What motifs/symbols are present in Sweet Bird of Youth?

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Williams' play Sweet Bird of Youth is highly symbolic. A play about redemption and second chances, it is set on Easter Sunday. This fact is discussed in the dialogue but also demonstrated in by the sound of the bells outside the hotel room. 

The bells connect with the "Lament" which is played at various moments in the work, creating a rather dirge-like sonic motif to accompany the dark themes of the material. 

Names of people and places are clearly symbolic as well, with the town called "St. Cloud" being closed to "Chance" and home to "Heavenly", the woman Chance desires but whom he cannot take away with him when fleeing St. Cloud. Furthermore, Chance's last name carries with it a specific connotation:

Chance Wayne’s chances in life are indeed on the wane. 

Another symbolic element can be found in the mirror in the hotel room, which is used to help the Princess put on her make-up as well as helping Chance realize the truth - his youth is now gone. The mirror then is a complex symbol of self-knowledge, akin to the character's own persepctives which are at times honest and at times intentionally avoid the truth.  


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