Tennessee Williams: Characters

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Characters in his plays are often seen as representations of his family members. Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie was understood to be modeled on Rose. Some biographers believed that the character of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire is also based on her, though Williams says the character is based on his aunt. Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie was generally seen to represent Williams’ mother. Characters such as Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie and Sebastian in Suddenly, Last Summer were understood to represent Williams himself. In addition, he used a lobotomy operation as a motif in Suddenly, Last Summer. At the International Shoe Company in St. Louis he worked with a young man named Stanley Kowalski who would later resurface as a character in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Upon being asked if all of his characters were hopeless poverty stricken people “I hadn’t thought of them being hopeless,” he said. “That’s not really what I was writing about. It’s human valor that moves me. The one dominant theme in most of my writings, the most magnificent thing in all human nature, is valor-and endurance.”

Williams says himself that “If you mean unconventional in that my plays are light on plot and heavy on characterization….but not in structure.”

“My chief aim in playwriting, is the creation of character. I have always had a deep feeling for the mystery in life, and essentially my plays have been an effort to explore the beauty and meaning in the confusion of living.”

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