In The Glass Menagerie, what inner conflicts create tension in the family?
Tom's conflicts are perhaps the most obvious in the play, so a focus on the self-delusions of Amanda and Laura offer an alternate perspective on tensions within the Wingfield family.
In addition to her conflicted feelings about Tom's future (the maternal desire to see her son happy and fulfilled versus her fear of what his absence would mean for herself and Laura), Amanda is unable to accept the truth about herself: she is no longer the sought-after Southern belle she once was, if we are to believe her reminiscences. The truth is, she is a middle-aged, abandoned wife barely making ends meet who is a burden to her son and a pest to the people to whom she tries to sell magazines. Her clothes are cheap and out of style, yet she tries to convince herself that she is popular, well-dressed, successful, and a model parent. Amanda lives a delusional existence conflicting with reality that also extends to her belief that she can marry off her daughter to a suitable "gentleman caller."
Laura's conflict is perhaps even more tragic than her mother's, and in some ways is similar. She, too, exists in a state in conflict with reality. She believes, briefly, that Jim O'Connor will see past her physical, social, and emotional handicaps and fall in love with her. Their kiss feeds her short-lived delusion, which makes his ultimate rejection all the more tragic. Her longtime devotion to high school memories centered around him is not honored, despite how she has preserved them in her mind.
The unrealized hopes of Amanda and Laura create tension between the two women and place a heavy burden on Tom, who has hopes of his own that he intends to pursue.