Is Amanda selfish or does she only want the best for her children?
1.) Is Amanda selfish? Or does she only want the best for her children? Be specific and point to specific places in the play that support your answer.
2.) Does Jim help or hurt Laura by what he says and does? Is she changed for the better as a result of this interaction, or has he further damaged her?
3.) Compare Tom’s opening and closing speeches in the play. What’s his tone in each? Has he changed by the end of the play? How? For better or worse?
Amanda Wingfield lives in a world that fluctuates between illusion and reality. When it is convenient to her, she simply closes her eyes to the brutal, realistic world. She uses various escape mechanisms in order to endure her present position in life. When life in this tenement world becomes unbearable, she recalls the days of her youth when she lived at Blue Mountain and had seventeen gentlemen callers in one Sunday afternoon.
Indeed, this story has been told so often that it is no longer an illusion and instead has become a reality. She likewise indulges in playful games so as to escape the drudgery of everyday living. She tells Laura, “You be the lady this time and I’ll be the darky.” She refuses to acknowledge that Laura is crippled and instead refers to her as having only a slight physical defect. She refuses to accept the fact that Tom is quite different from her and that he, like his father, will someday leave in search of adventures. And finally, Amanda lives perpetually in the world of the gentlemen callers who will appear any day to sweep Laura off her feet.
But she is unable to live forever in this world of illusion. The pressures of everyday living force her to face many unpleasant facts. Chief among these is the position of Laura. As she tells Laura: “I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren’t prepared to occupy a position.” Even if she fails to acknowledge Laura’s defects, she is realist enough to understand Laura’s difficult position. Furthermore, she has seen the letter that Tom received from the Merchant Marine and knows that he will soon be leaving. Facing these brutal facts, she makes Tom arrange to have the gentleman caller arrive.
But Amanda is full of other paradoxes. She wants only the best for her children, but then she fails to understand that what they most want is quite different from what she wants for them. She does gear her whole life toward their happiness because she doesn’t want them to make the same mistakes that she made and yet in devoting herself to them, she has made herself overbearing and nagging.