Tennessee Williams: Thematic Material

Table of Contents

Tennessee Williams found inspiration in his troubled family for much of his writing he had an affinity for the south as he felt most at home there. The “mad heroine” theme that appeared in many of his plays seemed clearly influenced by the life of Williams’ sister Rose.

His direct influences include: Anton Chekhov, D.H. Lawrence, August Strindberg.

His major themes include; an obsession with the passage of time, lost growth and corruption of innocence. He also examined turbulent emotional and sexual forces, physical and spiritual needs, and created such unforgettable characters. He says he writes in two extremes; “the great tenderness between individuals and the terrible circumstances which surround them.”

When asked to explain the origin of his plays he states: “Perhaps my unconscious could tell. I can’t.”

Perhaps his credo on theater: “The straight realistic play with its genuine Frigidaire and authentic ice cubes, its characters that speak exactly as its audience speaks, corresponds to the academic landscape and has the same virtue of a photographic likeness. Everyone should know nowadays the unimportance of the photographic in art.”

“The moral contribution of my plays is that they expose what I consider to be untrue. But I don’t want to pretend that I’m a great moral evangelist. I’m an entertainer and a playwright-a profession that is at least partly entertainer. I don’t write for frivolous reasons. I always write to express myself. But I want to succeed also as an entertainer. I want to be a playwright that holds an audience, amuses them. I’m not a preacher, at least not consciously.”


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