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Tennessee Williams uses symbolism successfully in The Glass Menagerie. This research takes a stance on the meaning and symbolism of the glass menagerie, with an emphasis on the unicorn. The unicorn is Laura's favorite of the glass menagerie, and as a metaphor, it represents her mental and physical fragility. It is different from her other horses and reflects Laura's separation from other children. Her typing teacher describes her as "the horribly timid little girl who dropped out of school after just a few days' attendances?" Williams and Kushner (Williams and Kushner 67) The unicorn is depicted as lonely because it is different and symbolizes Laura’s loneliness and unusual life; “She lives in a world of her own-a world of little glass ornaments” (Williams and Kushner 99).
In the seventh scene of the play, the unicorn’s fate is sealed when its horn is broken, and it loses its difference from the other horses. Jim’s advances confer new normalcy to Laura’s life, but this violence shatters her as symbolized by the breaking of the unicorn’s horn and she states, “It is a blessing in disguise” (Williams and Kushner 135). Laura normalizes by shedding some shyness, and the breaking of the unicorn symbolizes her loss of uniqueness and ruined hopes on connection and love as Jim explained that he has a fiancée. The shattering of the unicorn symbolizes the painful experience, which leaves her broken emotionally. The fragility of the horse also symbolizes Laura’s delicacy when Laura tells Jim to look at what he broke in her as she hands him the unicorn as a souvenir.
The glass unicorn in Glass Menagerie plays an important role by providing a symbolic representation of Laura’s difference, fragile nature, and horse's breaking represents the emotional heartbreak. The unicorn is an effective symbol and is efficient in character and theme development in the play.
Williams, Tennessee, and Tony Kushner. The glass menagerie. New Directions Publishing, 2011.
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