We react to her in a variety of ways. She is comic in her pretensions and her ignorant snobbery. We share Tom's frustrated impatience with her, and yet we see, rarely but significantly, moments of real understanding of the family's plight. It could even be said that there is even something heroic in her unending struggle against the conditions of her family's life.
Late in the play she accuses Tom of unreality: "You live in a dream, you manufacture illusions" (61), but this suggests an astonishing lack of self knowledge. For her the romantic southern past is the model for everything, and she frequently launches into nostalgic recollection of her youth. "One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain - your mother received - seventeen - gentlemen callers!"(4). There were hardly enough chairs for them all. Their entertainment was "the art of conversation" (4), but what they talked about was "never anything coarse or common or vulgar" (5), for the southern past is a pattern for the moral life too in her imagination. It is the present that threatens to be coarse and common, and she sees herself as fighting heroically against the collapse into vulgarity. "Puritanical and narrow minded, she is appalling in her unreasonable devotion to the past" (Nelson, 104), writes the critic Benjamin Nelson, and Nancy Tischler notes that "The only way Amanda can live with the ugly reality is to retreat into her memories" (Tischler, 97). So Tom is always nagged to behave "graciously" - "Honey, don't push with your fingers. If you have to push with something, the thing to push with is a crust of bread."(3), to the extent that he cannot enjoy his food. When Tom cites instinct as a driving force in man, she rejects it as "something that people have got away from. It belongs to animals! Christian adults don't want it!"(21). She has confiscated his copy of "that hideous book by that insane Mr Lawrence" (13) which she describes as "filth". What Tom sees as the revelation of truth is what Amanda wishes to avoid. "Amanda prefers to believe not in Tom's favorite D.H.Lawrence, but in Cinderella and courtly love and Gone With the Wind, the novel to which she compares Bessie May Hopper's latest effort in The Homemaker's Companion"(Stein,62). Her instinct for fantasy makes her an embarrassingly natural saleswoman in Scene IV, which begins and ends with her trying to enroll subscribers to the magazine. She slips with ease into what seems a caricature of sales patter: "You're a Christian martyr, yes, that's what you are, a Christian martyr!... [Your subscription] expires with the next issue, honey! -just when that wonderful new serial by Bessie May Hopper is getting off to such an exciting start. Oh, honey, it's something that you can't miss" (12). No wonder Ida discovers that her cakes are burning.
Tom sees the absurdity of all this, and that it is fantasy in his mother's mind which bears very little relationship to the reality of their life in a two-roomed apartment in the poverty-stricken 1930s. While Amanda is insisting on the niceties of manners, Tom notes that "In Spain there was Guernica" (2). As she nags him to comb his hair, Tom is reading the paper with "Enormous caption 'Franco Triumphs'."(24). And Tom is aware that there will be plenty of "adventure" soon in the lives of urban Americans. It is "Suspended in the mists over Berchtesgaden caught in