Amanda – The Glass Menagery

The writer Margaret Drabble has described Amanda as a frigid and frustrated mother. Do you think this is a fair assessment of Williams’s presentation of the character?

Of the three main characters in Williams’s ‘The Glass Menagerie’ Amanda is set to appear as the most dominant and in control. As the mother of the family unit the audience expects her to hold some kind of responsibility over her children as well as providing for them. The idea of the sense of duty she has for the Tom and Laura’s future still remains even when the audience discover that the person financially supporting the Wingfields is actually Tom.

Tom causes much of Amanda’s frustration and Amanda’s struggle to control him and ‘improve’ him. The fact that Amanda has to rely on Tom clearly irritates her, as you can see by the way it is brought up when the two are having an argument, she often refers to him as not having the right to ‘jeopardize the security of [them]* all’. Subsequently this also shows her concern for Laura, as she is not only thinking about how she would cope if Tom were not to be providing for the family, but also of her daughter’s. It is the lack of control she has surrounding her son and his activities that contributes greatly to Amanda’s frustration. Another key aspect the audience sees of Amanda’s need to have a hold over Tom is the was she wants to know where he is going whenever he leaves the house, even though he says he is going to the cinema she doesn’t believe him an explains that the reason he says he is going to the cinema is that he has ‘been doing things that [he is]* ashamed of.’ This may also show her concern about him and her inadequacy to display her affection.

The audience learn that many of Amanda’s problems have been caused by the departure of Mr Wingfeild; the missing part of this almost stereotypical nuclear family. There is a clear reminder of him in the form of a picture over the fireplace, and at key moments in the play this symbol is highlighted making sure that there is a clear link created with the events that occur within the family and the absence of Tom and Laura’s father. Amanda is often the one to encourage talk about this missing individual, even if it is only in the most subtle ways; she says that Laura would be better off as an ‘old maid’ than if she was the ‘the wife of a drunkard’ when discussing Jim’s character with Tom. We have already learned that Mr Wingfeild was a drinker, so as well as adding a further element of concern about Laura she adds an underlying tone of pity for herself.

Amanda’s inability to move on from her past, and so from her gone astray husband is clear not only by the way she wear’s her husband’s dressing gown despite the fact it doesn’t fit her in the slightest, but also the way she looks back at when she was overwhelmed with gentleman callers. The irony created by the way she almost simultaneously remembers all the suitors that used to ‘call on her’ when she was young, and the absence of the one she chose allows the audience to see a different part of Amanda, and so gain a different view of her. Although she may appear frigid on cold on the outside, she clearly wants to show affection on the inside, but because of the emotional abuse she seems to have received from her husband abandoning her and the rejection she appears to get when she tries to be a caring mother for her children, she does not know how to portray her feelings. When Amanda’s relationship with Tom is carefully analysed, it can be seem that everything Amanda does is what she believes is the best for her son, for example she wakes him every morning with a bright and cheerful ‘rise and shine’ even though it is not properly appreciated. Any mother would feel Amanda’s frustration if they were in such a standoffish relationship with their son, even though they love them dearly.

Laura and Amanda