What does reliving her past say about Amanda's character?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Amanda Wingfield has a unique behavior that clearly tells a lot about her character in the play "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams.

She is described as a woman who has a pattern of activities, all leading for her to move backward, instead of forward. Even her clothes are repetitive and seem to aim to relieve the past.

She has on one of those cheap or imitation velvety-looking cloth coats with imitation fur collar. Her hat is five or six years old, one of those dreadful cloche hats that were worn in the late twenties and she is eloping an enormous black patent-leather pocketbook with nickel clasps and initials. This is her full-dress outfit, the one she usually wears to the D.A.R.

So here we have a woman who still attends the meetings of the Daughters of the American Revolution (the one from centuries ago), and continues to refer to her daughter's prospective dates as "gentlemen callers". She also continuously remembers her younger days and even when Jim visits the house it is Amanda who seems to have dressed for the occasion, as if she were to be visited.

What does this tell us about Amanda? First, it tells us that the woman is dissatisfied with her life. Otherwise, she would let the past go. Secondly, she has unfinished businesses in life. This means that she either skipped one of her developmental and psychosocial stages (maybe due to an early marriage, or unexpected pregnancies) or simply did not live them to the fullest. This latter explanation also explains her dissatisfaction with her current state of things.

Finally, given that they are in a setting where depression and poverty abounds, what could be best than to deny reality and go back into a mental comfort zone? If the past is better than the present, then that is what Amanda uses to keep her sanity. After all, she is a an abandoned wife, the mother of an invalid girl, and of a son that cannot find himself.

Read the study guide:
The Glass Menagerie

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