Quote 2

Well, in the South we had so many servants. Gone, gone, gone. All vestige of gracious living! Gone completely! I wasn’t prepared for what the future brought me. All of my gentlemen callers were sons of planters and so of course I assumed that I would be married to one and raise my family on a large piece of land with plenty of servants. But man proposes—and woman accepts the proposal! To vary that old, old saying a bit—I married no planter! I married a man who worked for the telephone company! . . . A telephone man who—fell in love with long-distance!

This quote is drawn from Scene Six, as Amanda subjects Jim, who has just arrived at the Wingfield apartment for dinner, to the full force of her high-volume, girlish Southern charm. Within minutes of meeting him, Amanda introduces Jim to the broad arc of her life history: her much-lamented transition from pampered belle to deserted wife. As she does throughout the play, Amanda here equates her own downfall with that of a system of “gracious living” associated with the Old South, which contrasts starkly with the vulgarity and squalor of 1930s St. Louis. Naturally, Amanda’s intense nostalgia for a bygone world may have something to do with the fact that neither she nor her children have managed to succeed in the more modern world in which they now live.

Amanda’s memories of her multitudinous “gentlemen callers” are responsible for the visit of Jim, whom Amanda sees as a comparable gentleman caller for Laura. Amanda’s decision to tell Jim immediately about her gentlemen callers demonstrates the high hopes she has for his visit. Indeed, the speech quoted might be taken as rather tactless move—a sign that Amanda’s social graces have a touch of hysterical thoughtlessness to them and that putting herself and her story at the center of attention is more important to her than creating a favorable atmosphere for Laura and Jim’s meeting.