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Emotionally Disturbed Characters in Tennessee Williams's Selected...

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Emotionally Disturbed Characters in Tennessee Williams's Selected Plays

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CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Tennessee Williams is one of the most significant playwrights of the twentieth century, and almost certainly the most important of American Southern Dramatists. He is distinguished for his psychologically complex dramas that explore isolation and miscommunication within families and small groups of misfits and loners. Breaking from the realistic tradition in American Drama, Williams introduced his concept of the “plastic” theater by incorporating expressionistic elements of dialogue, action, sound, setting, and lighting in his works. Williams’s reputation rests on his three award-winning plays-- The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955). Each of his plays is set in the American South, employing lyrical dialogue and inventive stage techniques, and represents a powerful study of family dynamics and the solitary search for meaning in the modern world, particularly through the depiction of emotional abuse, sexual relations, and violence. Born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi, Williams was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents at an Episcopal rectory in Clarksdale, Mississippi; his father, a travelling salesman, was frequently absent. As a young child, Williams survived a near–fatal bout with diphtheria that left him physically weakened and in the constant care of his overprotective mother. Williams also developed a close attachment to his older sister, Rose, whose schizophrenia and later mental deterioration after an unsuccessful lobotomy had a profound effect upon him. At age twelve Williams moved with his family to St. Louis, Missouri, where his father was transferred to a managerial position. Away from the security and familiarity of his rural upbringing, Williams became the subject of ridicule among his new urban peers and unsympathetic father. In 1929 Williams entered the University of Missouri, though he was forced by his father to return home after...