How does the "Sweet Bird of Youth" portray the theme of the individual vs society? Which characters display this theme the most?

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chance Wayne, a small town boy gone big city gigolo, plays the game of life by his own rules. He uses sex as a means to procure money and status and at the same time harbours a romantic vision for his personal life. In this antihero character Williams portrays a devil-may-care attitude which daunts social convention, much like Fitzgerald's protagonist in 'The Beautiful and the Damned.' Although lighter in tone, the idea of 'success' at any cost leads to his downfall.

A parallel can be drawn between Chance and his "client." Enotes essay 'Fugitive Mind' explains:

She is a big winner in the American sweepstakes who is terrified of losing; he is a big loser who is terrified that he’ll never win. She is trying to hide from the memory of achievement; he is trying to manufacture achievements to hide in. Together, they are a kind of psychological composite of Williams.

‘‘Somehow we Americans have never stopped fighting,’’ Williams said, in 1958, of the corruption brought on by the fever to win. ‘‘The very pressure we live under, the terrific competitive urge of our society brings out violence in the individual. We need to be taught how to love. Already we know only too well how to hate.’’