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Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father and an overly submissive mother.  He was also homosexual.  Throughout most of his career, he was forced to keep this secret, but it greatly affected his writing.  One scholar has called Tennessee Williams' characters “projections of his own disoriented personality, frightened, timid, groping, highly sensitive, somewhat neurotic dreamers who…are unable to adjust to the harsh realities of a world of crass materialism and brute strength”.  In play after play, character after character serves to continually illustrate human inadequacies, making one question if Tennessee Williams saw any redeeming features in humankind.

Tennessee Williams

In Tennessee Williams' plays, he created characters that were “constantly hurt and harassed by those around them” (a product of Williams family upbringing?) and “also tortured by something within them—guilt and fear primarily” (aspects of his sexual orientation and behavior that such a position required, i.e. furtive encounters beneath the societal radar).

The characters in a Tennessee Williams play (and they all seem to be similar characters in similar plays) each have some inner division that reduces them to partialities of human behavior.  They are “un-beings” caught in the “destructive life process”.  Scholars have said that Williams conception of man was of one “dogged by the knowledge of death and hence, scarcely able to live the little life he has”.  I am not so sure that this is the case.  Rather they all seem to be manifestations of the various aspects of Tennessee Williams as he struggled to self-analyze himself through the art form of drama.  

In the final analysis, Tennessee Williams’ characters explore their own inadequacies because of Tennessee Williams himself.  All are searching for higher meaning in life, either through sex or as a means of escape from their current situation.  The inadequacies that Williams examined in his characters were his own.  

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