Amanda Wingfield lives in a world that fluctuates between illusion and reality. When it is convenient to her, she simply closes her eyes to the brutal, realistic world. She uses various escape mechanisms in order to endure her present position in life. When life in this tenement world becomes unbearable, she recalls the days of her youth when she lived at Blue Mountain and had seventeen gentlemen callers in one Sunday afternoon. Indeed, this story has been told so often that it is no longer an illusion and instead has become a reality. She likewise indulges in playful games so as to escape the drudgery of everyday living. She tells Laura, "You be the lady this time and I'll be the darky." She refuses to acknowledge that Laura is crippled and instead refers to her as having only a slight physical defect. She refuses to accept the fact that Tom is quite different from her and that he, like his father, will someday leave in search of adventures. And finally, Amanda lives perpetually in the world of the gentlemen callers who will appear any day to sweep Laura off her feet.
But she is unable to live forever in this world of illusion. The pressures of everyday living force her to face many unpleasant facts. Chief among these is the position of Laura. As she tells Laura: "I know so well what becomes of unmarried women who aren't prepared to occupy a position." Even if she fails to acknowledge Laura's defects, she is realist enough to understand Laura's difficult position. Furthermore, she has seen the letter that Tom received from the Merchant Marine and knows that he will soon be leaving. Facing these brutal facts, she makes Tom arrange to have the gentleman caller arrive.
But Amanda is full of other paradoxes. She wants only the best for her children, but then she fails to understand that what they most want is quite different from what she wants for them. She does gear her whole life toward their happiness because she doesn't want them to make the same mistakes that she made and yet in devoting herself to them, she has made herself overbearing and nagging.
Amanda's refusal to see that her children are quite different from her causes her many uncomfortable moments. She cannot understand why Laura cannot develop charm and gaiety but Amanda's idea of charm differs vastly from that of Laura's idea. Amanda can, at any moment, turn on a volley of chatter, be exceptionally lively and gay; Laura, on the other hand, lives in a quiet, sensitive world.
But Amanda possesses strong attributes. She does devote herself to her children. She does possess a great determination and strength. Many women could not have survived under the same situation. When she thinks a gentleman caller is coming, she sets herself to the task of preparation with a determination that cannot be equaled in her children.
If, in the final analysis, she is seen as giddy and frivolous, it is because life has passed her by. When her husband deserted her, she found herself faced with an empty and meaningless life. She then began to fabricate things with which to fill her life. She devoted herself too much to her children and began to live through her children. Since she was reliving her own life, she failed to understand the different personalities that her children possessed and ended up driving Tom away from home.
Thus Amanda is a person who lives alternately between a world of illusion and a world of reality. This fluctuation between these two worlds is her only defense against the boredom and emptiness of living.