Usually I don’t post anything but sports related topics, but here’s another sample of my writings. This is looking at the effect of Thomas Lanier Williams’ personal life as he wrote and produced one of his most famous plays/movies.
Thomas Lanier Williams III was an American playwright master. He took common situations, many depicted on his personal life, and thrust them on to blank pages with ink seemingly flawlessly. Several of his pieces of work had a dark, gloomy, saddened feel to them. This is widely believed to be the case due to a very rough upbringing. Thomas Lanier Williams, commonly referred to as “Tennessee Williams”, was born March 26th, 1911 to Edwina and Charles Coffin Williams in Columbus, Mississippi. Now surely you find yourself wondering why a boy from Mississippi is referred to as “Tennessee”. The answer is actually not really known. Many people believe it’s due to roommates making fun of his Southern Drawl while others contest it was to honor his family members that hailed from the state of Tennessee. While Thomas Lanier was growing up, he had a multitude of issues swirling around his family that had affected him quite greatly. For example, his sister Rose, was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and struggled mightily from it. Personally, he even had to fight off a disease known as Diphtheria that almost left him dead at an early age. This left Williams weak and made it very difficult for him to obtain friends and be able to do things the other normal kids could. The fact that he couldn’t function as well as the other kids in society angered his short tempered father. C.C. Williams was a father who used a more violent approach to upbringing than your standard smack on the rear. He used his fists and lost his temper quite often on Thomas and Edwina. Growing up in the danger zone with an angry father, a troubled mother, and a mentally unstable sister, led to some of the greatest playwriting material of all time. Thomas Lanier Williams wrote seemingly similar stories that could have been second by second accounts of what happened in his young life. But exactly how did this things come about in A Streetcar Named Desire? In the coming pages I will analyze the personal trials and tribulations and how they may have affected Tennessee’s writings due to his sad, lonely, and depressing upbringing.
To say Tennessee Williams’ childhood was difficult would be an understatement of epic proportion. He had probably one of the worst family homes of any major significant playwright of all time. His father had anger issues and often times would physically assault Tennessee and his mother, Edwina. In A Streetcar Named Desire, you see the overwhelming physical nature of Stanley Kowalski when the first time he appears he is bowling and a fight breaks out. Stanley’s wife, Stella, was also a victim to this primal nature displayed by her husband. Blanche Du Bois, Stella’s eccentric sister, seems to be worried for her sister’s wellbeing. After the rough night at the Kowalski house, Stella tells her sister that, “He’s always breaking things, that’s just his nature. It’s one of the things I love about him most.” This seems to be a direct correlation to how Tennessee’s mother felt about her husband C.C. Williams. The similarities are frighteningly close as with every conflict in the playwright turns out to be solved or extended, by a violent eruption that Stanley amasses. Might this be exactly how Tennessee Williams saw his childhood playing out on the silver screen? According to Dakin Williams, (his brother) this is how it seemed as he and his brother were seemingly ushered from home to home throughout their entirety as children. Even Tennessee reflected on those moments when his father would show at home drunk, standing over his mother, with rage in his heart. He simply said “She loved him through it all; that’s what a wife is to do.” Edwina’s submissive nature was most likely attributed to the era in which they were in. In the early 1900’s, the role of the man of the house could have almost been best represented by the term dictator. Everything the man said, everything he did was seemingly unchallenged and at the time rightfully so. The man would go out and work, come home, and make sure everything at home was done the way he sought fit. As the primary bread winner, the man ruled the home, leaving women who stayed at home with the children co-dependent on the success of the man. In A Streetcar Named Desire, the overwhelming physical nature of Stanley Kowalski is reflected to many as a result of being a battle hardened veteran who could have left half his mind in the war. In that era, men who came back from war were very difficult to deal with due to ongoing bouts of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These things alone might be the primary reason for his primal behavior and his habitual ways of asserting himself physically. As you can see, the violent nature, clearly reflects Tennessee’s own personal tragedies at home.
Tennessee Williams wrote the characters in A Streetcar Named Desire a certain way in order to get a response from the viewers and readers alike. He wanted to paint the picture of this hard working man, coming home and over stepping his grounds at home. He also wanted to add value to the female opinion and warn of the dangers of men like Stanley Kowalski and even his father with the character Blanche Du Bois. The role of Stella Kowalski, seemed to be that of the same nature as Tennessee’s mother, Edwina. She played the submissive housewife, who at any and all cost, backed her husband. There just so happened to be a problem with the production of the playwright as it transitioned to Broadway and the silver screen. When the role of Stanley Kowalski was taken by Marlon Brando, all bets were off. The hardworking man, with the violent outbursts, became the reader and viewer’s heartthrob. Whether it be the accent, his physique, or his acting style, everyone changed their view about the violent man as Brando assumed the role. As the play continues on, you can see very clearly that Stanley and Blanche are headed on a collision course. Blanche is worried for her sister, citing that Stanley is “common”, and dangerous. The peak of action is when Stanley leaves his wife at the hospital to have the baby because it would be another day before she had it. In came Mr. Kowalski and there was Blanche, wondering how the baby was. “The baby won’t come before morning so they told me to go home and get some shut eye,” Stanley said. Then all of the sudden, Stanley charges in the conversation demanding answers about the rumors that had been spoken about Blanche around town. She admitted to Stanley her original opinion of him, and then confirmed that the many rumors were true as she began to get emotional. Stanley remembers Blanche’s flirty ways earlier in her times in the French Quarter, and actually says something provoking to Blanche. “Oh, you want some rough house! All right, let’s have some rough house”. After that, she threatens to kill Stanley as he makes a move toward her (Bloom 56-57). Although it isn’t shown, it’s highly suggested that Stanley had raped Blanche as he let his primal instincts take him over. During the movie, it pans out and the screen faded to black leaving the viewer to their imagination. The next scene, I assume, was weeks later. The scene shows Stella Kowalski and their neighbor from upstairs’ concern for Blanche as they make sure to tell her how wonderful she looks. As you can tell by the tone of the situation, Blanche has had some form of psychotic break (Adler 42-43). Often times throughout the entire movie, she had spoken to herself, but never to this degree. A knock at the door and the sudden quiet tells the reader the answer to the question of what was really going on at the house. The people from the asylum came for Blanche as she must have been seen as mentally and emotionally unstable and most likely clinically insane. After much coercing, Blanche finally agrees to go with the man as she states “You’re not the gentleman I was expecting”. As Blanche departs, everyone’s emotions are a wreck, and Stella takes her child upstairs to the neighbors’ house and vows to never go back down there again (Bloom 47). She realizes that Stanley Kowalski could be a danger to her and her child. She makes the conscious decision that Tennessee Williams’ mother Edwina never did. She left the situation to better the life of herself and her kid. At the very end of the movie, you hear Stanley scream out “Stella!” in hopes that once again she will come back down and submit to his primal nature. The most difficult part of the playwright to decide is whether or not she returns to Stanley and embraces him as she did before. Honestly, the difficulty of being a single mother in the French Quarter with seemingly no job in the 1900’s is that her life and her child’s life might have actually taken a step back. It was very hard for women to work in that time. Also, with no money, and no job already, getting someone to take care of the child while she searches for a job would be quite treacherous and difficult to do. Living on the street in New Orleans would have also presented a different issue every day. Many men, not just Stanley Kowalski, had a violent nature. That means that Stella could have been subject to rape, assault, and even kidnapping. The life that she knew and loved before really might have been her best option. It’s pitiful and sad, but the life of a married woman who is abused in that era is better than a homeless, jobless, single mother wandering the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
In conclusion, Stella Kowalski, in my eyes, is the direct reflection of Edwina Williams. She is presented with many issues throughout her life but honestly doesn’t know where or what to do. This proves that Tennessee Williams held this vision of his mother’s struggle in his memory and presented it for the entire world to see indirectly. The call to action the reader and viewer feels afterward is that we should provide some sort of standard to how people were treated, especially female. Today, although never perfect, we have a system in place for any and all domestic issues within a household. All a woman has to do is pick up the phone and call the police, tell them of the horrible things that are going on, and the police and attorneys will help the situation. Many women will actually do that now, unless they are like Edwina Williams, and are too afraid to call and quite possibly afraid for their life.