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How does Tennessee Williams present the character of Amanda in "The Glass Menagerie"?

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Introduction

How does Tennessee Williams present the character of Amanda in "The Glass Menagerie"? Unusually for a play, the events in "The Glass Menagerie" are presented to us through the eyes of an individual. As Tom states himself "Being a memory play...it is sentimental, it is not realistic". When Tennessee Williams wrote the play, the members of his own family hugely influenced his characters, as the play is semi-autobiographical. Therefore we have to keep in mind that everything presented to us is only a subjective truth, and as we see in the character of Amanda these 'truths' are often flawed. Amanda is our focus in the first scene as she faces out at us. Here, we see her treat Tom as a small child. With comments such as "don't push with your fingers" and "chew-chew!" it is evident that she is very critical and controlling of her son. However, as we see her attitude towards Tom develop, this may bee seen as a symptom of hanging on to the last male of household because as her husband has left her because he "fell in love with long distances", Tom is the person keeping the family above the breadline. Her claim that "all that we have to cling to is each other" is not entirely unreasonable. Perhaps her justified suspicion that Tom is becoming a drunkard like his father is another reason why she is so critical of him. ...read more.

Middle

Likewise, her concern for Tom's appearance in scene five may seem shallow, but with evidence of her vicarious nature in her resolute search to gentleman caller for Laura, one may suggest that through making her son a more sophisticated man, she can present a public impression of herself as an upstanding mother. This is emphasised when she wishes on the moon for "success and happiness for my children", especially when compared to Tom's shallow wish for escape. Underneath it all she is thinking realistically about the future of her children for example when she says to Laura "what is there left but dependency all our lives...is that the future that we've mapped out for ourselves?" With her adamant search for a gentleman caller she may be misguided but at least she is working to push the family forward. In this way she may be called a realist. However, her own form of encouragement ("charm-vivacity-charm") sounds rather hopeless as it implies that Laura doesn't have this and she has to struggle to find something positive to say. Despite her best intentions she continues to communicate home truths badly, for example in tactlessly patronising Laura with "we've given [business school] up because it gives us nervous indigestion" in reference to her future. It would appear that Amanda's good intentions seem to bring about her worst traits. For example she uses emotional blackmail on Tom by saying that he can only achieve his dream of joining the marines when "there's somebody to take [his] place". ...read more.

Conclusion

It would seem that she has to live up to a certain reputation to hide the shame of her husband leaving her - she does not want to be seen as a failure. After working "like a Turk" in preparation for Jim's arrival she states, "we will pass inspection" as if she seeks the approval of a higher being. Her attitude to DH Lawrence's controversial book for "diseased minds" in scene three shows how, unlike his fans, she is preoccupied with conformity. It appears that Amanda is concerned with her social circle but she herself is alone, as one can imagine that she has to dress up for every DAR meting in order to fit in. Another element of Amanda that is linked to her vicariousness is her relationship with her past. When she says "my hopes and ambitions for you" to Laura it is interesting to note that Laura's wishes have not come into the equation here, and we cannot help feel that Amanda wants Laura to compensate for her own failures. We are told in scene two that her clothing is dated, and in scene six the appearance of both herself and Laura is somewhat reminiscent of her time at Blue Mountain when she would receive "seventeen! - gentleman callers". Her boastfulness with regards to her youth suggests that it was a happy time and something to be proud of - a stark contrast to her present bleak existence. ...read more.

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