In "The Glass Managerie", by Tennessee Williams, symbols are used to describe the characters in the play. Laura, a very frail and insecure character from the play, lives in a world of illusions. Crippled with one leg shorter than the other from a childhood illness, she lives her life through her collection of glass animals. They provide Laura's refuge from reality. One particular glass animal the "fragile and rare" unicorn symbolizes the character's sufferings. The brilliant use of the imagery of the glass unicorn helps express the emotional anguish of Laura. Only when the unicorn loses its horn, and become like the other glass horses does Laura too break free from her fantasy world and snap into reality and realize that she is not a "freak" as she thought she was. .
The obsession that Laura has for her glass ornaments is first eminent in scene two where she is seated in her delicate ivory chair, washing and polishing her collection. It is also in this scene where it is obvious that her mother has criticized her many times for her unusual fascination of the glass animals because at the sound her mother approaching, she nervously shoves away them away. And before entering the room, the mother, Amanda, peeks through the door to see what Laura is doing and "purses her lips, opens her eyes very wide, rolls them upward and shakes her head".
Amanda scorns Laura for deceiving her by pretending to go to business school even though she dropped out. Her reason was that "it frightened her so bad it made her sick in the stomach". Because Laura does not have the courage to live a normal sociable life, the glass animals in this scene represent her hopes and dreams of another life. This fantasy life that Laura longs for is probably why she thought she could get away with deceiving her mother about going to business school.
In scene three, the glass ornaments represent Laura's shattered emotion. Amanda and her son Tom get into a quarrel.