Did Williams make a slip in having Amanda say Laura is a "crippled"?

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jseligmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Amanda does her best, throughout the play, to avoid referring to her daughter, Laura, as a cripple. As stated by Laura, herself, she had "an attack of pleurosis" in high school which left her with a weakened leg that necessitated the wearing of a brace. In the play, Laura walks with a visible, though slight, limp.

Twice during the play, the idea that Laura is a cripple arises and is quickly denied by her mother:


AMANDA: Girls that aren't cut out for business careers usually wind up married to some nice man. [Gets up with aspark of revival.] Sister, that's what you'll do !

[LAURA utters a startled, doubtful laugh. She reaches quickly for a piece of glass.]

LAURA: But, Mother

AMANDA: Yes ? [Crossing to photograph.]

LAURA [in a tone of frightened apology]: I'm - crippled !

AMANDA: Nonsense ! Laura, I've told you never, never to use that word. Why, you're not crippled, you just have a little defect - hardly noticeable, even! When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to make up for it - develop charm - and vivacity and - charm! That's all you have to do ![She turns again to the photograph.] One thing your father had plenty of - was charm!


TOM: Mother, you mustn't expect too much of Laura.

AMANDA: What do you mean?

TOM: Laura seems all those things to you and me because she's ours and we love her. We don't even notice she's crippled any more.

AMANDA: Don't say crippled ! You know that I never allow that word to be used !

The last time the word is uttered, Amanda finally admits what she really thinks of her daughter's condition. It is said in a fit of anger and disappointement. It was not a slip of Amanda's or of the playwright. Amanda finally has to face one of the many bitter truths of her sad and all but hopeless life:

TOM: I'm going to the movies.

AMANDA: That's right, now that you've had us make such fools of ourselves. The effort, the preparations, all the expense ! The new floor lamp, the rug, the clothes for Laura ! all for what? To entertain some other girl's fiancé ! Go to the movies, go ! Don't think about us, a mother deserted, an unmarried sister who's crippled and has no job ! Don't let anything interfere with your selfish pleasure I just go, go, go - to the movies !

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of the reason for the word choice reflects the time period.  At the time of writing, terms such as "crippled" were used quite often.  We now look at such terms as derogatory, or at the very least, in poor taste.  Yet, those sensibilities were not as present at the time in which Williams is writing.  One of the advents of the modern setting is that language has become more inclusive, seeking to bring out more narratives into the discussion and the language employed to speak of these points are actually more sensitive in seeking to be more humane.  Terms like "crippled" and "handicapped" are not used as much and writers in the modern setting have more effective terms to describe these conditions.

mkcapen1 | Student
I can not imagine Tennessee Williams making a slip in any of his plays unless it is an intentional slip. He uses his characters in very dramatic ways in each of his plays. The idea of Laura being a cripple holds much more meaning than first thought. Laura is socially crippled more than she is physically crippled. Amanda's verbal statement about Laura being crippled also demonstrates in someway how she herself has crippled her daughter emotionally and socially. Laura is extremely shy and hides away from people retreating into her fantasy world of the glass menagerie. She fakes going to work so her mother does not know the desperation that she feels about attending the school. All of these things remind the reader how crippled Laura really is in the play.
toniwhite59 | Student

Is this a slip on Williams part or is it an intersting complexity?