Symbolic illustration of Laura's hands holding a glass unicorn

The Glass Menagerie

by Tennessee Williams

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How does Amanda treat Tom in The Glass Menagerie?

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Amanda treats Tom like a mother treats a son in The Glass Menagerie, but also places the financial responsibility of the family on his shoulders. Amanda relies on Tom to take care of the family and makes Tom feel like he is responsible for Laura. She does not ask Tom about his aspirations and does not know that he wants to be a writer.

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Amanda treats Tom, her son, like a mother treats a son and also, because he is the only man in the family, she places the responsibility of providing for the family squarely upon his shoulders.

Amanda puts too much responsibility on Tom. She relies on him to take care of the family financially. She assumes that this is his responsibility and does not even consider the possibility that Tom might have other dreams and aspirations beyond staying at home to care for his mother and sister.

However, Tom does have dreams. Staying at home to provide for his family is a burden that he does not want. He wants to leave the small southern town where they live and see the world as a sailor in the navy. With this kind of adventure as his foundation, he aspires to a career as a writer.

While Amanda just expects Tom to contribute his paycheck to the family, as if he were the head of the family, she retains the role of head of family in every area but the financial one. Because Amanda relies on Tom to be the sole earner in the Wingfield household, when Tom does not use his salary to pay the electricity bill, the power in the Wingfield’s home is shut off.

Amanda also makes Tom feel like he is responsible for Laura. Amanda speaks to Laura about her future. She chides Laura for not attending the classes when she was enrolled in business school so that she could have a skill and get a job in order to support herself. She suggests to Laura that “some girls marry” as another solution to securing her future financially.

However, Laura cannot seem to fend for herself. She is delicate and fragile like the figurines in her glass menagerie. Thus, Amanda even places the responsibility of Laura’s future on Tom. She insists that he bring home a young man so that his sister might have a chance of developing a romantic relationship and eventually marrying.

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