Is the ending of The Glass Menagerie (Tennessee Williams) tragic for Laura? The tragedy of Tom is plain to see; he is out living his dream but cannot enjoy a second of it because of his overwhelming guilt. Amanda is abandoned by her son years after her husband leaves her, so she's clearly tragic too.
But what about Laura? My professor points to (1) the unicorn figurine breaking and (2) Laura blowing out the candles at the end as obvious signs that there is little hope for Laura after her disappointing "date" with Jim and after Tom's later departure. This confused me because I read the character a little differently (I read the play before the lecture).
The unicorn is a symbol of Laura's fragility and uniqueness, both of which are fairly positive, even endearing qualities but which also make her tragic during the play. The unicorn must break for Laura to come out of her shell. She must give up the things she seeks security in - as delicate, lovely and romantic as they may be - to survive in the world. As she says to Jim, it really is a "blessing in disguise".
And when I read the line "Blow out your candles, Laura" (following which Laura actually blows out the candles onstage), I saw that as Tom's wish to no longer be haunted by thoughts of his sister as well as a symbol of Laura leaving her unusual fantasy world of security. She must abandon her candles to become an adult, to become part of the world that is "lit by lightning". There is a definite, poignant loss of innocence here, but I also had the sense, especially after Jim's good-natured words of encouragement to her, that Laura might end up just fine. She was miserable being her pure, innocent "candle" self because it cut her off from the world and from the prospect of a full life. Having to leave behind this older self is very sad indeed, but necessary for her growth in the long run. This is how I read it, but judging from other people's commentary, Laura's future is generally seen as being much more bleak.
Am I missing some important textual clues? I feel like I might also be imposing my own personal views and not seeing the play as it really is. For example, maybe I cannot see why Laura is necessarily doomed because I, like any other 21st-century reader, am too far removed from the world of the play?