Discuss how Williams presents the primary theme of decay in the play Sweet Bird of Youth.

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In Sweet Bird of Youth, the theme of decay is embodied in Heavenly, whose unnamed disease is apparently an STD passed to her by Chance. While his nostalgic belief in her purity is one reason for his return to town, instead she has been physically declining following the surgery.

Chance’s declining good looks and possibilities in life also express decay, as does the Princess, who is terrified of contemplating the end of her own life.

The overall theme of moral decay is conveyed through other characters as related to happenings in the town. As Tom Junior moves toward castrating and perhaps killing Chance, the castration of a local African American man is revealed. Boss Finley, who tries to take the moral high road with his daughter, is a symptom of the decay through his hypocrisy in keeping a mistress and his political endorsement of purity of blood.

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There are numerous examples of this theme throughout the play. The protagonist, Chance Wayne, was once a high-school jock and drama star who thought he could make it big in the movies. But he failed, and instead he's ended up as a gigolo to an alcoholic, has-been film star called Alexandra Del Lago. He's desperately trying to recapture his youth while his soul and his looks decay.

Alexandra in turn also personifies the theme of decay. Once upon a time, she was a big Hollywood star, but she quit the movies when her looks started to fade, and since then has thrown herself into a self-destructive lifestyle of booze, drugs, and loveless sex.

Then there's Chance's high school sweetheart, Heavenly Finley. Her soul has been in decay ever since she slept with Chance and he gave her a sexually-transmitted disease (which led to physical decay). Just like Chance's youthful looks and popularity, and Alexandra's former stardom, Heavenly's virginity is something she'll never get back no matter how many times she puts on a white dress.

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