Themes and Meanings
That Shannon should find himself at the end of his tether in a tropical jungle, on the underside of the world, is appropriate to his personal conflict and its resolution. As most of Tennessee Williams’ plays are, The Night of the Iguana is centered on the crippling power of repressed sexual desire. Appropriate, too, are the embodiments of the two antithetical attitudes toward human sexuality in the play: Maxine and Miss Fellowes. The former is uninhibitedly sexual and comfortable with acting upon her desires; the latter is puritanically prudish and neurotically intent upon viewing the urges and expression of one’s sexuality as bestial and in need of repression. Hannah is the synthesis of these two extremes, and it is through communication with her that Shannon is able to arrive at a resolution of sorts between his conflicting tendencies.
During act 3, the audience learns from Maxine what kind of mother Shannon’s was, for she reminds him of something she overheard him tell her late husband several years earlier:You was explaining to him how your problems first started. You told him that Mama, your Mama, used to send you to bed before you was ready to sleep—so you practiced the little boy’s vice, you amused yourself with yourself. And once she caught you at it and whaled your backside with the back side of a hairbrush because she said she had to punish you for it because it made God mad as much as it did Mama, and she had to punish you...
(The entire section is 507 words.)