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Tennesse Williams’s Autobiographical Plays Essay, Research Paper

Tennessee Williams incorporates numerous aspects of his life in his plays; The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire illustrate these autobiographical tendencies. He once said, “My work is emotionally autobiographical. It has no relationship to the actual events of my life, but it reflects the emotional currents of my life” . Homosexuality, loneliness, and family relations all integrate themselves into Williams’ plays, these themes portray the isolation he experienced during his life.

Williams revealed his homosexuality in his book Memoirs, at the time this was taboo. This aspect of his writing contains a certain level of ’shock value’, as he often wrote about homosexuality in a slightly humorous way. The characters in his plays, although heterosexual, were formed from his homosexual fantasies. In A Streetcar Named Desire reference to Blanche Du Bois’s husband’s homosexuality is a reflection of his own. Blanche’s husband reflects Williams to an unusual extent. When he wrote the play, he pictured Blanche as a man , thus she also portrays this aspect of Williams, however, she is the object of his desire and he portrays himself as her husband. By doing this Williams not only forms play through his fantasies; he also lives his fantasias through his writing.

The characters in the plays represent Williams’ family. Laura in The Glass Menagerie personifies Rose, Williams’ sister. She was the inspiration for the play, “I guess Menagerie grew out of the intense emotions I felt seeing my sister’s mind begin to go.”

Rose developed schizophrenia and was institutionalized; Laura retreated to a fantasy world due to being a ‘cripple’. Blanche Du Bois also relates to Rose in that after Blanche is raped she begins to go insane. In each circumstance a defenseless, vulnerable woman becomes an outcast of society. This isolation is linked not only to Rose, but to Williams also. Tom, from The Glass Menagerie, parallels Williams’s life the most. Tom wishes to run away from his past, thus Williams illustrates his desire to escape from his past. As a child Williams became a shut-in due to illness and encouragement from his mother, this caused Williams to develop an active imagination. This imagination is transferred to Tom, he dreams of his escape from his family and his past and eventually acts on this aspiration.

Williams depicts his parents in his plays. The connection between Blanche and Stanley Kowalski illustrates the strained relationship of his parents. Cornelius Williams was crude working class man, and this primitiveness is conveyed through Stanley. Both were abusive to their families, heavy drinkers, and gamblers.Blanche is representative of Edwina, Williams’s mother; both were Southern belles tormented by a cruel male. Through the rape of Blanche, Stanley robs her of any remaining dignity, this shows the way Williams pictured his family life. “When I was younger, I hated him with a passionate loathing. He was a big, powerful man, and he intimidated all of us . . . my mother hated his guts too. She doesn’t have a good word to say for him . . . ” Williams believed that the only realistic characters possessed ambiguity, this accounted for his depicture of his family life.

The family setting of The Glass Menagerie is almost exact to that of its author. Strained parental relationship, disabled sister, and a general lack of communication between children and parents contribute to making this play the most autobiographical of all his works. Many of Williams’s characters experience some type of isolation, this theme of loneliness is possibly the strongest link between the characters and the author.

******the footnotes are form: DISCOVERING AUTHORS, CD ROM, GALE RESEACH INC., 1993


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