Tom describes Jim as “the most realistic character in the play, being an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from” (Williams 145) in his opening speech. However, as an aspiring poet, Tom is being more symbolic. Basically, Jim is a representation of that one thing we believe is a source of our happiness that we wait so desperately for but it always tends to evade our grasp. The play serves as a medium to establish Laura’s figurative, and then Jim appears at the end of the play just to fulfill that need. It becomes fairly clear that Jim has the potential to be her husband, who will provide for her in the near future, there are multiple symbols in the play that establish his potential to fulfill Laura’s figurative need. Thus, Jim is indeed the ‘The Gentleman Caller’ in Williams’ play, who draws Laura out of the imaginary world she inhabits with her collection of glass figurines.
Unlike the other men in the play, Williams’ has associated Jim with several kinds of flux, which certainly makes him a catalyst in Laura’s life. For instance, Laura associates Jim with water in flux in scene 2 when she tells her mother, “Here he is in The Pirates of Penzance” (Williams 156). The mention of pirates also invokes flux through oceanic imagery. On a figurative level, Laura’s implied reference to pirates is particularly promising. She associates Jim with flux because she realizes his potential to bring a balance on flesh and spirit to her, since Laura herself is a character associated with extreme spirit and stasis. The critical last act of the play reinforces Jim was a catalyst throughout the play when Tom state that his “speed had definitely slowed” (Williams 190). When Laura recalls her memory of Jim singing, the line "O blow, ye winds, heigh-ho," also strongly associates Jim with the wind, which is another implied reference to Jim as the catalyst who can breathe life into Laura.
As far as Jim is concerned, he seems to have immense figurative potential to be the catalyst that balances her stasis with his flux, balances her extreme spirituality with his flesh, breathes life into her choking soul, and brings her back to the reality of the outside world. The fact that she identifies Jim with “Freckles,” the protagonist from one of her favorite books, and “Fredrick” from The Pirates of Penzance, it becomes apparent that Jim embodies the companion that Laura had always dreamed of having. Even Williams says that the “climax of [Laura’s] secret life” (Williams 210) is her meeting Jim, which is already an allusion that Jim is the catalyst that brings an end to Laura’s isolated world. Moreover, Jim’s fiancée is quite similar to Laura, since Jim describes her as a spiritual girl just like Laura, and Jim himself tells Laura about Betty that “home-girl like you” (Williams). However, at this point Jim has already served his purpose as a catalyst and has brought flux to her stasis.
All in all, Jim does end up becoming the catalyst in the play and in Laura’s, just probably not in the way that Williams’ audience may have expected, since he serves his purpose in the play by shattering Laura’s dreams of companionship, of having flux and flesh to her stasis and spirituality, and more. However, it is in shattering her dreams that Jim also shatters the isolated world that Laura resides in and draws her outside into the real world. Moreover, Jim himself realizes his potential as a catalyst in Laura’s life to redeem her and that is why he kisses her. Williams’ audience might even see Jim as a villain in the play for not telling Laura that he was engaged sooner. However, those who seem him as such fail to understand that Williams had been establishing Jim as the catalyst, the flux that would shatter Laura’s isolated world and bring her life in motion, from the very beginning, as such made evident with the symbols mentioned.
Williams , Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New York City, NY: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1999. Print.