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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 194

Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams focuses on the life and death of Sebastian Venable, a poet who had a secret life as a gay man and is brutally murdered while on a trip to Italy with his cousin Catharine. Sebastian writes one poem every year. According to his mother, Mrs. Venable, it took Sebastian nine months to finish a single poem. Sebastian has a close relationship with his mother, and they travel to exotic locations regularly. During these trips, Sebastian uses his mother to lure young men. Mrs. Venable keeps her son’s secret safe to protect his reputation.

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One day, Sebastian requests Catharine to travel with him to Italy where he also uses her to lure young men. During their visit, Sebastian is cannibalized and killed by a group of young men and Catharine witnesses the murder. Once Mrs. Venable realizes that Catharine knows Sebastian's secret and intends to reveal what happened to him, she tries to silence her to protect her son’s reputation. Mrs. Venable tries to convince Dr. Cukrowicz to perform a lobotomy on Catharine so that she can never reveal the events that led to Sebastian’s demise.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 993

Mrs. Violet Venable summons Dr. Cukrowicz to her mansion in New Orleans’s Garden District. He comes as a result of his interest in an enormous endowment from the Sebastian Venable Memorial Foundation. Mrs. Venable and Cukrowicz stroll through the exotic garden that had been the realm of Mrs. Venable’s late son, Sebastian. Mrs. Venable and Cukrowicz discuss Sebastian’s occupation, which she insists was Sebastian’s life because “a poet’s life is his work and his work is his life.” She shows the doctor one of Sebastian’s poems from his collection, Poems of Summer. She explains that her son had written only one poem a year, and it took him nine months to write a poem. The rest of the year, Mrs. Venable and Sebastian had traveled to exotic locales.

Mrs. Venable recalls one specific summer that she and Sebastian had spent in the Encantadas, where they watched sea turtle eggs hatch. As the newly hatched turtles scurried to the sea, most were devoured by birds. Cukrowicz wonders why Sebastian was fascinated by this savage display of nature. Mrs. Venable explains it was Sebastian’s search for God. The doctor asks Mrs. Venable to show her a picture of Sebastian. The photographs demonstrate how Sebastian retained his youthful beauty for twenty years.

Miss Foxhill interrupts the discussion to announce the arrival of George Holly and his mother. Mrs. Venable tells Miss Foxhill to keep the Hollys upstairs. Mrs. Venable resumes her talk with the doctor, who asks her about Sebastian’s personal, private life. Mrs. Venable explains that her son, while chased, had been chaste. She insists that he had been celibate. She explains that during their travels, they were always spoken of as a couple. Mrs. Venable explains that the previous summer, Sebastian had traveled with his cousin, Catharine Holly. It was during the trip to Cabeza de Lobo that Sebastian died. Catharine had a terrible reaction to his death and was institutionalized at St. Mary’s. Mrs. Venable tells Cukrowicz that Catharine “babbles,” vandalizing the memory of Sebastian. To stop Catharine’s rantings and ravings, Mrs. Venable wants the doctor to perform a lobotomy on Catharine; insulin shock and electric shock therapies have not silenced her.

When Miss Foxhill announces that Catharine has arrived, Mrs. Venable refuses, at first, to face her. The doctor goes alone to see Catharine. He notices Catharine with Sister Felicity standing behind her. Catharine lights a cigarette. Sister Felicity insists that Catharine extinguish the cigarette, which she does in the palm of the nun’s...

(The entire section contains 1187 words.)

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