Symbolic illustration of Laura's hands holding a glass unicorn

The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

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Comment on Amanda's honesty in Scene 6 of The Glass Menagerie.

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Ironically, in their final dialogue, Amanda accuses Tom,

"You don't know things anywhere!  You live in a dream; you manufacture illusions!"

This accusation of Amanda is ironic because in her franctic preparations for the "gentleman caller's" arrival, Amanda herself creates great illusions as she redecorates the tenement with a new floor lamp that has a rose-silk shade that casts a romantic light upon the apartment.  Likewise a colored paper lantern conceals the broken light fixture in the ceiling, and new gossamer white curtains billow gracefully at the window, suggesting a much better view that what lies behind them.  New chintz covers are on chairs and sofa, upon which new pillows "make their initial appearance."  But, Amanda's greatest illusion is in her dressing of Laura, who is at her most beautiful this night.  Amanda tells her daughter to regard herself in the mirror:  "This is the prettiest you will ever be!"

Furthering the illusion--above all her own illusion--Amanda resurrects the dress that she wore when she "led the cotillion" in her youth, a "girlish frock of yellow voile with a blue silk sash." With this frock, Amanda is dressed as though "the legend of her youth is nearly revived."  And, in the voice of days gone by, Amanda enters with "Southern vivacity," chattering with charm and laughing coquettishly.  With her hair even in girlish ringlets, Amanda smiles "coyly, shaking her curls."  It is almost as though Amanda believes the "gentleman caller" has come for her.

Finally, when Laura becomes ill from nervousness, Amanda tries to mitigate the seriousness of Laura's condition and deceive Jim by declaring,

"Standing over the hot stove made her ill!--I told her that it was just too warm this evening, but--"

Clearly, it is Amanda who creates an illusionary settting for the gentleman caller in the hopes of deceiving him enough that he will enjoy himself and like Laura enough to return.  Amanda is not at all honest; she recreates reality for Jim as well as for herself.  It is Amanda more than any of the other characters, who "manufactures illusions."


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I think that Amanda is more concerned with giving forth the best impression possible to Jim O'Connor than any form of honesty.  Her appearance to Jim is one that is predicated upon image and putting forth what she wants Jim to think about she and her family.  Honesty is put back in the distance.  She tells Jim that Laura has prepared the dinner, which is not entirely true.  She is also more concerned that Jim thinks of the family as "normal"  Amanda recognizes the need to conceal the fragmented nature of her family.  She understands that it would be detrimental to her own aims of Laura getting married if she were honest about Tom's own disillusionment and Laura's own demeanor.  Rather, she seeks to dress herself in an elaborate manner, "an old dress from her youth," in order to cover these obvious cracks in the family's facade.

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