In The Glass Menagerie, how would you describe Laura's relationship with Amanda?  

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Tennessee Williams's play The Glass Menagerie, the relationship between Amanda Wingfield and her daughter, Laura, could be described as one based on denial, enabling, and disabling.

It is first based on denial because Amanda Wingfield focuses on trying to make her daughter do the things that typical girls would do without considering the real nature of her daughter, Laura

Amanda expects Laura to go to school, to provide for herself, and to maybe one day get married and have children. She goes as far as signing Laura up in a vocational school, and asking her son, Tom, to bring Jim O'Connor over to meet Laura and entice a love match. Amanda does all of these things while grossly overlooking the fact that Laura has an extreme social anxiety issue, that Laura's crippled foot makes her feel insecure, and that this type of anxiety has taken over her life completely. Had Amanda stopped to really look into it, she would have never placed Laura in such situations where her self-esteem would be dangerously lowered.

Their relationship is also a combination of enabling and disabling based on the same denial problem. Since Amanda is unwilling to properly intervene on behalf of her daughter, she surrenders to Laura's problem by treating her like a child, and by promising Laura a falsely bright future, even knowing that the chances for one are very low.

AMANDA: Resume your seat, little sister, I want you to stay fresh and pretty for gentleman callers!

LAURA: I'm not expecting any gentleman callers.

AMANDA [crossing out to kitchenette. Airily]: Sometimes they come when they are least expected!

On the other hand, Amanda changes her tune throughout the play when things really bring her down, so she criticizes Laura and then feels sorry for both, herself and Laura, making the latter feel even more guilty about having issues.

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.]

This hot-cold change of mood in Amanda basically cripples Laura even more, considering that the latter is unable to initiate any personal goal nor feels safe enough to feel worthy of anything. Therefore, while Amanda anxiously tries to bring her daughter into becoming a woman much like Amanda is, herself, she fails miserably with a combination of the denial of Laura's conditions, the enabling of Laura's childish nature, and then the disabling of Laura's self-worth by criticizing her. What Amanda should do instead is to get help for Laura, accept the problem, and hope for the best outcome.

Read the study guide:
The Glass Menagerie

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question