Throughout “The Glass Menagerie” Tennessee Williams creates an intricate dynamic between the three main characters, as well as symbols and symbolic language in order to exemplify the fragility of livelihood. Without a single one of the members of the Wingfield family the other’s lives would be dramatically different. Much as the collection of glass menagerie would not be the same collection without one of its pieces. As many collectors know the presence or absence of one item can drastically change the value of the whole collection. So also is a family unit, as one member affects the others, they form an identity they become accustomed to and often cling to.
Amanda exemplifies how vital it is that a family unit stay loyal. After Mr. Wingfield disappeared her life has become a constant struggle in order to survive, a far cry from the Blue Mountain setting she idolizes in her past. Amanda symbolizes a downfall, but she also symbolizes drive for her children, encouraging Laura to blossom into something that they can both be proud of and encouraging Tom to keep his job and support his family until they can fend for themselves at least. Laura symbolizes fear and instability through the first five acts. She failed out of her class, that was a hope for a better future, because of her fear and doesn’t let herself actually try to engage in social interactions for fear that she will be inadequate in another’s eyes. Without Laura to feel sorry for and take care of Tom most likely would have left Amanda on her own in Mr. Wingfield’s footsteps a long time ago.
Tom represents unrest and boredom, but he also provides the money and stability for the family to keep living in its present state. Though Tom is uneasy he still gets up in the morning and performs his duties knowing that he is a key member of their family unit, or the most valuable piece in the collection. When Tom and Amanda’s fight breaks some of the pieces of the Glass menagerie it symbolizes the breaking of a family unit, making it less valuable. As the pieces are easy to break so is the bond that holds the family together as Mr. Wingfield showed how easy it was to separate this bond. As Tom distances himself the strength of the bond becomes less and less strong and it is only a matter of time before it breaks if it is not mended.