Compare and contrast Tom and Amanda in The Glass Menagerie.
One distinct comparison between Tom and Amanda lies in how both are unhappy with the present. A point of contrast would be in how they address it.
It is clear that Tom and Amanda don't share much respect for one another by the end of the drama. Perhaps this is because they are so similar to one another. Both of them are really unhappy with their lives. Tom is unhappy with the life he leads: "Look!—I’ve got no thing, no single thing...in my life here that I can call my own!" His dissatisfaction extends to a job to which he would prefer "somebody picked up a crowbar and battered out my brains."
Tom's unhappiness about his life is one of his primary connections to Amanda. She recognizes that her dreams and aspirations have not materialized. Instead, she lives a life where "Things have a way of turning out so badly." Her husband leaving her, her son following the same path, and her daughter lacking "plans and provisions" are reasons for her unhappiness. She is unable to reconcile a painful present with a past filled with success such as "seventeen!—gentlemen callers" from Blue Mountain. It was a world full of promise and possibility. When she tells Laura to wish for "Happiness! Good fortune!" it is only because her life lacks it.
The primary difference between the despondent lives that both lead is what they do to alleviate it. Amanda places her entire faith in trying to control her children. She avoids being "the pitiful cases" that she has seen in her past through her interaction with her children. She believes that finding a man for her daughter will minimize her pain. She places this same emphasis in how she interacts with Tom. The small things such as nagging him about how much he smokes, how much time he spends at the movies, and how much more he needs to be there to do his duty are ways that Amanda believes she can minimize her unhappiness. If she wills her kids into the life she sees for them, Amanda believes that she will find that sense of "good fortune" and "happiness" she so sorely lacks. Amanda believes that focusing on the present in the form of controlling her children is where contentment lies.
Tom sees the answer to his pain in escape. Amanda hits the nail on the head when she calls Tom a "selfish dreamer." Tom believes that the only way he will improve his life is by leaving it behind. Dreams are the vehicle for getting out. Tom sees the future as his only chance at happiness. He is different from Amanda in this way.