In The Glass Menagerie, how does the Wingfield household adhere to the power dynamics of the period? In what ways do the female characters challenge and/or exert power? Considering the end of the play, what can we state about the changing nature of society in relation to gender during this period (i.e. Do males continue to exert power? Do females find more autonomy? What are the consequences of these changes?)  

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In some ways, the Wingfield house adheres to the social norms of the time period regarding gender. The father of the family, a telephone man who "fell in love with long distances," left them a long time before. As a result, the mother of the family, Amanda, relies on her son, Tom, to support the family by working at a soulless job at a shoe warehouse. Amanda expects Laura, her daughter, to "stay fresh and pretty--for gentleman callers!" Amanda wants her daughter to find security by marrying, following traditional ideas about what a woman was supposed to do at that time. 

However, Amanda is not simply a weak woman, and she challenges traditional gender ideas of the time. She tries to do everything she can to get her daughter married, and she tries to control her son's movements, even down to monitoring and questioning what he does at night. Amanda is a force to be reckoned with, and she is not above using guilt to control her son. For example, she tells him, "You're my right-hand bower!" She uses the guilt that Tom feels about his father's desertion of the family to control her son. She is also able to survive without much money, and she insists on charging butter at the store, even though the owner, Mr. Garfinkel, won't like it. She is a survivor, hardened by years of having to scrape by without much money, and she is tough.

At the end of the play, it's clear that Amanda must be more autonomous, as Tom leaves the family. There is an image of her comforting Laura after Tom leaves, and it is clear that gender roles have changed. Though Amanda wants Laura to seek security through marriage, it is clear that she, as Laura's mother, must be her rock and protector. The result of these changes is that women are becoming more independent and their reality does not conform to traditional gender roles. 

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