Amanda is the mother of Laura, a hypersensitive and chronically shy girl. In contrast to her daughter, Amanda is a colourful, larger-than-life character, one of the ‘faded Southern Belles’ so prominent in Tennesee Williams’ plays. In this speech, Amanda has arranged for a promising young man, Jim, to come for dinner in the hope that he will be husband material for Laura. In her mind, physical appearance is key to the success of such an evening, and she has adorned herself in all the finery of her youth. In this speech, she relives her heyday in front of her mortified daughter….
Possess your soul in patience – you will see!Something I’ve resurrected from that old trunk! Styles haven’t changed so terribly much after all.
[She parts the portières.]
Now just look at your mother !
[She wears a girlish frock of yellowed voile with a blue silk sash. She carries a bunch of jonquils – the legend of her youth is nearly revived.]
[Feverishly]: This is the dress in which I led the cotillion, won the cakewalk twice at Sunset Hill, wore one spring to the Governor’s ball in Jackson ! See how I sashayed around the ballroom, Laura?
[She raises her skirt and does a mincing step around the room.] I wore it on Sundays for my gentlemen callers ! I had it on the day I met your father. I had malaria fever all that spring. The change of climate from East Tennessee to the Delta – weakened resistance I had a little temperature all the time – not enough to be serious – just enough to make me restless and giddy. Invitations poured in – parties all over the Delta! – ‘Stay in bed,’ said mother, ‘you have fever!’ – but I just wouldn’t. – I took quinine but kept on going, going ! Evenings, dances ! – Afternoons, long, long rides! Picnics. – lovely! – So lovely, that country in May. – All lacy with dogwood, literally flooded with jonquils! – That was the spring I had the craze for jonquils. Jonquils became an absolute obsession. Mother said, ‘Honey, there’s no more room for jonquils.’ And still I kept on bringing in more jonquils. Whenever, wherever I saw them, I’d say, “Stop ! Stop! I see jonquils ! I made the young men help me gather the jonquils ! It was a joke, Amanda and her jonquils ! Finally there were no more vases to hold them, every available space was filled with jonquils. No vases to hold them? All right, I’ll hold them myself – And then I – [She stops in front of the picture.] met your father ! Malaria fever and jonquils and then – this – boy…. [She switches on the rose-coloured lamp.] I hope they get here before it starts to rain.”