1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 74 and 75: The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Names Desire, by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams is like the William Faulkner of the stage. Kinda. There’s that whole deprecation of the gallant south, though in these two plays there is no real mention of Black relations, which serves as a heavily weighted theme in Faulkner’s work, and of course there is the fact that neither of these plays really takes place in the ‘south’, at least not the most southern parts of it. Each takes place in an eastern city where relics of the old south have strayed to find themselves living a working class life, as opposed to the glorified land owning classes that peppered the histories of many of Williams’ characters. In The Glass Menagerie we see how the patriarchal tradition raises dependency in women, leaving women at the whims of any many who chooses to take flight and escape the responsibilities of life. We see also how heavily regret plays in preventing one from moving forward, and how our perceptions act as a retarding weight on the growth of our lives. Laura, perhaps the most sympathetic character of the play, is a dependant, slightly crippled young woman who has allowed her own perception of his mild disability to cast a shadow over her life, scaring her away from any sort of personal progress and preventing her from connecting with the world around her. Her brother, the bread winner of the family, works in a ware house, whilst the mother calls women at home, annoying them with renewal requests to magazines. In the end the young patriarch of the family does as his own father does, and abandons the two women. There is little optimisms for any of the characters. A Street Car Named Desire also speaks to failed family values. A would-be southern belle whose questionable romantic past has lead her to lose her family’s plantation, find herself in a one bedroom apartment shared with her sister and brother-in-law. Again there is present the idea of the deprecating south and the dependant female which is commonly produced by patriarchal society, and we see to how new family ties often outweigh the old, as one sister chooses to stay with the husband who has both been accused of rape by her own sister, and father her new born child. Rather than lending authority to her sister’s accusations, she opts to have her sister locked up, and though this may be the right thing to do, it seems to be done for the wrong reason. Depressing endings abound with Williams, but his work remains an interesting study of human interactions and working-class struggles.

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Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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