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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams-Book Notes
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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

SCENE TWO

Alone in the apartment, Laura washes and polishes her glass collection. At the sound of her mother's footsteps outside, Laura hurriedly stows her menagerie and pretends to study the typing chart on the wall. Why doesn't she want to be caught caring for her glass animals? At the instant of Amanda's entrance, Laura starts to explain that she was just studying the chart. But as though she sees right through the pretense, Amanda says, "Deception? Deception?" But it's another deception that Amanda has in mind.

She acts brokenhearted, weeping and lamenting as though a terrible tragedy has occurred. She makes the most of this opportunity to play the role of betrayed mother. She is so melodramatic that you can't take her too seriously. She even yanks the typing chart from the wall and tears it into pieces. Meanwhile, Laura behaves as though she can't possibly imagine what has kindled Amanda's dismay. Laura may well suspect the origin of the trouble, however. For weeks she's been skipping her typing classes at Rubicam's Business College.

Sure enough, Amanda has found out. Typing seems like a fairly harmless course, but not for one as fragile as Laura. The pressure made her so sick that she threw up at the school. Then, instead of telling her mother, she has wandered the city each day until it was time to come home. For Laura it was easier to visit the zoo or the park than to reveal the truth and see that "awful suffering look" of disappointment on her mother's face. Does Laura's story sound plausible? While it explains her truancy, does it excuse her deception?


NOTE: ON THEMES

Have you noticed that two interrelated themes-deception and illusion-have just appeared? They will show up repeatedly in numerous variations throughout the play. You should have no trouble spotting them.

In this scene both Amanda and Laura have practiced deception, pretending to be what they are not: Laura posed as a student of typing, and Amanda as a mother crushed by her daughter's betrayal. True, Amanda is wounded by Laura, but not to the extent she claims. Any time Amanda meets hard unpleasant facts, she's likely to be hurt. Perhaps that's why she often makes up illusions. Pretending keeps painful truths at arm's length.

For now, Amanda is caught in the illusion that Laura's problems will be solved by a typing course. Would you agree that learning to type seems like an effective way to solve Laura's problems? Laura herself doesn't seem to think so. She acts as though it's perfectly okay to play with her menagerie instead of working. She chooses to walk in the park instead of owning up to failure. When Laura says "I couldn't face it," she analyzes her condition accurately. She truly cannot face reality. And when Amanda discovers the truth about Laura, she has the urge to "find a hole in the ground and hide myself in it forever!"

Laura apparently fails to share her mother's concern about the future. She never talks about it, and despite Amanda's warnings, she does nothing to prepare for it. Laura seems almost like a small child in that respect.

Compared to Laura, Amanda is almost a realist. Experience has taught her that unless you earn a living you will inevitably depend on others all your life, eating the "crust of humility." Amanda asks Laura, "Is that the future we've mapped out for ourselves?"

The only choice left, of course, is marriage. Perhaps Amanda has considered it and discarded the notion for Laura. Remember that her own marriage turned out badly. What would Laura do if she, like Amanda, ended up with a runaway husband? Also, as far as we know, Laura has never had a date.

Regardless, Amanda's spirits are revived by the thought of Laura's marriage. Since Laura isn't cut out for a business career, she'll have to marry a nice young man. Laura objects: "I'm-crippled!" But Amanda won't hear it. She doesn't even want Laura to say the word.

NOTE:

Does Laura have a point? Is she truly "crippled"? She limps just slightly. Would you say that she is more psychologically than physically crippled? What do you know about her thus far to suggest that she'll always have a hard time functioning in the world?

Amanda cringes at the word "crippled." She told Laura never to use the word. Perhaps Amanda believes in the power of words. That is, if you tell a lie often enough, after a while you begin to believe it. In what respects does this saying seem to be valid in The Glass Menagerie?

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