Topics for Further Study

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 271

Illustration of PDF document

Download Orpheus Descending Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Obtain a copy of the movie The Fugitive Kind, which is the film version of Orpheus Descending. Write an essay asserting whether or not you believe it effectively captures the spirit of the play. Does Marlon Brando make a convincing Val? Are the changes made in the ending justified and do they improve on the original or spoil it?

Orpheus Descending is in part about the place of the artist in society. What role should the artist play? Is the artist always likely to be marginalized, like Val, or misunderstood, like Vee, in a conventional, materialistic society? For what should the artist stand, if anything? What values do you believe should motivate him or her?

Williams wrote in his introduction to the play (in Tennessee Williams: Eight Plays) that Orpheus Descending is about "unanswered questions that haunt the hearts of people." Some of the characters simply accept prescribed answers, Williams wrote, but not the four main characters—Val, Lady, Carol, and Vee. They continue to ask questions. What might those questions be, and what answers, if any, do these characters find?

Research the history of race relations in the South from the 1950s to the 1960s. Who were some of the major historical figures of the time? What major changes came about during the period?

In the play, Carol bitterly recalls the execution of a black man for the rape of a white woman. Research the history of capital punishment in the South from the 1950s to the present. Based on your research, write an essay explaining whether or not the legal system in death penalty cases is biased against minorities.


What Do I Read Next?