Open Access Graduate Research Paper
Tennessee Williams is one of the most important figures in American dramaturgy of the twentieth century. His drama expresses the main points of American contemporary culture. The complex dramatic world created by Williams consists of many levels and components. One of the fundamental themes on which Williams' theater is based is a theme of the dying "noble" tradition of the Southern life style and its conflict with the rigid and pragmatic modern world.
This conflict is presented from the point of view of action and characters as a conflict between reality and illusion, the collision of sensitive and brutal and resulting destruction of the personality. Personality disintegration is expressed through violence, sex, alcoholism and personal frustration.
The aim of the research is to explore how these themes are explored by Tennessee Williams through the female characters in his five plays: The Glass Menagerie, The Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, Orpheus Descending and The Night of Iguana.
The study is limited to these five plays because they illustrate the gradual stage by stage development of female characters throughout Williams' dramaturgy. They are a convincing example of Williams' attitude towards contemporary reality; no wonder that the depiction of women in his plays changed with time.
All the chosen plays contain strong women characters and deal with the same problem of living in an illusory world and thus trying to escape the reality. All the characters have much in common and illustrate various aspects of Williams' basic themes.
It is possible to say that Williams' women characters gradually changed from the weak, dependent and doomed beings of the early plays to the strong and powerful personalities of later dramas, whose future is not entirely deprived of hope. This gradual change from fatality to hope is clearly perceived through the female characters of the five plays in question. Analyzing these plays, I intend to trace the development and alteration of Williams' views on life and also to reveal the consequent changes in the means of their expression.
Women characters created by Williams seem to have been thoroughly investigated by world critics. This study will be based on works by Boxill, Donahue, Jackson, Tischler, Thompson and some others. Almost all the time female characters are depicted as victims of the society or of their own corrupted nature, and no strong parallels have ever been drawn between women characters of different plays to reveal the possible points of similarity.
Close examination of the plays makes it possible to reveal the said similarities in the depiction of women characters in all the five plays. Women are considered to be weaker than men and that is why it is interesting to analyze the tragedy of the sensitive soul by concentrating upon female characters. Also, though these characters are tragic figures, it is possible to offer non-traditional, innovative interpretation of the nature of their tragedy and see how Williams develops different aspects of this human tragedy in each separate character.
This study will be presented as literary research. In the first part of the research I mean to explore how the theme of the South, which symbolizes human tragedy, is depicted through women characters. The second part will deal with the basic conflict of illusion versus reality as realized through the relationships of women and men from the unconventional point of view. The research will reveal the peculiarities in the depiction of these characters in Williams' works. Characters' Weltanschauung and attitude towards life will be analyzed through the dialogue and action.
Careful investigation of female characters makes it possible to understand Williams' own attitude to established values and beliefs. Through his characters the author questions these values and beliefs and creates a world of tragedy where sensitive people are victims of the cruelty of the modern society.
This approach makes Williams' plays especially humane and provides new insights as far as the dramas in question are concerned. It also emphasizes the originality of Williams' approach towards life. On the whole, this comparative research is supposed to fill in the gaps overlooked by the majority of critics, while providing an innovative interpretation of the nature of Williams' tragedy.
Year of Submission
Master of Arts
Department of Theatre
1 PDF file (29 pages)
©1996 Marina V. Zakharova
Zakharova, Marina V., "Women Characters in the Plays by Tennessee Williams" (1996). Graduate Research Papers. 3987.