Metaphors and Symbols in The Glass Menagerie

The collection of little glass animals that Laura keeps and fusses over are symbols of her own fragility and the unreal life she lives. Her favorite ornament is the unicorn, and this takes the symbolism further, since the unicorn is a creature of myth, not of reality. The unicorn in fact represents Laura herself. The unicorn is like a horse but it is not a horse; it has a peculiarity (its horn) that sets it apart from other horses. So too Laura is not like other girls. In scene 7, the symbolism becomes important for the meaning of the play. Jim accidentally breaks the unicorn, and without its distinguishing horn, it looks more like a horse. This symbolizes how Jim is trying to draw Laura out of herself, to make her more normal. But his strategy does not work. Instead of a normal horse and a normal girl, there is just a broken ornament (given to Jim as a souvenir) that used to be a unicorn, and a girl whose dreams have been shattered and is now even less normal than ever.