A Two-Edged Mom
It is very difficult for a single mom to raise two children. The demands of life can be too much for this mother and even if she is the best person on Earth, she can possibly fail to successfully raise those two children. This is the case for Amanda Wingfield, the mother of Laura and Tom Wingfield in Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. Amanda’s husband had left the family when the children were very young. Amanda spends her whole life being traumatized because of the separation, and this situation causes her to negatively affect her children. Amanda Wingfield is a good mother who wants the best for Laura Wingfield, but her misunderstanding of life and lack of motherhood skills cause her to weaken Laura emotionally and make Tom Wingfield, her second child, want to leave the family.
In the second scene of the play, the audience can find out that Amanda Wingfield pays Business School tuition for Laura. Amanda wants Laura to get a better living, but Laura is unable to take advantage of the opportunity. While Amanda is speaking with Laura, Amanda shares with Laura that she has gone to the college to find out how she is doing academically. When Amanda presents herself as Laura’s mother, the school personnel does not know who Amanda is talking about. The typing instructor has to take the attendance book to show Amanda that Laura has dropped out since the beginning of January (Williams). When a mother pays school tuition for a child and spends the time to check on him or her academically, this parent must love him or her and wants the best in life for the student. This action strongly proves that Amanda is a caring and warmhearted mother, and she loves Laura, but, sadly, all the money is wasted because Laura “just been going out walking” (Williams), when Laura pretends that she goes to business school.
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It is easy to realize how good Amanda Wingfield is as a mother, but she fails to help Laura become a strong woman. After Laura makes the decision to drop out from Business School, Amanda believes that the only way Laura can have a stable life is by getting married. Since then, Amanda keeps criticizing Laura because she has no gentleman caller who is trying to woo her. Amanda even says to Tom that if he helps Laura to find a gentleman caller, he can leave the family. Amanda is sadly mistaken because Laura does not need help with finding a husband. She only needs to fix herself emotionally. Amanda’s lack of understanding stops her from realizing that Laura’s physical deformation is what makes her unhappy. Because Amanda never really tries to help Laura overcome this obstacle, Laura becomes a fragile person, and she even sees herself as being inferior to other people. In the seventh scene of the play, during only one conversation, Jim O’Connor helps Laura with what she is in the need of. To boost Laura’s self-esteem, Jim says to her that she must always remember that once she knows someone, this person is not here to create unhappiness. We are all dealing with some personal issues. No one is living a happy life. If Laura takes her time to look at the people around her, Laura will realize that they all have some problems in their lives (Williams). Jim O’Connor even goes on to tell Laura:
I wish that you were my sister. I’d teach you to have some confidence in yourself. The different people are not like other people, but being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Because other people are not such wonderful people. They’re one hundred times one thousand. You’re one times one! They walk all over the earth. You just stay here. They’re common as – weeds, -but – you – well, you’re – Blue Roses!(Williams)
After this conversation, Laura suddenly changes. She accepts to dance with Jim for the first time of her life, and they even kiss each other. Although Amanda shows a strong love for Laura, Amanda cannot be granted all the credit of being good mother. Her relationship with Tom is very bad, and because of her financial insecurity, Amanda always sees Tom as a bad person. Amanda thinks that Tom is the man of the house; therefore, he should do everything that is possible to feed the family. Amanda puts high expectations on him, and through the play, she only tries to understand what Tom is going through on time. While Tom and Amanda are having a conversation, she says to Tom: “I’m not criticizing, understand that! I know your ambitions do not lie in the warehouse, that like everybody in the whole wide world – you’ve had to make sacrifices, but – Tom – Tom – life’s not easy, it calls for – Spartan endurance! (Williams)” Words do not mean anything if there are no actions.
Amanda tries to encourage Tom by saying those strong and beautiful words to him, but Amanda never sits down with him to make a plan to help Tom achieve his ambitious goals. Tom’s greatest ambition is to be a poet. In all the discussions Amanda has with Tom, she never gives him any tips or suggestions on what he can do to realize this goal. Instead of pushing Tom to reach excellence, Amanda rather keeps telling him to stay at the warehouse. Amanda believes that Tom must keep the job that he hates, so he can provide financial support for the family. When Amanda tries to avoid her responsibilities as a single-mother, it is evident that Amanda does not understand “the road of a single parent may consist of obstacles such as loneliness, grief, hurt, sadness, rejection, guilt, insecurity, and depression. In spite of the obstacles, the experiences of a single parent family don’t have to lead to a dead end. Instead, many single parents discover new strength and independence(Woods).” Sadly, Amanda is mistaken; all she thinks of is Tom must do everything that is possible to support the family, and what Amanda believes is possible is for Tom to stay at the same job he hates with a passion until Laura gets married.
Excellent mothers do not stay home and let their children struggle alone to put food on the table. In cases where a mother has some physical or mental diseases, it is necessary for the children to do what is legal, so they can help. For Amanda it is different because she is in a good state of health, but she never tries to find a job. “The Glass Menagerie is narrated in 1944” ( Frederic), and at that time the Second World War has already started. “When the United States entered the war, 12 million women (one quarter of the workforce) were already working and by the end of the war, the number was up to 18 million (one third of the workforce)” (Women At Work). The desire to get a job is what Amanda does not have. At that time, 1 in every 4 women was employed, but Amanda does not do anything to obtain employment. She fails to do the minimum that she has to do and lean on Tom to take care of her and the family. The responsibilities are too much for Tom; therefore, the only thing he wants to do is leave the family.
Amanda is a caring mother that shows much love to her daughter Laura, but because Amanda does not fully understand life and does not have all the qualities of an excellent mother, she fails to help Laura overcome her emotional obstacles, and she puts all of her struggles on Tom. After she pays Business School tuition for Laura, she spends the time to go check how she is doing academically. It is evident that Amanda is a good mother to Laura, but she never tries to help Laura become a strong woman; she thinks that she needs to get married to have a good life. Although she is good a mother to Laura, she is very different with Tom. Amanda believes that om has to work hard to provide financial support to the family. She never tries to understand Tom and help him realize his goals.
- Frederic, Cheryl. “The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.” Southeastern Louisiana University, www2.southeastern.edu/Academics/Faculty/cfrederic/tennesseewilliams.htm.
- Williams, Tennessee. “The Glass Menagerie.” Google Search. October 2018.
- “Women At Work .” The 1940’s • 1940-1949 • Fashion History Movies Music, 1940s.org/history/on-the-homefront/women-at-work.
- Woods, Michael. On Your Own: Being a Good Single Parent. Rose Midwifery, September 2017, https://rosemidwives.secure.ehc.com/hl/?/14336/On-Your-Own–Being-a-Good-Single-Parent.”