The Glass Menagerie Questions and Answers
by Tennessee Williams

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In The Glass Menagerie, scene 4 ends with Amanda making a telephone call to sell magazine subscriptions. Explain why the scene ends this way.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In scene 4, Amanda speaks to her son about his dreams of leaving their family for the Merchant Marines and is concerned about his late-night drinking. Amanda proceeds to speak about the importance of having "Spartan endurance" (making certain sacrifices in life) before petitioning Tom to search for a viable suitor for Laura. Before Tom leaves to go to work, Amanda encourages him to get acquainted with some other men and proceeds to make phone calls in an attempt to sell magazine subscriptions when he leaves.

Williams ends this scene by depicting the sacrifices that Amanda makes to sustain her family. He creates sympathy for Amanda's character by portraying how she humbles herself and works hard to earn money. While Amanda certainly comes across as overbearing at times, she lives by her principles and takes on extra responsibilities by selling magazine subscriptions over the phone.

Williams establishes a link between Amanda's request to Tom and her efforts to persuade random callers to buy magazine subscriptions. Amanda's proposal to Tom is comparable to her sales pitch to customers in that both parties are equally difficult to persuade. In each case, Amanda humbles herself and petitions others for help.

As a lonely spinster, Amanda is forced to sacrifice in order to make ends meet and must rely on others for financial help and security, which is emphasized at the end of the scene.

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To understand this question we need to consider what happens in Scene Four as a whole and think about how it relates to this tedious job that Amanda is shown to work at during the play at various stages. Let us remember that it is in this scene that Amanda tries to convince Tom to find a suitable friend who could marry Laura so that she can be saved from spinsterdom and can be provided for. Key to this talk that Amanda has with her son is the following speech:

I know your ambitions do not lie in the warehouse, that like everybody in the whole world--you've had to--make sacrifices, but--Tom--Tom--life's not easy, it calls for--Spartan endurance!

Amanda herself shows her own "Spartan endurance" by working hard at a job that requires her to demean herself by calling a series of women to get them to subscribe to a magazine and talking to them about their kidney conditions. This of course is not what she would have wished or expected from her life, but the scene ends this way to show her resolution, but also their economic situation.

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