Gender Conflicts in the Dramas of Tennessee Williams
Bachelor Thesis from the year 2003 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1,7 (A-), University of Bayreuth (Faculty for Language and Literature Sciences), 28 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: Tennessee Williams has often been called the American national poet of the perverse and a dirty writer because a recurrent theme in his work is sexual deviation, such as nymphomania, promiscuity, rape, impotence, homosexuality, profligacy, frigidity, cannibalism, and castration (Bauer-Briski 11). This statement clearly suggests the controversy with which Tennessee Williams' dramas were perceived by the public and the critics. It is well known that conflicts on these issues can be found in many of his plays. This raises the question as to what extent these conflicts are related to specific gender roles and their subordinate themes. Williams once said that he has never written about anything he has not experienced first hand, thus most of the conflict issues can be considered to be autobiographical to a certain extent. As Williams' childhood was restricted to a rather reclusive life due to diphtheria, which forced him to spend almost his entire childhood at home with his family, the experiences with his mother, father and sister shaped not only his character, but also the themes in his plays. His upbringing was characterised by Puritanism which was of vital importance in his family. His mother later became the model for his antiquated Southern Belles and overprotective mothers in the plays. His boisterous father was perceived as a frightening and alien male presence by him, his sister and his mother. He later became the model for the same type of harsh, brutal characters in his plays, such as Big Daddy and Stanley Kowalski (Falk 155 f). Yet, not only his Puritan upbringing shaped his life, but also the fact that he grew up in the South of the United States, in the Mississippi Delta, and the region's heat, its storms, floods, the division into social classes, the colourful imagery and rhythms of the language were to shape his setting and dialogue (Tischler 2).The uniqueness of the South along with its cultural and social characteristics is embodied in many of his plays, and the social roles appointed to the people living there offers an extensive basis of analysis for not only gender roles, but also the related conflicts. In addition to this, Williams was known as being homosexual and leading a very promiscuous life, especially with men much younger than him (Bauer-Briski 11).
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