The Glass Meangere Essay Research Paper Thesis — страница 3

  • Просмотров 202
  • Скачиваний 5
  • Размер файла 18

Williams’ Plays: Memory, Myth, and Symbol. Thompson closely examines William’s experiment with the “memory play,” and provides an outline of his approach that is consistent and clear. She also examines the symbolism in these plays, grouping them into religious, mythological, and existential symbols and imagery. I expect Thompson’s groundwork to be a foundation on which I will build. Published a year before Thompson’s work, Roger Boxill’s Tennessee Williams is a New Critical examination of the life and major works of the playwright. The critics in this collection provide a thorough textual analysis of selected Williams plays. For an overview of critical and biographical works relative to Tennessee Williams, I turned to The Modern Language Association electronic

database. The MLA lists only 288 entries using the descriptor, “Tennessee Williams.” From 1981 to 1995, fewer than 300 dissertations touching on this playwright in any way were written1. These figures represent a fraction of the number of dissertations, essays, and books written about other important American writers. For example, the MLA database lists 4,019 entries using the descriptor “William Faulkner,” and more than 1,089 entries using “Eugene O’Neill.”2 Chapter Two: “Promiscuity and Penance: Sexual Outcasts as Martyrs in Suddenly Last Summer, Orpheus Descending, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” Catherine: They had devoured parts of him….Torn or cut parts of him away with their hands or knives or maybe those jagged tin cans they made

music with, they had torn bits of him away and stuffed them into those gobbling fierce little empty black mouths of theirs. There wasn’t a sound any more, there was nothing to see but Sebastian, what was left of him, that looked like a big white-paper-wrapped bunch of red roses had been torn, thrown, crushed!–against that blazing white wall….(Williams, Suddenly Last Summer 92) Many of Williams’s sexual outcasts are devoured, literally or figuratively, and in this chapter I will show how these characters suffer because of the two drives I mentioned earlier. Sebastian Venable and Catherine Holly in Suddenly Last Summer are particularly good examples of Williams’s literal and figurative depiction, respectively, of sexual outcasts as martyrs. Martyrdom is a major theme in

Suddenly Last Summer. Refusing to accept the possibility that her deceased son, Sebastian, was a homosexual, Mrs. Venable tries to silence her niece, Catherine, who insists upon telling the story of Sebastian’s sexual misconduct and murder. Catherine is haunted, having witnessed her cousin, Sebastian Venable, being cannibalized by Mexican youth (whom he has sexually victimized). She feels compelled to tell the story of Sebastian’s death, despite Mrs. Venable’s threat to have her lobotomized1 and even though no one believes her. Mrs. Venable worships the memory of her son, Sebastian, relating her experiences with him as a prophet would relate her or his contact with a Christ-figure. In his stage directions, Williams has Mrs. Venable hold up a bound collection of

Sebastian’s poetry: “She lifts a thin gilt-edged volume from the patio table as if elevating the Host before the altar….Her face suddenly has a different look, the look of a visionary, an exalted religieuse” (Williams, Suddenly Last Summer 13). Her threat to have Catherine lobotomized is meant to further her truth about Sebastian (Williams, Suddenly Last Summer 12); she appears to see truth as relative, determined by the privileged and powerful. She says of her forthcoming confrontation with Catherine, “I won’t collapse! She’ll collapse! I mean her lies will collapse not my truth not the truth….” (Williams, Suddenly Last Summer 12). According to Mrs. Venable, Sebastian spent his summers in search of the image of God. Her identification of that image is the

picture of a vengeful God, the God of Lex Talionis (the just God, who exacts an eye for an eye): “…God shows a savage face to people and shouts some fierce things at them, it’s all we see or hear of Him. Isn’t it all we ever really see and hear of Him, now?–Nobody seems to know why….” (Williams, Suddenly Last Summer 20).