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The world of 1930s America was certainly quite different from the one we have today. For this reason, it is important to study the relationship of Laura and Amanda with this disturbing industrialized society in mind. In those days, single parenthood was not as common as it is today and thus we can imagine the problems women went through when they were abandoned by their husbands. If Amanda appears to be highly neurotic and rather too possessive of her children, then blame must be put not on her but on the times in which she lived.
1930s was the time when America was undergoing severe economic depression and the world had increasingly become too industrialized and materialized for simple people to breathe easily. This materialization was not only regarding money but also applied to everything from beauty to values to a person's worth. We notice that in the case of Laura, she becomes a victim of this materialization when she notices that most people are either interested in beauty or money. None could truly harbor romantic feelings for a gentle quite girl, who was slightly crippled.
Laura and Amanda often appear like two vague figures that are nothing more than figments of Tom's imagination. In the beginning of the play, Tom makes it clear that he is narrating his story from the 1930s so there is no way we can prove the existence of these two female figures. But even if they existed, it appears that their characters adopted completely different attitudes and behavior in order to occupy an important place in the play.
While Laura is a soft-spoken gentle person who wants to be loved and respected, Amanda demands the same thing ferociously. This is the major difference between heir characters. It is the differences in their characters and not the similarities, which define their relationship which is rather disturbing and somewhat bizarre.
Laura signifies everything gentle and beautiful while Amanda symbolizes extreme possessiveness, which borders on neediness. It is this neediness of her character, which makes her adopt rather unpleasant attitude towards Laura even though she wants the very best for her. She urges Laura to be more like herself, believing she is this perfect South belle who is highly resourceful and confident. This is what disturbs Laura as she starts comparing herself with others and thus into a very meek and timid figure. Laura doesn't have any self-respect and this is due to her disturbing relationship with her mother who herself is a victim of her times and distorted psyche.
We need to understand that Laura and Amanda may be figments of Tom's imagination but their characters have been developed so well that they almost command the central place in his consciousness. While Tom's own thoughts and behavior does play dominate roles in this story, it is the relationship of his mother with her children, which is the most interesting feature of the plot.
The most important thing that emerges from the study of Laura's relationship with her mother is the way the latter influences the former's personality and her sense of self-wroth. While she wants Laura to turn into a pushy confident young woman, her approach is flawed which has a negative impact on her daughter. For example, instead of teaching her the right skills to become a confident person, she points out her flaws and problems, which make Laura, feel worthless.
This is evident from the conversation between Jim and Laura where latter confesses her lack of confidence in herself to which Jim replies, "You don't have the proper amount of faith in yourself.... Think of yourself as superior in some way!
Why, man alive, Laura! Just look about you a little. What do you see? A world full of common people! All of 'em born and all of 'em going to die! Which of them has one-tenth of your good points! (99) "... "in a very different way from anyone else... other people are... one hundred times one thousand. You're one times one!... They're common as - weeds, but - you - well, you're - Blue Roses!" (105).
The name Blue Roses suits the young woman perfectly as it highlights the fact that she was different from the rest. But it is this labeling which is the reason behind Laura lacking self-confidence and living in a world of illusion. Amanda and Laura present two different sides of the same coin Living in the same world and encountering almost similar problems, the two women however react in complete different manner. This is because of the unhealthy relationship that the two women had which makes the younger female feel inadequate in the presence of her mother too. (Bert, 1997)
We must thus understand that Amanda's desperate desire to get her way and find some place for her children in this world backfires at most occasions. It is this desire to seek a permanent solution to her problems through her children is what characterizes her relationship with Laura and Tom. While Tom seeks escapes from her overbearing nature by staying out of the home most of the times, Laura finds her escape through a totally different route.
Instead of developing an extrovert nature and a love for the outdoors, Laura goes deeper into herself and her sub-conscious to seek relief from her mother's constant domineering presence. Amanda is thus not a very likeable character as is clear from Tom's soliloquies. He hates her mother and holds her responsible for turning Laura into a meek young person with no self-esteem. Even when he leaves the world of her mother and Amanda, he is worried about his sister and not his mother. This shows that Amanda had a negative and unhealthy relationship with her children. Though she thought she was doing the right thing by imposing herself on Laura, she was actually damaging her daughter's self-confidence and self-esteem.
The problem with Amanda is that she is unable to connect her present with her past. And it is also in denial of the personality and character of her daughter witch is in stark contrast with her own personality as young south belle. Apparently she had been a very famous young girl who had many suitors willing to court her. "One Sunday in Blue Mountain-your mother received-seventeen gentlemen callers" (p. 33). This was however not the case with her daughter and the unpleasantness of the reality sends her into a state of denial.
What she fails to understand is that her constant reminiscing about her past was having a deeply negative impact on her daughter. Her failure to come to his realization is what tarnishes the mother-daughter relationship.
The departure of Tom after the meeting between the gentleman caller and Laura signifies end of hope and the defeat of Amanda. She yells at Tom, "Go, then! Then go to the movies-you selfish dreamer!" And asks Laura to blow off candles. Laura complies as if she was finally prepared to live in complete darkness. It appears as if Amanda considered herself a leader who had the right to direct everyone's life. But her failure to bring about the desired change sin her children's life turns her into a bossy person who appeared to lack genuine love for her children. (Monarch Notes, 1963)
Since Tom occupies the central place in the play and it is through his soliloquies that we are introduced to Amanda and Laura, we cannot exclude Tom's relationship with two female figures in his life while studying the relationship between Laura and Amanda. This is because many critics are of the view that Tom's own hatred for his mother is responsible for giving a negative shade to Amanda relationship with her daughter (King, 1987). Though he appears to be a selfish person on the surface Tom…[continue]
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In connection with Williams' feelings vis-a-vis his sister's lobotomy, Jack Tamburri, writing in www.courttheatre.orgbelieves that the narrator in the Glass Menagerie (e.g., Williams) "...Spins a story of regret and abandonment [regarding Laura] that must have mirrored the guilt Williams felt over his own sister's situation." CONCLUSION: The helplessness of Laura as she tries to get through the pain of her physical disability, her shyness, and the razor-sharp barbs thrown at her