The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

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In scene two of The Glass Menagerie, please give an example of irony.    

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In scene two, Amanda comes home and accuses her daughter of deception. Amanda tells Laura that she had just visited the business school to inquire about her progress and discovered that she had not been attending. Amanda is not only upset about losing the fifty dollars, but she also worries about her daughter's future. Amanda wonders what will become of Laura, who cannot work because she is too sensitive and does not have any gentlemen callers. Amanda then tells Laura,

"I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren't prepared to occupy a position. I've seen such pitiful cases in the South—barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister's husband or brother's wife!...encouraged by one in-law to visit another—little birdlike women without any nest—eating the crust of humility all their life! Is that the future that we've mapped out for ourselves? I swear it's the only alternative I can think of!" (Williams, 12).

Ironically, Amanda is describing her exact experience without acknowledging the fact that she too is a struggling single woman. It is also ironic that Amanda criticizes Laura for lacking the essential skills to attain a job and independently support herself because Amanda does not possess any prerequisite skills herself. Amanda was a "barely tolerated spinster" who had to rely on her family's support and suffered humility her entire life. However, she refuses to acknowledge that she has squandered her own opportunities to become independent and speaks about the disastrous effects of being unskilled and alone in a harsh world as if she had not personally experienced that exact situation.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Let us remember that irony is defined as the gap between appearance and reality and how it is exploited. There is an excellent example of situational irony at the beginning of this scene when Amanda comes back into the appartment and surprises Laura when she is polishing and cleaning her glass menagerie. Note Laura's reaction when she greets her mother:

Hello, Mother, I was-- (She makes a nervous gesture toward the chart on the wall. AMANDA leans against the shut door and stared at LAURA with a martyred look.)

What is ironic about this section of the play is that Laura pretends to be busy working at her typewriting course, when she has given that up months ago. However, Laura doesn't know that such gestures are completely unnecessary because her mother has just gone to her college where Laura is supposedly studying and found out the truth. Laura cannot pretend to be working hard on her studies any more.

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sbzometa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are a few other examples of irony besides the one that the first educator response excellently explains.

The strongest example of irony is when Amanda preaches to Laura about her future now that she has dropped out of business college.

Amanda describes “barely tolerated spinsters” who eat “the crust of humility all their lives.” The irony is that Amanda herself is a kind of spinster. Although she did marry, her husband deserted her years ago. Moreover, her strained relationship with both Tom and Laura indicates that she is “barely tolerated.” Amanda is referring to Laura’s dismal potential future if she has neither a career nor husband, yet Amanda is also talking about herself—whether she is willing to admit it or not.

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