Study Guide

The Glass Menagerie Drugs and Alcohol

By Tennessee Williams

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Drugs and Alcohol

"I think you’ve been doing things that you’re ashamed of. That’s why you act like this. I don’t believe that you go every night to the movies. Nobody goes to the movies night after night. Nobody in their right minds goes to the movies as often as you pretend to. People don’t go to the movies at nearly midnight, and movies don’t let out at two A.M. Come in stumbling. Muttering to yourself like a maniac! You get three hours’ sleep and then go to work. Oh, I can picture the way you’re doing down there. Moping, doping, because you’re in no condition." (3.31, Amanda).

Amanda combines all her fears of bad behavior into her singular fear that Tom will be a man who drinks.

Tom appears at the top of the alley. After each solemn boom of the bell tower, he shakes a little noisemaker or rattle as if to express the tiny spasm of man in contrast to the sustained power and dignity of the Almighty. This and the unsteadiness of his advance make it evident that he has been drinking. As he climbs the few steps to the fire escape landing light steals up inside. Laura appears in the front room in a nightdress. She notices that Tom’s bed is empty. Tom fishes in his pockets for his door key, removing a motley assortment of articles in the search, including a shower of movie ticket stubs and an empty bottle. (Scene Four, stage directions).

Williams uses props to display both that Tom is in fact drinking and that he also was telling the truth about going to the movies.

[with great enthusiasm]: "Try and you will succeed! [The notion makes her breathless.] Why, you - you're just full of natural endowments! Both of my children-they're unusual children! Don't you think I know it? I'm so-proud! Happy and-feel I've-so much to be thankful for but—promise me one thing, son!"

"What, Mother?"

"Promise, son, you’ll—never be a drunkard!"

[turns to her grinning]: "I will never be a drunkard, Mother."

"That’s what frightened me so, that you’d be drinking!" (4.39-4.43, Amanda and Tom).

Just as Amanda ignored the problems of the present by focusing on the past, she similarly blinds herself to Tom’s biggest problems by focusing instead on an absurd fear of alcoholism.

"Find out one that’s clean-living—doesn’t drink and ask him out for sister!" (4.101, Amanda).

Amanda’s concern for alcoholism is excessive, extending both to her son and to her daughter’s potential suitor.

"Tom, he—doesn’t drink?"

"Why do you ask me that?"

"Your father did!"

"Don’t get started on that!"

"He does drink, then?"

"Not that I know of!"

"Make sure, be certain! The last thing I want for my daughter’s a boy who drinks!" (5.71-5.77, Amanda and Tom).

Only towards the end of the play does Williams reveal the source of Amanda’s concern over alcohol: that her husband drank.

"Old maids are better off than wives of drunkards!" (5.77, Amanda).

Amanda’s fear of alcoholism is so great that she even compromises her desire for Laura to get married at any cost.

"Irish on both sides! Gracious! And doesn’t drink?"

"Shall I call him up and ask him right this minute?"

"The only way to find out about those things is to make discreet inquiries at the proper moment. When I was a girl in Blue Mountain and it was suspected that a young man drank, the girl whose attentions he had been receiving, if ay girl was, would sometimes speak to the minister of his church, or rather her father would if her father was living, and sort of feel him out on the young man’s character. That is the way such things are discreetly handled to keep a young woman from making a tragic mistake. (5. 99-5.101, Amanda and Tom).

Amanda’s views on alcohol, much like the rest of her views, derive from a different time period and are slightly outdated.

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