"I have only one major theme for my work, which is the destructive impact of society on the sensitive non-conformist individual (Williams Netscape)." Symbols help to show the dreams and desires that the characters long for and also the restrictions that keep them from fulfilling those dreams. In The Glass Menagerie, the fire escape symbolizes the way for Amanda Wingfield to bring a man into the house to save her and her daughter. To Tom, the fire escape is a means of escape from the house that traps him- a path to the outside world (Susquehanna. "New Critical"). Rainbows in The Glass Menagerie symbolize hope and are associated with hopeful situations (Susquehanna. "New Critical.) When Tom Wingfield receives a rainbow-colored scarf at the magic show, he is amazed at the fact it turned a bowl of goldfish into flying canaries. Just like the canaries, Tom hopes to fly away- fly away to escape his imprisonment (Susquehanna. "New Critical"). At the end of the play when Tom looks at the "pieces of colored glass, like bits of a shattered rainbow (Williams 137)", he remembers that he has left his sister behind and prays that he will be able to move on without her. Even though the rainbows appear to be positive signs throughout the book, they eventually all end in disappointment.
The fact that rainbows are not what they appear to be helps to bring a sense of irony to Williams' work. "Irony is a device that protects him (the artist) from the pain of his experience so that he may use it objectively in his art(Susquehanna. "New Critical")." In The Glass Menagerie, it is ironic how Tom speaks badly of his father and his leaving home but in the end he leaves home just like his father, the man "in love with long distances (Williams 30)''. The fact that Amanda wants what is best for her children is ironic because she worries so much over it that she doesn't realize what is best for them.
The characters that come alive in Williams' works represent people from his life.