The Glass Menagerie

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Amanda Wingfield Character Analysis

Tom and Laura’s mother. Amanda was a Southern belle in her youth, and she clings to this romantic vision of her past rather than accepting her current circumstances of poverty and abandonment. Amanda does not live in the past; rather, she lives in her own version of the present that she sees through the veil of memories and illusions. Unlike Tom and Laura, who retreat into their own private fantasies to escape from reality, Amanda lives her daily life through the rose-tinted glasses of her memories and dreams. Amanda is pragmatic in many ways––for example, she makes ends meet by selling magazine subscriptions. However, Amanda’s vision of the way she thinks her world should work and the reality of the situation often do not intersect. She constantly nags Tom, and she refuses to accept Laura’s peculiarities, projecting her own ideals of femininity onto Laura rather than accepting or even recognizing her daughter for who she is. Amanda is both a very comic and deeply tragic figure. Her exaggerated, larger-than-life statements and actions are often so out of touch with reality that they seem quite funny. However, her self-delusion and inability to see the world around her is also sad and painful to watch. For example, when the Gentleman Caller comes to visit, Amanda puts on a frilly dress she had worn as a young ingénue, slips into a thick Southern accent, and minces daintily around the apartment, as though she were sixteen again. Her actions are absurd, but she cannot see how desperately and pathetically she is acting, which makes the scenario tragic.

Amanda Wingfield Quotes in The Glass Menagerie

The The Glass Menagerie quotes below are all either spoken by Amanda Wingfield or refer to Amanda Wingfield. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New Directions edition of The Glass Menagerie published in 1999.
Scene 1 Quotes

Resume your seat, little sister—I want you to stay fresh and pretty—for gentleman callers!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Amanda projects her own past and her own relationships onto Laura. Rather than seeing and appreciating Laura for who she is, Amanda insists on attempting to mold Laura after the ingénue that she envisioned herself as being. Amanda calls Laura “little sister,” which accentuates the psychologically strange nature of their relationship. On the one hand, “little sister” is a term of endearment, a nickname that demonstrates the affection and familiarity between these two characters. Yet “little sister” is a strange term of endearment from a mother to a daughter. Amanda wants to retain the image of herself as an young, flirtatious woman who still receives gentleman callers, even though that version of herself is far in the past. By referring to Laura as her “sister,” rather than her daughter, Amanda can still maintain her fiction about herself. Amanda also projects her memory of her former self onto Laura’s present self, even though Laura, in reality, is hardly the same person as Amanda. Amanda prepares Laura for “gentlemen callers” not because Laura wants them, but because Amanda wants to demonstrate her own power and re-live her youth. 

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Scene 2 Quotes

What are we going to do, what is going to become of us, what is the future?

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: Typewriter
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

When Amanda learns that Laura is no longer in secretarial school, the “us” in Amanda’s exclamation to Laura is extremely revealing. Amanda projects herself and her life onto Laura’s decisions. The “us” in Amanda’s sentence represents the way that Amanda often addresses Laura. Instead of saying “you,” which would separate herself and her daughter, she implies through her syntax that Laura does not have any opinions or thoughts of her own that are not somehow mediated through Amanda. Amanda is speaking to Laura about Laura’s revelation that she has quit her typewriting school, and as she interrogates Laura about this choice, the audience learns that she is much more concerned over the impact on herself, not whether or not the decision benefits or hurts Laura.

The “us” is also, therefore, a kind of royal “we.” Amanda turns Laura’s decision into a behavior that has been designed to impact her own life, rather than a choice that Laura made for Laura’s sake. Amanda is very much the center of her universe, and she sees everyone else’s lives as revolving around her own. In Amanda’s point of view, people’s choices are judged on a scale of how much and in what way they impact Amanda’s life. Thus Laura leaving the secretarial school becomes, in Amanda’s perception and Amanda’s narrative, a decision that has the most consequences for Amanda.

What is there left but dependency all our lives? I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren’t prepared to occupy a position. I’ve seen such pitiful cases in the South—barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister’s husband or brother’s wife!—stuck away in some little mousetrap of a room—encouraged by one in-law to visit another—little birdlike women without any nest—eating the crust of humility all their life!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

When Laura drops out of secretarial school, Amanda paints a gruesomely exaggerated picture of the sorry fate that an unwed, unemployed single woman must face. Since Laura has failed to secure a career, Amanda suggests that the only thing she can do is marry, even though Laura is extremely shy and does not seem very eager to pursue romance. Amanda wants to make the best of what she perceives to be a dire situation, and she latches onto her idea of what might be a sliver of hope.

Amanda is fearful about her own future. Her husband has left her, she is not trained in a career, and she is no longer an attractive young woman, which, in her own calculus, means that she may have to live off the charity of others. But instead of admitting her worries about herself, Amanda projects her fears onto Laura. Amanda still pretends that she lives as a golden past version of herself, and to admit a lack of self-confidence in her own capabilities would be to face the real world and her own flaws in a way that she’s not capable of doing yet.

Scene 3 Quotes

You’ll go up, up on a broomstick, over Blue Mountain with seventeen gentleman callers! You ugly—babbling old—witch...

Related Characters: Tom Wingfield (speaker), Amanda Wingfield
Related Symbols: Glass Menagerie, The Movies
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom and Amanda have been arguing vehemently over Tom’s role in the family. Although Laura doesn’t speak during the argument, the spotlight stays on her the entire time, showing that she is often at the center of their fights. Both Tom and Amanda project themselves and their concerns onto Laura. Tom desperately wants to lead an independent life, but he feels trapped at home. Tom yells at Amanda because he feels as though he has no privacy. Amanda accuses Tom of doing sordid things and ruining his reputation when he claims that he is going out to the “movies” at night. Not only does she assume that he’s lying, she assumes that he is being disreputable, which will give the family and thus Amanda herself a poor reputation by association. Tom lashes out so violently against Amanda because he sees that she doesn’t trust him and that she wants to control every aspect of his life. Even though Amanda is stifling Tom, Tom does not exactly demonstrate fair and balanced behavior to Amanda. Tom leaps around the stage, admitting to all the horrible deeds Amanda accuses him of undertaking.

When Tom calls Amanda a witch, however, he has gone too far, and the relationship between them literally shatters: as Tom violently leaps around the stage, he knocks over Laura’s glass menagerie, and some of the animals shatter. Tom and Amanda have reached the breaking point, and this becomes literally rendered in the breaking of the animals.

Scene 5 Quotes

Amanda: A little silver slipper of a moon. Look over your left shoulder, Laura, and make a wish! ... Now! Now, darling, wish!
Laura: What shall I wish for, Mother?
Amanda [her voice trembling, and her eyes suddenly filling with tears]: Happiness! Good fortune!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Laura Wingfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire Escape
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

Laura and Amanda are in a co-dependent relationship, which stifles both of them and keeps them stuck in the past and in their own imaginations instead of moving forward into the future. Laura does not know how to desire anything for herself, so she defers to Amanda to tell her what to wish for. Laura has not had the opportunity to practice any sort of independence for herself. Amanda, meanwhile, projects her own wishes and desires onto Laura. Amanda says that she wants Laura to be happy, but Amanda does not really listen to what Laura wants. Instead, Amanda wants Laura to want Amanda’s definition of happiness.

Indeed, Amanda projects all her desires onto her children. Earlier that evening, when she and Tom had been looking at the moon over the fire escape, Amanda tells Tom that she has wished for success and happiness for her children. Tom then reveals to her that he has arranged for a gentleman caller for Laura. In the first scene of the play, Tom calls himself a “magician,” and now, it seems as though he is making Amanda’s wishes come true. However, the scene is also tragic, since the audience knows that the happily-ever-after ending Amanda seeks will not come to pass.

Scene 7 Quotes

Go, then! Go to the moon—you selfish dreamer!

Related Characters: Amanda Wingfield (speaker), Tom Wingfield
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

In Amanda’s final line of the play, she accuses Tom of being selfish and of not facing reality, yet she is also guilty of these exact qualities. She lashes out at Tom because she thinks that he has made a fool out of Laura and, by extension, out of Amanda. Amanda feels like Tom has betrayed the family by creating a dream and then shattering it. By inviting Jim over to dinner, Tom gave both Amanda and Laura the hope that Jim would be the hero who would come in and save the family. However, Jim already has a fiancée, and he will not leave his current life to come live with the Wingfields. Tom has created stage magic, but now the magic evaporates. Amanda is even more furious at Tom for presenting a possibility to them that then gets snatched away. Not only is Tom a selfish dreamer for only thinking of himself, he is also a selfish dreamer for presenting dreams that will not become reality. Amanda would rather live in memories and in a haze of the past than in the present. Tom takes Amanda’s angry cry at her word and leaves the house for good, and unlike their earlier fight, Tom does not return. He has finally succumbed to his desire for escape, and abandoned the family just as his father did.

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Amanda Wingfield Character Timeline in The Glass Menagerie

The timeline below shows where the character Amanda Wingfield appears in The Glass Menagerie. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1
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Tom tells the audience about the four characters in the play—himself, his mother Amanda, his sister Laura, and a man named Jim they knew from high school—and adds that... (full context)
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Tom enters the apartment and joins Amanda and Laura at the dining-room table. The words “Ou sont les neiges” [“Where are the... (full context)
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Amanda tells a story of her youth in the South when on one Sunday afternoon she... (full context)
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Amanda suggests that Laura practice her typing as she waits for gentleman callers to arrive. The... (full context)
Scene 2
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...screen. Laura sits in the apartment, polishing her menagerie of glass figures. When she hears Amanda ascending the fire escape stairs, she hastily puts away the glass figures and pretends to... (full context)
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Amanda enters, dressed in the outfit she wears to her Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.)... (full context)
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Amanda tells Laura that she stopped by the business college where Laura has supposedly been enrolled.... (full context)
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Amanda wonders what will become of Laura, now that her career opportunities have been ruined, and... (full context)
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Amanda asks whether Laura has ever liked a boy, and Laura admits that she once had... (full context)
Scene 3
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...the fire escape and tells the audience that after the “fiasco” at the business college, Amanda has become obsessed with the idea that a gentleman caller must come to the house... (full context)
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Amanda enters with a telephone and elaborately, over-enthusiastically praises the magazine, describing one of the stories... (full context)
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Tom and Amanda are heard arguing behind curtains hanging over a door. Laura is standing in front of... (full context)
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Tom rips the curtains over the dining room door open, and he and Amanda continue to fight as Laura watches helplessly. The typewriter and Tom’s manuscripts are scattered across... (full context)
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Tom explodes at Amanda, claiming that he’d rather be bludgeoned to death with a crowbar than go back to... (full context)
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When Amanda declares again that she doesn’t believe Tom is going to the movies, Tom sarcastically tells... (full context)
Scene 4
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The bell tolls six times and Amanda calls out her customary “Rise and Shine!” She asks Laura to relay the message to... (full context)
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“Ave Maria” plays softly in the background as Tom finally apologizes to Amanda for his behavior. Amanda nearly breaks down as she speaks of the pride she has... (full context)
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Amanda turns the discussion to Laura, and “The Glass Menagerie” theme begins to play. Amanda says... (full context)
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When Amanda presses Tom to explain where he goes, Tom says that he goes to the movies... (full context)
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Amanda tells Tom that they have to make “plans and provisions” for Laura. She knows that... (full context)
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Amanda asks Tom to bring home a gentleman from the warehouse to introduce to Laura, and... (full context)
Scene 5
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It is spring, 1937. Amanda nags Tom about his appearance and his smoking. Tom steps onto the fire escape with... (full context)
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Amanda joins Tom on the fire escape, and they look at the moon together. They each... (full context)
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...apartment. A fanfare plays, and a gentleman caller with a bouquet appears on the screen. Amanda is delighted. Tom tells her that the gentlemen caller is coming tomorrow, which throws Amanda... (full context)
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Amanda begins to whisk around the apartment, simultaneously re-organizing the apartment and brushing Tom’s hair while... (full context)
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Amanda continues to pump Tom for information. She learns that the caller’s name is O’Connor, and... (full context)
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Tom tells Amanda that he hasn’t told Jim about Laura: he just invited Jim over for a family... (full context)
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Tom leaves for the movies, and Amanda calls Laura to the front room. She points out the moon to Laura, turns her... (full context)
Scene 6
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In preparation for the gentleman caller, Amanda has transformed the apartment with lampshades and curtains. She dresses Laura, who is visibly nervous,... (full context)
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Tom and Jim arrive and ring the doorbell. Laura is terrified and begs Amanda to open the door, but Amanda refuses, forcing Laura to be the one to open... (full context)
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Jim and Tom re-enter the house to find Amanda transformed into a grotesque version of herself as a young Southern belle. Amanda puts on... (full context)
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Amanda sends Tom to fetch Laura for supper, but Tom returns and announces that Laura is... (full context)
Scene 7
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...beautiful in the dim lamplight. As dinner is finished, the lights flicker and go out. Amanda lights candles and asks Jim to check the fuse box, which he does, although he... (full context)
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Amanda gives Jim an antique candelabrum from a church and a bottle of dandelion wine, instructing... (full context)
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Amanda waltzes in with lemonade, and Jim becomes awkward and tense. Amanda tells Jim that he... (full context)
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“Things have a way of turning out so badly,” says Amanda. She accuses Tom of playing a joke on them, but Tom insists that he didn’t... (full context)
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...his drink glass on the floor and bursts onto the fire escape. Inside the house, Amanda holds Laura in her arms, stroking her hair. Tom delivers a passionate, emotionally fraught closing... (full context)