Tennessee Williams Writing Style

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Tennessee Williams' style is characterized by theme, theme related metaphor, theme supporting scenario, setting, and poetic language, Williams' predominant theses are the dominance of a get-ahead society over sensitive individuals (e.g., Laura and Tom) and the dominance of ambitious people over the poetic-artist. Williams often illustrated these themes with physical weak or handicapped characters (e.g., Laura) who represented the failure of weak people in the face of Darwinian survival of the fittest.

Williams dramatic scenarios and settings were critical elements to the representation of his theme. To illustrate his themes related to overpowering, he often employed scenarios of repressed, perverse or abnormal sexual desire (e.g., Laura's repressed desire for ___). Williams' settings were unified with his characters and were thus indispensable to fulfillment of his stories (e.g., the "cage" of an apartment in The Glass Menagerie). As stated in Magill Survey of American Literature, Williams had three styles of settings. The first, evident in The Glass Menagerie, is poetic expressionism; the second is theatricality as in the naturalistic A Streetcar Named Desire; the third, as seen in Suddenly Last Summer, is symbolic, like Sebastian's lushly symbolic environment. Which leads to the final comment that Williams' style leaned heavily on poetic language and devices, a dependency that some critics seem as a limiting influence in his plays.

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