Like many a mother, Amanda hopes for a better life for Laura, her daughter. Having lost her husband to another life to which he fled, Amanda finds herself the matriarch of a family of broken dreams. Her hopes of having married a wealthy, stable man now dashed, Amanda dreams of Laura's having "a gentleman caller" as she had when young. Perhaps, then, Laura can marry a man who can support her as well as her mother, Amanda hopes. For, she puts little faith in her son Tom, who escapes to the movies and in books by D. H. Lawrence.
Because Laura represents the potential for what Amanda calls "success and happiness" in the Wingfield family, she is the main character. However, as Laura's toying with the glass menagerie suggests, reality and truth in the Wingfield family is disguised as illusion. As Amanda tells Tom when she asks about Jim O'Connor,
"...the future become the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don't plan for it."
Moreover, she is unrealistic about Laura, refusing to listen to Tom's remarks that Laura is "peculiar" as she lives in a world of her own, and she is terribly shy.
In Scene 6, on the evening that the gentleman caller, Jim O'Connor, arrives, Amanda strangely attires herself in an old, "girlish frock of yellow voile with a blue (the color of illusions) silk sash" that she wore when she herself had callers. And, she has dressed Laura in such a way that there is a "fragile, unearthly prettiness" to her. However, when she learns the caller's name, Laura recognizes it, and she rushes through the portieres "like a frightened deer."
Despite Laura's strange behavior and hers, Amanda wins Jim over with her charm as she is coy and shakes "her girlish ringlets." When a storms comes after the lights go out because Tom has not paid their bill, Laura draws herself up on the couch, clutching a blue pillow. Finally, though, Jim's warmth draws Laura from her timidity, and they converse about when they first met in high school. Then, while Jim's confidence and dreams of success encourage Laura, his revelation that he is engaged, shatters Laura's hopes and "the sky falls." The stage directions read,
The holy candles in the altar of LAURA's face have been snuffed out.
Amanda's hopes for Laura are dashed, and Tom and she argue about Jim; Tom says he was unaware of Jim's relationship with another woman. He angrily states that he is going out to the movies, and Amanda angrily tells him what is true of all of them, "You live in a dream; you manufacture illusions."