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Tennessee Williams And Works, A Look At Illusion Vs. Reality

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Illusion Vs. Reality

Tennessee Williams and his works deal heavily in the contrast of illusion and reality and the characters' struggle with this. Illusion vs. Reality is a major theme is mostly all of his dramatic works. The majority of these characters find themselves in a state of illusion. This was intended by Tennessee Williams to show how unavoidable and definite falling into illusion, or insanity, can be. Williams' sister Rose affected him greatly when she became schizophrenic. This influenced all his works by Tennessee writing all them with one female character that struggles to stay sane, or to stay delusional. Tennessee Williams had a good life before that when he was great friends with his sister and she did not have a mental illness.

Tennessee Williams was born on March 26, 1911. He was named Thomas Lainier Williams. Williams grew in St. Louis, Missouri for most of his childhood life. He went to University of Missouri, then Washington University, finally he received a B.A. from the University of Iowa in 1938. He worked a couple of odd jobs until he made a play called the Glass Menagerie. The play was performed on stages all over the world, and he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for it. He wrote A Streetcar Named Desire which also won him the Pulitzer Prize. Later, he wrote many other plays like

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Night of the Iguana. Although Williams continued to write throughout his life, most of his later works were not well received as were his

first works. Near the end of his life he published "Memoirs" and personal letters revealing his homosexuality. Then, in New York City, February 25, 1983, he died. This marked the end of one of the greatest American Writers.

The characters in Williams' work are share certain similarities which were placed purposefully by him. Blanche and Laura have obvious connections to his sister Rose. Rose became insane early in her life. Williams viewed her descent into insanity as her death. This spiraling descent into insanity is seen in both Blanche and Laura.

Blanche has a weak hold on reality at the beginning of "A Streetcar Named Desire" and by the end of the play she becomes completely lost in her fantasy world of male callers and old aristocracy. Laura is enraptured by her glass menagerie, or collection.

Jim: Aw, aw, aw. Is it broken?

Laura: Now it is just like all the other horses.

Jim: It's lost its--

Laura: Horn! It doesn't matter. . . . [smiling] I'll just imagine he had an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less--freakish! (Glass Menagerie)

She also constantly surrounds herself with the old Vitrola records. These surroundings are her fantasy world where she does not have to deal with the harsh realities of life. The symbol of reality as being harsh and caustic is seen in Stanley Kowalski. Stanley is a rude, brutish, blue-collar man. He is harsh reality and he greatly dislikes Blanche's deceit and tricks. He views these traits of Blanche as a threat his and Stella's marriage. In the end he gets tired of Blanche's tricks and lies so he rapes her by using sex as a weapon. Sex was often thought of by Williams as a strong symbolic force. Stanley being violent towards Blanche is the same as realities destruction of illusion and dreams. This shows how Williams perceived life and reality. He thought that the world as was destroyed illusion because of the strong nature of it. Blanche is weak and not as physically strong as Stanley. "Oh, I guess he's just not the type that goes for jasmine perfume, but maybe he's what we need to mix with our blood now that we've lost Belle Reve. (A Streetcar Named Desire)" This is how Williams shows that Stanley is viewed as more of a gritty harsh realism and more of a rough brute. Blanche states quite clearly that he isn't the best of men, but that he is the step down, so to speak, that she and Stella need to take.

"Williams is not a realist or a naturalist but his best works represent a tenuous but taut alliance between harsh realism and a poetic, even lyric, expressionism. We can see it in plays like "The Glass Menagerie" in Jim O'Connor's world and Laura Wingfield's world. Indeed the play is at once realistic and a protest against realism, a "slice of life" endowed with lyric beauty by its transformation into memory. "A

Streetcar Named Desire" continually vacillates between the crash and clamor of Kowalski, the pungent sight, sound and smell of this world, and the mothlike quality of

Blanche, the strains of the far-away Varsouviana and the thematic cry of the street vendor, 'Flores para los muertos' (Nelson)." This is the culmination of all of Williams

beliefs on the clash and conflict of reality and illusion. The war between Blanche and Stanley, the fight between Amanda and trying to get Laura out of her glass fantasy, these are all examples of the fight between reality and illusion. The purpose of these in Williams' work is to show that reality always triumphs. Despite the fact that reality triumphs, the characters who are held by illusion are always dragged completely and inexorably into it. Blanche goes completely catatonic and Jim's rejection of Laura and Tom's leaving the house both take away Laura's chance at getting a real life. Laura lives in the 'Glass Menagerie' so named by her mother who sees her daughter enveloped by old records and glass. Even Amanda is in a fantasy world where she dreams for her youth when she had many male callers and was the queen of the 'Delta'.

Tom escapes every night



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