Williams doesn’t just use the language of his characters to attain his goals, however. He pays very careful attention to the stage directions – one might be forgiven for thinking this was written as a film, instead of a play, as the amount of detail in these stage directions is quite unusual for a play. Inside the stage directions are hidden other clues to the situation between mother and daughter, such as “she crosses to the victrola and winds it up” which accentuates Laura’s quiet, withdrawn nature – for her, even more so than many people, music is a means of escape.
Perhaps the most important stage directions are at the beginning of the scene, however. These are even more detailed, lasting for over half a page, and set the scene for the ensuing confrontation between Amanda and Laura. In these stage directions, we are given a big clue as to what is about to happen – “Something has happened to Amanda.
It is written in her face as she climbs to the landing: a look that is grim and hopeless and a little absurd” – here we can guess what is about to happen, and the description of Laura “She is washing and polishing her collection of glass” gives the impression of an almost too-tranquil moment, which is surely about to be shattered.
Williams’ use of the set, props and clothes are very important in determining the relationship between and Amanda and Laura in this scene as well – as already mentioned, the glass menagerie are vital to create a tranquil scene, but also to accentuate Laura’s innocent, artistic nature.
Other props include Amanda’s white handkerchief, which hints of Amanda’s upbringing and delicate refinement, and the victriola, which again shows Laura’s quiet and nervous side. The clothes are also essential, the coat Amanda is wearing is described as one of the “cheap imitation velvety-looking cloth coats with imitation fur collar” and “her hat is five or six years old” – both descriptions give us the impression of Amanda’s former glory now lost, the family are now quite poor – we begin to realise just how far Amanda must have fallen.
The set helps a lot, in that Amanda approaches Laura who is sitting down – this gives Amanda more of an imposing demeanour, further accentuating the contrast between mother and daughter.
In conclusion, I believe this scene is vital for establishing the relationship between Amanda and Laura. It offers great insight into their lives and situation, and sets the scene for the argument between Tom (who feels he has to defend his sister) and his mother in scene 3. Williams uses all the tools available to him as a playwright to good effect, and the result is that by the end of the scene, we get a very good idea of how the play will end.