Monday, August 19, 2019
Tennessee WIlliams :: essays research papers fc
IT is "OUT OF REGRET FOR A SOUTH that no longer exists that I write of the forces that have destroyed it," Tennessee Williams explained. This also seems to be the case for Kenneth Holditch and Richard Freeman Leavitt, the authors of the beautiful biographical album Tennessee Williams and the South'2 Holditch and Leavitt's book is alive with nostalgia for a South that no longer exists: a culture of grace and ease, of cavalier behavior and stoic endurance, a place where the romantic imagination is alive and in perpetual struggle with the crude realism of modernity. According to the authors, this paradise lost was crucial to the dramatic imagination of Williams, but above all it seems to have inspired their own. Besides establishing Williams's intimate ties with the South and revealing the biographical material beyond the writer's fiction, the book relishes the perpetuation of Southern mythologies. The childhood of Thomas Lanier Williams III, who was born in Columbus, Mississippi, and raised in various other Southern locations, is described as nothing less than "a southern idyll," regardless of the father's evident alcoholism, frequent family quarrels, and the older sister's fragile health. However, these fundamental problems erupted suddenly and violently, so the authors insist, only with the family's move north to St. Louis. Notably, it is not the innate family situation that clouds Tom's otherwise sunny childhood, but his displacement to the North. And since "southerners . . . have deep roots in their own native soil and do not tend to forget the land that gave them birth," the young Tom could never feel at home in "the cold North." Rehearsing such cliches of a long-standing North-South dichotomy, the authors establish the South as a warm and comfortable haven, in which Williams apparently felt sheltered from personal and social conflicts. The alienation and conflicts of the North, in turn, trigger the transformation of the Southern past into a comforting myth: "His experiences, good and bad, served as a sort of magical catalyst to convert the past into a precious stone of memory, enriching it with a luster and magnificence it may never have possessed in reality." That this myth had little to do with the concrete reality of the South stands beyond question. But one wonders for whom the magical conversion of the past took place. After all, even in his dramatic imagination the South was never simply just a place of enduring gentility and romanticism to Williams, but it was also the site of very concrete and often cruel social, ethnic, and sexual conflicts.