Tennesse Williams`s Plays

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Eddie Fischer, Elizabeth Taylor, Tennesse Williams and Sam Spiegel
Eddie Fischer, Elizabeth Taylor, Tennesse Williams and Sam Spiegel
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``A Street Car Named Desire``, ``Cat on the Hot Tin Roof``` and ``The Glass Menagerie`` are Tennessee William`s most famous plays.

``A Street Car Named Desire`` focuses on the destruction of a lonely widow, Blanche Dubois by her cruel brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski. The play begins in New Orleans, where Blanche Dubois, a schoolteacher from Mississippi, arrives at the apartment of her pregnant sister Stella and her husband.  After announcing that she is on leave from a teaching position, Blanche reveals that creditors have taken away the family estate. Consequently, Stella will never receive a single cent of her share of the property. Stanley demands to see a documented proof of the property loss. Blanche provides it.  Stanley seizes every opportunity to ridicule Blanche. He loathes her refined manners and her arrogant behavior. In turn, she hates his rudeness and primitivism.

When Stanley`s friend Mitch courts her, Stanley ruins the romance after investigating Blanche`s past and saying to Mitch about her promiscuity. Stella goes into labor and gives birth to a baby. When Stanley returns from the hospital, he sees that Blanche is drinking liquor. He rapes her. At the end of the play Blanche is sent to a mental institution. When the play begins, Blanche is already a disgraced woman in the eyes of society. She also has a drinking problem. Behind her veneer of snobbery, Blanche is an insecure and a lonely woman. She is afraid of growing old because she doesn`t want her beauty to fade away. 

In the Kowalski household, Blanche pretends to be a decent woman.  She tries to be attractive in order to find a male suitor. By marrying, Blanche hopes to escape poverty and the bad reputation that haunts her. Blanche sees Mitch as someone who can rescue her and make her happy. Stanley destroys Blanche`s sexual and mental esteem by raping her and then sending her to an insane asylum. In the end, Blanche blindly allows herself to be led away by a doctor, ignoring her sister`s cries. This final scene shows her total dependence on men.

Stanley Kowalski seems as a very friendly person who loves his wife. He possesses an animalistic energy that can be seen in everything he does. His family comes from Poland and he doesn`t like when people call him “Polack.” Stanley represents the new America where all men are born equal and can succeed equally. Blanche represents the old America, where class and race were important issues. Stanley sees Blanche as a liar. Stanley`s down-to-earth character proves harmfully rough and brutal. We can see his violent nature when he rapes Blanche. Stanley shows no remorse for his cruel action.

In the final scene he is represented as a family man, comforting his wife as she holds their baby. The character of Stella Kowalski performs two main functions. She is torn between her sister and her husband. But she is also the only one who attempts to bridge the gap between these two enemies and all that they represent.

One of the main themes in this play is fantasy and illusion. Blanche lives in illusion because she doesn`t want to face reality.  The second theme is the primitive and the primal. Blanche thinks that Stanley is primitive and rude. However, Blanche finds him attractive. Blanche`s finds Stanley`s primitivism so threatening because it is something she hides within her. The third theme is desire. Blanche seeks to deny it, although we see later in the play that desire is one of her driving forces; her desire have caused her to be banished from her hometown. Blanche`s desire toward men and sex ultimately destroys her because it makes her feel guilty about herself. 

Set in a Southern Mississippi, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”’ focuses on wealthy Pollitt family that is going through crises. The play specifically centers on quarrelsome relationship between former athlete Brick Pollitt and his beautiful wife Maggie. The couple`s relationship reaches a rock bottom when they go to the birthday party of his father, known as Big Daddy. All family members except Big Daddy and his wife, Big Mama, know that Big Daddy is dying of cancer. His family has lied to Big Daddy and Big Mama to spare the couple from pain.

The whole family knows that Brick has not slept with Maggie for a long time and that their marriage is falling apart. Brick makes Maggie angry by ignoring his brother Gooper`s attempts to inherit the family fortune. Brick`s indifference and his heavy drinking escalated with the recent suicide of his friend Skipper. Maggie`s worst fear is that Gooper and his wife Mae will inherit Big Daddy`s fortune. During the entire evening, Big Daddy tries to reconcile with Brick. Both Big Daddy and Maggie separately confront Brick about the true nature of his relationship with his friend Skipper. Brick tells his father that Maggie was jealous of Skipper because she believed that he had  a romantic affair with Brick. Brick states that Skipper slept with Maggie to prove her wrong. Brick believes that when Skipper couldn`t sleep with Maggie, that made him snap because he had realized that he had feelings for Brick. Brick also says that, before he had committed suicide, Skipper confessed his feelings to Brick, but Brick had rejected him. Finally, Brick tells Big Daddy that the report from the clinic about his condition was falsified for his sake.

Maggie, Brick, Mae, Gooper and doctor Baugh decide to tell Big Mama that Big Daddy is dying of cancer and she is shocked by the news. Gooper and Mae start to discuss the division of the Pollitt estate. Maggie tells Big Daddy that she is pregnant in order to secure Brick`s inheritance. Gooper and Mae know that she is lying, but Big Mama and Big Daddy believe that Maggie is telling the truth. When they are alone again, Maggie promises Brick that she will make the lie true.

Brick is a broken man who finds comfort in alcohol. This is so obvious in the Act I when he says to Big Daddy the following words:  “This click that I get in my head that makes me peaceful. I got to drink till I get it. It`s just a mechanical thing…” (Williams, 1959:52).       Brick`s brokenness is also materialized in his injury, a broken ankle incurred while jumping hurdles in a drunken state. This injury symbolizes nostalgia for the early days of his friendship with Skipper. This injury is also the symbol of his castration. 

Maggie is a lonely and dissatisfied woman because her husband doesn`t love her. Brick`s refusal to recognize her desire has made her feel desperate. Maggie`s childlessness calls her status as a wife and woman into question. Without a child, her and Brick`s place in Big Daddy`s household is not assured.

One of the main themes in this play is manliness and homosexuality. In this play cat symbolizes a broken manliness. Brick`s manliness is crippled by his homosexual desire which he tries to hide. His indifference is his way to defeat his desire. Ultimately, the revelation of his homosexual desire in his friendship with Skipper shatters Brick`s indifference. The second theme is mendacity. Brick claims that he drinks so he can escape from mendacity, but there is no way out from lies in the Pollitt family. Brick is lying to himself about the nature of his relationship with Skipper because he can`t admit that he had romantic feelings for Skipper. Maggie lies to the family that she and Brick live in a happy marriage, and all of them lie to Big Daddy about his health. These lies are interwoven into every aspect of their lives. 

“The Glass Menagerie” is a memory play, and its action is drawn from the memories of the narrator, Tom Wingfield. The play is set in a shabby apartment in St. Louis where Tom lives with his mother Amanda and his sister Laura. Tom works in a shoe warehouse and he has to support his mother and sister because Mr. Wingfield, Tom and Laura`s father, has abandoned their mother sixteen years ago. Tom is unhappy with his life because he wants to find adventure and to write poetry. His mother, an aging Southern beauty is constantly nagging Tom about ways to improve his life. Tom finds comfort in alcohol, movies and literature.  Amanda also worries that her daughter Laura will never marry because she is painfully shy and wears a brace on her leg.

She decides to enroll Laura in a business college, hoping that she will help her family financially.  Weeks later, however, Amanda finds out that Laura`s shyness has led her to drop out of the college secretly and spend her days wondering the city alone. Amanda then decides that Laura`s last hope must lie in marriage and tells Tom to bring home someone from the warehouse to meet his sister. She tells Tom that he can go to seek adventure only when he finds a suitor for Laura, and he agrees. Tom brings home Jim O`Connor, a guy he knew from the high school. Tom knows that Laura knew Jim,  but he doesn`t know that Jim is the only man Laura has ever loved. When Jim arrives, Laura is too nervous to eat dinner with them.

When Laura and Jim are left alone in the living room, he finally remembers who she is. Laura slowly begins to open up to him. The conversation wanders through high school to the present, and Jim, convinced that Laura needs someone to raise her confidence, kisses her. But, he realizes that he has made a mistake. He explains that he`s engaged and can`t be involved with her, and he leaves. Amanda believes that Tom set them up to look like fools. She and Tom have a huge fight.  Shortly after that night, Tom is fired from the warehouse and he goes off with the Merchant Marines to find the adventure he craves. The only problem is that Tom always thinks about Laura no matter where he goes, and he hasn`t completely escaped the life he led in St. Louis.

Tom Wingfield is full of contradictions. He reads literature, writes poetry, and dreams to have life that is full of adventures. On the other hand, he seems to be very attached to the world of the Wingfield household.  Tom has a strange attitude towards Amanda and Laura. Even though he cares for them, he is often indifferent and even rude to them. Critics have suggested that Tom`s strange behavior indicates that he has an incestuous attraction towards his sister. This theory casts an interesting light on certain moments of the play – for example, when Amanda and Tom talk about Laura at the end of scene five. Tom says that Laura is very odd and cannot survive in the outside world which indicates that Tom wants to keep Laura to himself.

Amanda Wingfiled came from a prominent Southern family and received a traditional upbringing. She has troubles to adopt in modern society because it disregards the social distinctions that she was taught to value.  Her refined manners in very primitive surroundings can appear tragic and funny. Amanda is also very devoted to her children.  She lives in fantasy, just like her children. Unlike them, she is convinced that she is not doing so. Laura Wingfiled is very timid and reserved.  Her handicap causes her to withdraw from reality and live in her own world where she listens to old phonograph records and relates with her collection of glass animals. Laura becomes more talkative when Jim, her crush from high school, comes to visit her. For the first time we can see Laura`s inner charm. She is even capable of forgetting about her physical handicap.  She wants Jim to understand her. When the evening is over and hopes that she will be with Jim are shattered, Laura retreats back into her own world.  Now she can live in it without worrying that someone will hurt her.

One of the main themes in this play is escape. Tom`s dream is to escape from his miserable life without hurting Amanda and Laura. Tom escapes, but he feels guilty for leaving his sister and mother. In the end Tom realizes that there is no such thing as freedom without paying a terrible cost. The second theme is illusions and reality. Amanda is caught up in illusion that a man has to support his wife. Ironically, she raised her family because her husband was not ready to take over that responsibility.

Bibliography:

1. Williams, Tennessee. (1959). Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. UK: Penguin Books.

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