EffectsWhat are the effects of the images and phrases that appear on the screen throughout the play?
Tennessee Williams gives us a very different view of Amanda in the conclusion of the play. It's found in his stage directions prior to Tom's closing speech. While Tom speaks, Amanda and Laura play out a pantomime behind him, suggesting what happened in the St. Louis apartment after Tom stormed out:
Amanda appears to be making a comforting speech to Laura who is huddled upon the sofa. Now that we cannot hear the mother's speech, her silliness is gone and she has dignity and tragic beauty. Laura's dark hair hides her face until at the end of [Tom's] speech she lifts it to smile at her mother. Amanda's gestures are slow and graceful, almost dancelike, as she comforts the daughter. At the end of her speech she glances a moment at the father's picture--then withdraws . . . .
After Tom leaves, Amanda will continue doing what she has done since her husband left. She will take care of Laura, and she will do whatever that requires of her. We know how desperately she struggled to keep Tom at home and how motivated she was to find a gentleman caller for Laura, another man to provide financial security so that Tom could leave. Amanda is no quitter, which made her behavior unbearable, at times. Now, the life she knew growing up is gone. Her husband is gone, and her son is gone. However, we have no reason to believe that Amanda will give up. She will find a way to take care of her daughter, whom she obviously loves, as seen in the final scene between them.
The information and images appear to add to the reader's understanding of the scene, to provide background and relevance from the past to give context to the current actions in the play.
Laura and Amanda will survive without Tom. Prior to the days of government assistance, such as social security, food stamps, welfare programs in general, people, like Amanda who was an abandoned woman left with children would have had to rely on family to help her financially. She raised her children, alone, and survived long enough to be supported by her son.
Without Tom, at this point, Amanda will probably work again, as she said she has in the play in the past. She worked in a department store, and has sold subscriptions on the phone. Also, in a very short space of time, President Roosevelt will create the largest government entitlement program in America's history, Social Security and all the welfare programs that helped people during the Depression. I'm sure that Amanda will get government assistance.
In response to post #1, Tennessee Williams explained the use of the screen in his Production Notes to the play. Here are some excerpts from what he wrote:
[The purpose of the screen] is to give accent to certain values in each scene. Each scene contains a particular point (or several) which is structurally the most important . . . .
The legend or image upon the screen will strengthen the effect of what is merely allusion in the writing and allow the primary point to be made more simply and lightly than if the entire responsibility were on the spoken lines. Aside from this structural value, I think the screen will have a definite emotional appeal, less definable but just as important.
Based on the playwright's own words, then, the images on the screen reinforce the point or focus of the scene at hand, while they also appeal to our emotions.
Tennessee William's play, The Glass Menagerie is an Expressionist drama. As such, his play is one of memory and, therefore, not meant to be realistic. Some details are exaggerated, some omitted. According to the emotional vale of the articles emphasis is given to them as memory is at the heart of the drama. For this reason there is a screen to make the players seem dim and somewhat poetic.
Perhaps best of all, the ending of the play exemplifies this expressionism. For Tom sits outside the screen, recalling memories, yet inside the screen memories are darkened: "Blow out your candles, Lara.
Responding to #2, I think from what we can gather the future is going to be pretty bleak for Amanda and Laura. They were obviously dependent on Tom for financial income, and so now that he has not paid the electric bill it is clear that they will suffer financially. His departure will probably mean that they will have to move. Laura's crippling shyness is not going to vanish at any point soon, and it is clear that Amanda is not able to get much money from her job of getting magazine subscriptions. They would probably have to move to a smaller place and Amanda would have to work harder.
I have always wondered that myself- what would be of Amanda and Laura?
Yet, as their pattern of behavior points to a tendency for stagnation and staleness, I do not think neither ofthem will be doing any differently even if Tom returns after 20 years away.