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Tennessee Williams

Uploaded by sinbaaad on Oct 30, 2011

This essay examines Williams’s life, and discusses whether or not his works are autobiographical; it also discusses his homosexuality briefly.
I Introduction

Tennessee Williams is one of America’s greatest playwrights. His works and the characters that inhabit them are some of the most robust and vital creations ever to appear on the stage. His people burn with passion and life, and are deeply complex, rarely superficial.
This paper looks at some of Williams’s plays and considers the following issues: how much of his art reflects his own family, and in what ways? How did his homosexuality impact his work? Did he struggle with his identity as a gay man? Did society condemn him for his orientation?
The paper also provides a brief biography chronicling how “Tennessee” got his name, his record of success, and his family life.

II Biography

It seems reasonable to start with a look at the man himself before turning to his work. He was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi, on March 26, 1911. He was the second child of Edwina Dakin Williams and Cornelius Coffin Williams; his elder sibling was a sister, Rose. His father apparently swept his mother “off her feet,” but subsequently proved to be poor husband material. He was a salesman, often on the road, with the result that the boy was raised by his mother and her parents in an Episcopal rectory in Clarksdale, Mississippi. (The absentee father and helpless mother, dependent on the good will of the men in her life, are recurring themes in Williams’s works.)
As a child, Williams was frequently ill, and after a near-fatal bout with diphtheria, he became convinced that he had suffered heart damage. Convinced of his own physical weakness and sheltered by his over-protective mother, Williams was ridiculed both by other children and by his “boisterous, highly masculine” father, who gave him the nickname “Miss Nancy.” (MacNicholas, PG).
Williams was particularly close to his sister Rose, but the girl was schizophrenic, and eventually underwent an unsuccessful lobotomy. Williams was devastated.
When he was twelve, the family moved to St. Louis, a city Williams heartily despised. It was here, apparently, that he found himself the object of ridicule and earned his father’s contemptuous nickname. But he found refuge from a world that was cruel and puzzling in his work, and it...

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Uploaded by:   sinbaaad

Date:   10/30/2011

Category:   Literature

Length:   10 pages (2,318 words)

Views:   2449

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