The Glass Menagerie
by Tennessee Williams
Laura is oh-so-fragile, not unlike her glass collection. Hey! Coincidence? Probably not. In fact, definitely not. Laura parallels her glass collection in a few different ways. To begin, she has the same sort of translucent beauty, the same delicate exterior. She is also very breakable, in the sense that she freaks out at the slightest social challenge and runs away. What’s cool is that these two things are connected – the beauty and the fragility – and complement each other. A piece of glass is very beautiful because it is so breakable. Right? And Williams uses the tinkly music that he calls "The Glass Menagerie" in order to connect them. There’s also her slightly crippled leg, a physical manifestation of this fragility.
Like her mother and brother, Laura retreats from reality. She’s so far departed that she can’t even see reality anymore. She spends her days going to the zoo, or polishing her glass, or playing records. She has no social interaction, and even her brother, Tom, who clearly cares for her, doesn’t really break into her little world. Until Jim. Laura opens up to Jim in a way that she hasn’t done with anyone else. He recognizes that she is unique – that’s where this Blue Roses business fits in. Have YOU ever seen a blue rose? Exactly. Jim recognizes that Laura is one-in-a-million. While Laura’s mother tries to conform her to some standard of Southern femininity, Jim appreciates her for who she is. And she loves him for it.
Which brings us to Tom and Laura. Laura ends up mediating between her mother and brother, asking him to apologize, trying to prevent a confrontation when Tom comes home drunk. Laura’s pretty much a why-can’t-we-all-get-along girl. But she’s also perceptive; Laura understands Tom’s desire to escape and explains it to her mother. She understands that Amanda relishes her stories of the past and makes that clear to Tom. This perceptiveness, along with her dependence on Tom, her break-ability, and her innocence, all add up to one guilt-inducing memory for the older Tom, the narrator.