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MonkeyNotes-A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
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LITERARY/HISTORICAL INFORMATION

Thomas Lawier Williams, alias Tennessee Williams, lived and wrote in a private, neurotic cocoon. Oblivious of external influences though D.H. Lawrence and Genet influenced him to some extent, he was an intensely personal writer. Topical to the extent of being a literary recluse, he emerged as a great and original playwright.

Although Williams lived amidst troubling historical events, his plays do not directly portray the times. The setting for The Glass Menagerie is the post-Depression Thirties, and A Streetcar Named Desire is set in the war-torn years of the forties; both times were periods of radical and turbulent events, but they are not developed in the plays.

Most of Williams' characters are based on real people in his life, many of them family members. Stanley Kowalski resembles Williams' father Cornelius in his rough, boisterous ways, in his foul language, and in his love for poker and alcohol. His character Tom Wingfield writes poetry by night while working in a shoe factory by day. Like Thomas, Tom Wingfield feels compelled to leave home in order to write, but that is where the similarity ends. Laura Wingfield, who suffers a psychosis, is modeled on Williams' sister Rose. Both the real woman and the fictional character are preoccupied with listening to records and collecting miniature glass animals.


Williams often seems nostalgic for the past. For his female characters, he chooses women with a solid, but romantic, southern background; he shows how the aristocratic lifestyle fades around them. Blanche Dubois is one such woman who clings to the past with a compulsive sense of duty, just as Amanda Wingfield compulsively reminisces about her 17 gentleman callers on a Sunday afternoon. Both women chase dreams of the past in an increasing urbanized and industrialized present. This conflict is the basis for most of his fiction, including A Streetcar Named Desire.

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