The playwrights with whom William Inge is most frequently and accurately compared are Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Inge’s early plays are the first in the United States to deal seriously with the Midwest. Aside from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (pr. 1943), based on Lynn Riggs’s Green Grow the Lilacs (pr. 1931), the Midwest had been dealt with more in novel and poetry form than in drama.
It is not likely that William Inge would have written Come Back, Little Sheba had he not gone to see Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (pr. 1944, pb. 1945) in Chicago shortly after he interviewed Williams as part of his job as drama critic for the St. Louis Star-Times. When he saw The Glass Menagerie, Inge realized that moving drama could be written about the lives and concerns of ordinary, everyday people. Within three months, he had written his first play about the Midwest, Farther off from Heaven (pr. 1947), which Williams was instrumental in having produced at Margo Jones’s Little Theater Group in Dallas, Texas. Before he saw The Glass Menagerie in 1944, Inge had known that he had story ideas, but seeing the play and knowing its author spurred Inge into actually writing.
Shortly before Inge sent his first play to Broadway, Miller’s Death of a Salesman (pr., pb. 1949) engaged audiences with the pathetic character of Willy Loman, a...
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