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Symbolism of the Candelabrum in 'The Glass Menagerie'


The candelabrum in Tennessee Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie" makes its appearance in Act Two, a scene Williams subtitled "A Souvenir." "[The candelabrum] used to be on the altar at the church of the Heavenly Rest. It was melted a little out of shape when the church burnt down. Lightning struck it one spring," says the character Amanda. It symbolizes grandeur now melted out of shape, and struck by disaster, very much like the Wingfields: Amanda, the mother, was once a Southern belle, but is now reduced to poverty in a tenement.

Candle as Symbolic Catalyst

The candelabrum is also a symbolic catalyst, illuminating the delicate Laura Wingfield along with Jim O'Connor, the gentleman caller, and replacing the "rose-coloured" lights that hid her. She is revealed as her true self. As Brent Barnard notes in his doctoral dissertation, Jim lights both candles and Laura's passion for him.

Candles as Symbolic Death

Williams revealed that Laura is a tribute to his psychologically damaged sister Rose; in an emblematic release from pain, Laura ends her life. Unable to have Jim, she commits symbolic suicide at brother Tom's request: "Blow out your candles, Laura." The play concludes with the damaged candelabrum representing her extinguishing life force.

About the Author

Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.

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