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In scene 2 of Tennessee Williams's play The Glass Menagerie, Amanda is upset about a few different things that stem from one event.
As she returns from her meeting at the D.A.R , she first encounters Laura spellbound in front of a diagram of a typewriter. What is really going on in the scene is that Laura is merely pretending to be studying the keyboard. She does that thinking that her mother still thinks that Laura is attending Rubicam's business college. Laura does not know that her mother has just found out that Laura had bailed out.
Laura does this because she could not tolerate her own social anxiety. Apparently she quit the school shortly after one day when she got so nervous that she threw up on the floor. The embarassment prevented her to go back.
Meanwhile, Amanda's worst nightmare has basically come true: her daughter, an adult who still lives at home with her, is incapable of taking care of herself. At first, Amanda's anger seems to be directed at Laura. We slowly realize that Amanda is merely frustrated at Laura's weak and feeble nature. This is normal, since Amanda had to make due of what she had after her husband abandoned her with her children. Why can't Laura also get a clue and become a stronger woman?
AMANDA [hopelessly fingering the huge pocketbook]: So what are we going to do the rest of our lives? Stay home and watch the parades go by? Amuse ourselves with the glass menagerie, darling? Eternally play those worn-out phonograph records your father left as a painful reminder of him? We won't have a business career - we've given that up because it gave us nervous indigestion ! [Laughs wearily.] What is there left but dependency all our lives?
Amanda is, literally, terrified of a life without a man. Even though she has managed to come above the surface as best as she can, she realizes that Laura may not be as lucky. If Laura cannot do something as simple as taking a typewriting course in order to have a job that could provide for her, then Amanda will forever be dragging the burden of a child that is too terrified to grow up. Moreover, Amanda also fears for her daughter's overall femininity and even her social reputation.
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 ! Is that the future that we've mapped out for ourselves? I swear it's the only alternative I can think of !
It isn't a very pleasant alternative, is it? Of course - some girls do marry!
This latter statement is said begrudgingly. Amanda, as a young woman was outgoing, sure of herself, and free. She simply cannot connect with Laura's reality. It is hard for her to understand Laura's impediment. Yet, it is her motherly love, and that alone, what will eventually keep her stuck with Laura, seemingly, for the rest of Laura' s life.
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