Throughout the play the three main characters of Tom, Amanda and Laura are portrayed to the audience as three very different people with very different aspirations, hopes and dreams. From the beginning we learn a lot about Tom in his opening speech. Throughout this he uses fresh, sharp language and is constantly switching between tenses. He begins by comparing himself to a magician and describing himself as an illusionist in the form of an answer to an unheard question.He describes the current situation of the world on both a national and personal level and we soon learn that Tom is very concerned with politics and world events and that he has a talent in using language.
This is a sharp contrast to Amanda who is introduced us as the audience as soon as the actual play starts and Tom has finished his speech. She immediately begins to ‘hassle’ Tom on his eating habits, and, as we know that Tom is no longer a child, we see this as very strange and an attempt by Amanda to have some control over him.The audience sees this as very desperate as Tom is old enough and independent enough to look after himself in the world and the fact that Amanda is attempting to tell him how to eat properly shows her desire for control. Within Amanda’s first few lines the audience hears many clichies from Amanda and senses that the language she uses is not her own (‘oh, the tyranny of women’).
This implies that she is slightly insecure and together with the fact that she has to have every one at the table and grace said before they could even think about eating shows that she is trying to be traditional and ordered in her day to day life.Laura is introduced to us when she interrupts Amanda and Tom’s potential argument. This shows the timid nature of her and that she dislikes confrontation and is prepared to distract them to prevent the possible argument. The first page of dialect is a very good example of each character’s tendencies. Amanda takes on the role of a servant when Laura offers to get the blancmange, which shows that she is prepared to change roles to suit the occasion. She even takes on the idiolect of perhaps an African servant by calling herself a ‘darkey’ and Laura ‘sister’.
Amanda goes on to ask Laura to stay ‘fresh and pretty for gentleman callers’. This phrase is a prime example of the way Amanda’s mind works. It is almost as if Laura is for sale to these ‘gentleman callers’ and that Amanda is the sales representative! Amanda also uses the phrase ‘gentleman caller’, which, even for the time period in which the play was set, is a dated expression. There most likely aren’t any coming and Amanda has made herself believe that there will be.Laura, however, is painfully honest or realistic (as opposed to her mother who is either ignorant or refusing to accept the truth) in her response to this when she says that she’s not expecting any. Here, it is as if the suggestion is often made by Amanda, as Laura’s response is quick and concise.
Also, when Amanda refers to her past in Blue Mountain, Tom interrupts with, ‘I know what’s coming’. It looks as if Amanda always brings up this topic just so she can brag about her numerous ‘gentleman callers’ when she was younger.Tom and Amanda both treat Laura differently. Tom is sympathetic towards Laura and understands her problems; he is sometimes even fairly protective of her. Whether or not it is because of the different views of Laura that Tom and Amanda both have, they treat her completely differently.
Amanda, either because of her ignorance of the truth or because of her simple refusal to accept reality, believes that Laura is stunningly beautiful and is extremely capable of living her own, independent life and is shown in her attempts to make Laura go to college.Amanda refuses to accept Laura’ own description of herself: ‘crippled’, and immediately tells her ‘not to be silly’. Again this shows Amanda’s refusal to see what is happening around her and her unwillingness to emote. Tom clearly finds his mother very irritating, a good example of this is when she is about to start telling them about Blue Mountain and Tom protests non-verbally by throwing down the newspaper and groaning.
However, he must feel like he is responsible for her or his sister as he has not yet left home like his father and continues to pay the rent and all of the bills.Tom can perhaps sense that his mother knows the truth and is hiding it from herself, as he is often painfully honest in the face of his mother as an attempt to make her realise their current situation. He also is obviously disheartened by her failure to emote her feelings and her failure to respond to anything that he says. Amanda treats Tom as a child even though he is in his thirties and is paying the rent and all of the bills to keep her in some kind of socially accepted class.
She adopts the role of both parents as his father isn’t present and she is always trying to gain control over his life! Tom is very talented with his language but her constant nagging means that he never has the opportunity to use it with her and as a result she can never appreciate anything that he says or does. Each character has their own refuge when they are stressed or in need of somewhere to go. Tom’s refuge is an actual place, ‘the movies’, where he goes whenever he needs to escape from the hectic day to day life in his household and his mother’s constant talking.
Amanda seeks refuge in her past. Whenever things are troubled she always refers to her past and finds great joy in telling others about it. She wants Laura to be just like her and so, she thinks, by telling Laura all of these stories, which may or may not be exaggerated, she feels that she is helping Laura live her life when in actual fact it is putting pressure on Laura who is, in reality, completely different to Amanda in almost every way! In the stage notes of Scene Two Amanda is described as having a ‘cheap or imitation… coat’ and as carrying an ‘enormous black..
. eather pocketbook’.The appearance of Amanda and the props that she is carrying highlight her obsession with social class and reputation. She is trying to look as if she is slightly upper-class when the reality is that she, like many others, is in a time of economic difficulty.
The scene begins with Laura and Amanda’s confrontation. Again this highlights the situation that Amanda wants to create for Laura as Laura is supposed to be practicing typewriting when in actual fact she is simply daydreaming. As soon as Amanda enters Laura sits up ‘stiffly’.This shows that, although Laura is well into her twenties, she is constantly obeying orders from Amanda and is afraid of the consequences of she disobeys. In the following argument she has with Laura she is very melodramatic and in the end it all revolves around ‘her’ plans and ‘her’ social outlook. Overall the three main characters in the play are three stereotypical figures that are still recognizable in modern society. They each have their own views on the world and their own refuges.
You learn much from their actions and dialogue and, as a reader; I end up feeling slightly sorry for them all!