Robert Woodruff Anderson was born in New York City in April, 1917, to James Hewston and Myra Grigg Anderson. His father was a self-made man who twice made his way from poverty to financial success. Perhaps as a consequence, James Anderson had great respect for the so-called “manly” virtues of self-reliance, determination, and physical courage but shared none of the aesthetic values that his wife instilled in young Robert. The resultant unhappy relationship between a husband and wife unable to appreciate each other’s values has been mirrored in several of Anderson’s plays, notably All Summer Long, Tea and Sympathy, and I Never Sang for My Father. The strained relationship between a father with a purely materialistic bent and a son whose artistic and literary bent embarrasses and bewilders his father forms a secondary motif in several of Anderson’s plays and provides the central conflict in I Never Sang for My Father.
Anderson was educated in private elementary schools; at Phillips Exeter Academy, in Exeter, New Hampshire, where he wrote his first plays; and at Harvard, where he wrote plays, theater reviews, and a senior honors thesis entitled “The Necessity for Poetic Drama.” He completed his undergraduate work at Harvard in 1939 and his work for the master’s degree in 1940, and continued work toward a Ph.D. there until he entered the U.S. Navy in 1942. While a graduate student at Harvard, he served as a teaching assistant and also taught drama courses in several small local colleges. During his Navy service in World War II, Anderson wrote several...
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