A Memory Play by Tennessee Williams
THE MODERN DRAMA of Ibsen and Shaw and O'Neill--the long period of three generations in which, as we have said, the drama flourished in Europe, in Britain, and in America successively--seemed to have closed with World War II. Life with Father, whose comedic scene is laid at the beginning of that sixty- year era, was written and produced at its end. Very different from Clarence Day's family reminiscences were those of the young poet and playwright who wrote The Glass Menagerie, ushering in the postwar drama.
Thomas Lanier ( Tennessee) Williams was born in 1914 in Columbus, Mississippi, the son of a traveling shoe salesman and an Episcopal clergyman's daughter, of an old Tennessee family. He spent his boyhood in the Mississippi rectory, frail because of diphtheria and eye cataract, with an indulgent mother, a sensitive sister, and a clerical grandfather with literary tastes. When he was thirteen, his father's promotion took the family to St. Louis, where they lived in tenement apartments. He helped his sister Rose whitepaint the walls and furniture of her dingy room and brighten it with her collection of glass animals, which were for him an enduring symbol. After high school he went to the University of Missouri at Columbia. He started well in 1931, but failed R.O.T.C. and slipped badly in his grades after being pledged ATO. It was his fraternity brothers who nicknamed him "Tennessee," which he chose to retain as his name. After two ineffective years, his father insisted that he go to work and got him a job in the shoe factory. He hated his daily work in those Depression years, and spent his nights reading and writing poetry and fiction, sleeping hardly at all. In two years he collapsed, and went to Memphis, where his grandparents now lived, to recuperate for a year. After he returned to St. Louis, his grandmother