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I have a poets weakness for symbols So states Tom Wingfield narrator and major character in Tennessee Williams timeless play The Glass Menagerie Through the eyes of Tom the viewer gets a glance into the life of his family in the pre-war depression era his mother a southern belle desperately clinging to the past his sister a young woman too fragile to function in society and himself a struggling young poet working at a warehouse to pay the bills Williams through his remarkable use of symbols is able to effectively express the theme of The Glass Menagerie That of hopeful aspirations followed by inevitable disappointment having dreams which are destroyed by the harsh realities of the world Symbols are a major part of this play as Tom the narrator is a poet and admits he has a weakness for symbols One major symbol presented in the story is that of the fire escape a symbol that has a different meaning and function for each character For Tom it is a means of escape from fire not the type of fire that was considered in its building but the slow and implacable fires of human desperation This is especially true of Toms apartment His mother devastated after her daughter Lauras failure to cope in business college becomes obsessed with finding her a gentleman caller so that she can marry and be well supported When this caller finally comes and it seems like it was meant to be as they dance and kiss he announces he is engaged and dashes their hopes The ever-fragile Laura temporarily drawn out of her dream-world shell of her glass collection and the victrola draws further back into herself Now a terrible desperation fills the apartment and Tom decides he must escape the suffocating environment to follow his own calling The fire escape to him represents a path to the outside world For Laura the fire escape is exactly the
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