield is a very complex and important character to the play. Tom is living in illusions by escaping to the movies, drinking, and by smoking on the fire escape.


Tom’s life is a lonely existence. He has no friends and few acquaintances at work. His mother is domineering and controlling. Amanda contumely questions Tom why he goes to the movies so much. She also accuses him of doing things he is ashamed of night after night. Tom does expose his drinking to Laura with the tale of the magician and his trick’s of changing water into wine and beer into Kentucky straight bourbon. Tom’s reflections on his life come to surface with his expiations of why he continually keeps going to the movies. In the final act, he says to the gentleman caller, ”People go to the movies instead of moving”. Then he proceeds to say, “I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move”. In this line he is finally exposing his intent of leaving is family in search of freedom.


The play is filled with lyrical symbolism. The fire escape is closely linked to Tom’s character and to the theme of escape. Laura stumbles onto the fire escape, while Tom uses it to get out of the apartment and into the outside world. He goes down the fire escape one last time at the end of the play, and he stands on the landing during his final monologs. His position there metaphorically illustrates his position between his family and the outside world, between his responsibilities and his need to live his own life.


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In the end, memory is the one thing Tom cannot escape. The reality that he left behind a struggling and pathetic mother and a crippled sister will haunt him for the rest of his life. While he escapes his family for the chance at a real life, he cannot escape his feeling of regret.





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