Freud on Broadway: A History of Psychoanalysis and the American Drama

By W. David Sievers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller

SHELTERED SOUTHERNERS

Of all the younger American playwrights, none is more characteristic of his generation, more psychoanalytic-oriented, or more provocative of popular controversy than Tennessee Williams. To many, his name is synonymous with sex on the stage; it is true that he can dramatize the fierce hunger of passion, but he can also create gentle and poetic imagery with a unique feeling for the frustration of loneliness. A product of the South which he has analyzed with devastating effect in several plays, he has a special insight into the mental processes of withdrawal and disguise. It is not so much his treatment of sex that has aroused the anxiety of some playgoers as it is his blunt scorn for squeamishness and the emotional dishonesty which distorts the sex drive.

Like O'Neill, Williams received his apprenticeship both in university drama courses and in a turbulent adolescence of vagabondage. Like O'Neill, too, he began with one-act plays, some of which foreshadowed his major work. Shortly before it disbanded, the Group Theatre gave Williams a cash prize for his one-acts which included Mooney's Kid Don't Cry, The Case of the Crushed Petunias, and

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