Tennessee Williams

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What is a once sentence theme for the essay "The Catastrophe of Success"?

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Well, first we define the main idea of “The Catastrophe of Success.” Maybe in the process, a one-sentence theme will present itself. Williams seems to indicate that success will definitely create the potential for you to lose your edge. He claims that humans, and particularly the artist, are designed for struggle. Once you achieve success, there is no struggle and the sole purpose of the human/artist is rendered pointless and all human action becomes meaningless. From the most quoted part of the essay, it is luxury and convenience (not privation and not destitution) that kills the human spirit. If there is no struggle, nothing to improve about the world, if everything is handed to you or if technology and wealth make your life so convenient that you don’t have to do anything for yourself, is there a point anymore?

You’ll see many artists, musicians, etc. who sometimes refuse an award or avoid fame as much as they can. Usually this is for political reasons but there are cases where they do so to keep their distance from that ‘effete’ lifestyle, to keep their edge, to keep from selling out, to keep themselves honest.

Possibilities: Deprivation is more conducive to creativity than luxury. Technology killed the self-reliant star. Struggle is a necessary for meaning in human lives.

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