Realism and Illusion in Tennessee Williams’ Plays

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Realism and Illusion in Tennessee Williams’ Plays

MSc. Merita Hyseni
University of Prishtina, Kosovo
Received: 07 July 2023; Revised: 20 July 2023; Accepted: 26 July 2023; Published: 14 August 2023

Abstract: – This diploma paper examines realism and illusion in modern drama, particularly in Tennessee Williams’ plays, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie. It explores the influence and importance of these themes in shaping modern literature, evolving from traditional dramatic structures to enrich storytelling. The paper provides an overview of Williams’ life and his distinctive style. Through a close analysis of the selected plays, it delves into the complexities of the characters, their desires, fears, and struggles in navigating truth and illusion. Additionally, the study explores the symbiotic relationship between realism, illusion, and the theatrical techniques employed by Williams. The primary objective of this study is to unveil the profound influence and immense significance of realism and illusion in shaping the landscape of modern literature. Throughout the history of dramatic storytelling, these themes have undergone a remarkable evolution, breaking free from the constraints of conventional dramatic structures to find liberation and prominence in the realm of modernity. As a result, playwrights have been able to explore the complexities of human existence and society more deeply, crafting narratives that touch the core of the human psyche.

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Key words: Williams, The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, realism, illusion, modern literature.

I. Introduction

1.1 Biographical notes on Tennessee Williams

Thomas Lanier Williams, one of the greatest playwrights in American history, was born on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi. He was the second child of Cornelius and Edwina Williams. Raised mostly by his mother, Williams had a complicated relationship with his father, a salesman who chose work instead of parenting. Williams described his childhood in Mississippi as happy and pleasant. This sense of belonging and comfort were lost when his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. As a result of this, Williams started to write. His early adult years were dealing with attending college at three different universities, working at his father’s shoe company, and moving to New Orleans, which began a lifelong love of the city. He graduated from University of Iowa in 1938 and began the life as a writer and started wandering. (Weales, 1965)

Williams spent many years traveling and trying to write. His first acclaim came in 1944 when The Glass Menagerie went to Broadway. It won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and, as a film, the New York Film Critics’ Circle Award. According to Sharma (2016), Williams put so much of his life experience into his works that they can be treated synonymously. By using his background as a meaningful metaphor it has given so much of diversity to American Drama.

That women are more present in Williams plays, is as the result of the effect that women had throughout author’s life. He was really close to his mother and his sister. Regardless of this element, Williams tackled many issues such as realism and illusion, love and death, sexuality, victimization of women and conflicts between society and individuals, that shocked the audiences of his time. (Nawaz & Awan, 2018)

Williams, as one of the most eminent playwrights of the twentieth century (Nawaz & Awan, 2018) was awarded Drama Critic Circle Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His famous play, The Glass Menagerie, opened on Broadway on March 31, 1945 and in Chicago on December 26, 1944 and two years later A Streetcar Named Desire earned Williams his first Pulitzer Prize.
The 1960s were challenging years for Williams, as he went through very harsh treatment from the press. His plays were criticized for addressing taboo topics. Williams began to depend on alcohol and drugs and though he continued to write, completing a book of short stories and another play, he was going downward. (Weales, 1965)