Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

Tennessee Williams:
Streetcar to Glory
C. W. E. Bigsby

The theatre has long been the poor relation of the American arts and Eugene O'Neill's Nobel Prize (like Sinclair Lewis's and Pearl Buck's) was a gesture having more political than cultural significance. For all the interest of Kingsley, Odets and Hellman, indeed, American drama is largely a postwar phenomenon and its new and enhanced prestige owes a great deal to a man who started his working life in a warehouse, writing poems on shoe boxes.

Thomas Lanier Williams was born on March 26, 1914. His parents were a travelling salesman and the daughter of the local minister—which may account for the strange mixture of prurience and puritanism in his work. His first play was written in 1935 and he scored a moderate local success in St. Louis with a series of plays written for a little theatre group called The Mummers.

The forties, however, opened somewhat inauspiciously. His first play intended for Broadway production, Battle of Angels, was withdrawn after its Boston tryout. Nevertheless in the course of the following two decades he emerged as a major dramatist and attained the two-fold distinction of being awarded a Pulitzer Prize and being banned from the public stage in Britain, surviving both experiences reasonably intact. Always controversial, his plays were welcomed not only for their unique vision but also for the frankness and vitality which they brought to a theatre all too often starved of those qualities.

Critics have often been at pains to draw a distinction between Tennes-

____________________
From The Forties: Fiction, Prose, Drama, edited by Warren French. © 1969 by Warren French . Everett/Edwards, 1969.

-41-

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