In "the Glass Menagerie", the fire escape represents a portal, or bridge, between the deceptive world of the Wingfield's and the real world. This gateway seems to support only one-way passage, but the direction varies for each character. For Tom, the fire escape is the way out of the world of Amanda and Laura and an entrance into the world of reality. For Laura, the fire escape is a way into her world - a way to escape from reality. Both examples can readily be seen: Tom will stand outside on the fire escape to smoke, showing that he does not like to be inside, to be a part of the illusionary world.
Laura, on the other hand, thinks of the fire escape as a way in and not a way out. This can be seen when Amanda sends Laura to go to the store and Laura trips on the fire escape. It also shows that Laura's fears and emotions greatly affect her physical condition, more so than the average person. Another symbol presented that deals more with Tom than any of the other characters is his habit of going to the movies shows his longing to leave the apartment and head out into the world of reality. To him, it is a place where one can find adventure. However, Amanda, who criticizes his desire to quench this thirst for adventure, keeps him from entering reality.
Tom has made steps to escape into reality by transferring the payment of a light bill to pay for his dues in the Merchant Seaman's Union. The jonquils also have a symbolic meaning. To Amanda, jonquils are a special part of her past and she regards them with sentiment. Another symbol is Jim O'Connor. This symbol deals with both Amanda and Laura To Laura, Jim represents the one thing she fears and does not want to face, reality. To Amanda, Jim represents the days of her youth, when she went frolicking about picking jonquils and supposedly having "seventeen gentlemen callers on one Sunday afternoon." Although Amanda desires to see Laura settled down with a nice young man, it is difficult to determine whether she wanted a gentleman caller to be invited for Laura or for herself.
A more obvious symbol is Laura's glass menagerie. Her collection of glass represents her own private world. It is set apart from reality and becomes a place where she can hide and be safe. It is evident that she feels very strongly about the collection.
When Amanda tells Laura to practice typing, Laura instead plays with her glass. When Amanda is heard walking up the fire escape, she quickly hides her collection. Laura does this to hide her secret world from the others. When Tom leaves to go to the movies in an angered rush, he accidentally breaks some of Laura's glass.
The shattered glass represents Laura's understanding of Tom's responsibilities to her.