The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin

by Tennessee Williams
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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 596

Tennessee Williams is said to have used his short stories as sketch pads for his plays. Certainly, in the case of “The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin,” the situation is reversed; it is the story in the Williams canon most closely related to The Glass Menagerie (1944). The story is autobiographical in all of its details, although the time sequence and locales are slightly distorted.

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Williams’s own sister Rose was the very essence of Tom’s sister in this story, a beautiful but wretchedly insecure adolescent who grew into a neurotic and, finally, psychotic woman. Rose eventually had to be institutionalized and was lobotomized, after which she required custodial care lasting all of Williams’s lifetime. In actuality, Rose played the violin, not the piano, as the sister in the story did; in The Glass Menagerie, Rose fantasized about her collection of glass animals, the only things with which she felt safe and somewhat secure.

Williams constantly explored the question of what inroads the real world makes on the psyches of sensitive people. The Blanche DuBois-Stanley Kowalski relationship in A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) centers on this same consideration. Blanche is the typical idealized southern woman who, like the women in Williams’s own family, has retained the gentility of the South’s vanished glory but has fallen on hard times. Stanley Kowalski represents the modern industrial age that will bring the gentle southerners to their knees, but in A Streetcar Named Desire, at least, not without the connivance and enticement of these southerners. In “The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin,” the unfeeling world is more vague than it is in some of Williams’s other work, but it is still devastating to the sensitive.

Williams is concerned with sexual pressures as a root cause of human tensions, and “The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin” clearly illustrates the effect of these pressures on the central characters in the story. However, Williams also drops hints about the effects that such pressures have on the parents in the story. Williams writes of the mother, “Upstairs my mother began to sing to herself which was something she only did when my father had just...

(The entire section contains 596 words.)

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