The Glass Menagerie
by Tennessee Williams
Oh, Amanda – where do we begin? What’s that song? Something about some woman stuck in 1985. Yeah – that’s pretty much Amanda, except it’s the early 1900’s. Because the present is so depressing, what with her unmarried daughter, moody son, and then that whole U.S. Depression-era thing, Amanda chooses to live in the past. This is her retreat from reality, though it takes a different form than Laura’s or Tom’s.
But it’s not all about the past. Amanda also looks into the future, making what she calls "plans and provisions," single-mindedly for her children. In fact, as annoying as all the nagging about keeping one’s elbows off the table is, Amanda is actually a very loving mother. Other than shooting the breeze about when she used to have gentlemen callers in her youth, Amanda doesn’t really think too much about herself. Her mothering is extreme, to say the least, all-encompassing, and, for Tom, suffocating to some degree.
Which makes us wonder about that missing husband of hers. Although Amanda doesn’t seem to attach much emotional value to marriage (she sees it as a tool for her daughter to be supported by a man), she confesses to Tom that she did loved his father. In fact, she spends a lot of her stage directions just looking at his portrait. You sort of have to read between the lines on this one, because Amanda never explicitly tells us much about the guy. You know he peaced out, that he had no regrets (because he smiles all the time), that he was good-looking, charming, and liked his alcohol. But Amanda is pretty controlled about the whole thing, chattering on about him abandoning her as though it doesn’t hurt, when clearly, for a woman of Southern tradition, being left by her husband is a pretty awful ordeal. She shows considerable strength – which you might alternatively call denial – in dealing with the situation.
We would love to blame Amanda for her ridiculously stereotyped projections of gender roles, and the way she forces certain plans of the future onto her children. But, honestly – the woman has a point. They do need a plan. Tom does need to support them or they starve. And as for the gender roles – she was raised in the South in the early 1900s, so what are you going to do?