Amanda performs the role of a panopticon supervisor in The Glass Menagerie; how would you justify this view?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I haven't heard the term "panopticon" used in this context before; however, it does seem to fit Amanda in The Glass Menagerie.  A panopticon is a kind of building, often a prison, designed so that one can observe everything simultaneously.  The idea is that the observer is actually in control of all components or elements--or people--within view.  That's Amanda.

In this play, Amanda does, indeed, seem to be in the middle of everything, orchestrating her children's lives as well as her own.  She is the one who wants Laura to attend business school, despite the fact that Laura is ill-equipped for the rigors of such a course of study.  Amanda also arranges for a gentleman caller and the lengths to which she goes to orchestrate that are almost laughable.  Laura is in her mother's control in nearly every way; the one exception is her defection from Rubicam's Business College.  Aside from that, Amanda controls Laura's life.

Regarding Tom, Amanda is less precise in her machinations; however, she is just as effective.  Tom is "guilted" into bringing home someone from the factory and he is nagged mercilessly from "Rise and shine" to questioning him about going to movies at midnight.  Tom feels trapped as Amanda controls the puppet strings of his life.  Eventually, of course, she loses him.

Perhaps Amanda can be forgiven because it appears as if she does want what's best for her children; however, her heavy-handed orchestration of virtually every aspect of their lives actually serves to alienate them from her.  In the end, Amanda's efforts don't particularly work, as Laura is still without a productive future and Tom has followed in the footsteps of his father. 

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