Written only a few years after The Glass Menagerie (pr. 1944, pb. 1945) and A Streetcar Named Desire (pr., pb. 1947), the two plays that are arguably Williams’s masterworks, The Rose Tattoo represented a new direction for Williams, while still focusing on his core themes. Like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire and to a lesser extent Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, Serafina Delle Rose is a southern woman whose life is largely defined and described by her interactions with men. However, Serafina has many important differences. As a Sicilian, Serafina represents a notion popular in Williams’s oeuvre and in American culture in the early twentieth century: Members of ethnic minorities are more “earthy” and in touch with the vital forces of nature. Certainly Serafina embraces her need for sex and her desire for Rosario with a vehemence and lack of shame that the furtive and flirtatious Blanche would envy. Nevertheless, though Williams’s affection for the Sicilian characters is readily apparent in the play, the underlying cultural ethnocentrism is sometimes startling and offensive to modern readers.
In addition to her ethnic background, Serafina is Catholic and working class. Unlike Amanda and Blanche, she has no glorified past on which to look back with longing. However, the fact that Rosario was a “baron” is a point of some pride for her, a point that echoes the destructive...
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