In Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams, John and Alma argue about the anatomy chart in the doctor's office. What are their respective arguments and how did they change those arguments in the middle of the play?

Expert Answers info

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write4,539 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Alma Winemiller is a small-town preacher's daughter in the Tennessee Williams's play Summer and Smoke. Her name means "soul," and she takes that seriously. Alma is a spiritual being, and she believes humans are called primarily to a spiritual life, even comparing the human soul to a lofty Gothic cathedral, all of its points reaching toward something higher than it could ever possibly achieve.

This image is symbolic of the 

the everlasting struggle and aspiration for more than our human limits have placed in our reach.

She is a sensitive spirit who generally discounts any physical aspects of life.

Alma's childhood friend is John Buchanan, the son of a doctor who is just the opposite. He gives little credence to spiritual matters and spends most of his time and energy fulfilling his physical wants and desires. While the two have a long-term relationship, they are not really able to communicate as those in a relationship should; and of course this difference in philosophy keeps them from ever being really together.

The incident to which you refer in your question happens in John's father's office, and the two aspects of their natures becomes even more apparent. John wants Alma to see that they are primarily physical beings and thus should feed their physical desires. He describes it this way as he points to various parts of a human anatomy chart:

This upper story's the brain, which is hungry for something called truth and doesn't get much but keeps on feeling hungry. This middle's the belly which is hungry for food. This part down here is the sex which is hungry for love because it is sometimes lonesome. I've fed all three, as much of all three as I could or as much as I wanted--You've fed none.

Of...

(The entire section contains 609 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Ask a Question