The Personal Strife of Tennessee Williams

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The Personal Strife of Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams was a well renowned playwright, who highlighted his personal experiences in his plays and stories. He had a colorful life and he enjoyed writing about what was considered taboo subjects in the 1940's, 1950's and the 1960's. Williams explored homosexuality, alcoholism, violence, greed and sex.

He also infused humor into his work. Williams dissected the traditional American family, and he penned many stories about dysfunctional and volatile families. In the journalist Bruce Smith's memoir on Tennessee Williams entitled Costly Performances, Tennessee is quoted reminding his readers, "I have had a life of required endurance, a life of clawing and scratching along a sheer surface and holding on tight with raw fingers to every inch of rock higher than the one caught hold of before...." (Smith, 6) Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in his maternal grandfather's rectory in Columbus, Mississippi on March 26, 1911.

His father, Cornielus Coffin Williams, was a shoe salesman at a shoe factory. He was an alcoholic and he was often verbally abusive to his family. Williams's mother's name was Edwina Lanier Williams and she encouraged the young Thomas to write. Williams later based the character of Amanda from his play "The Glass Menagerie" on his mother.

He had a sister named Rose, who was two years older, and when they were growing up they were very close. Rose was a very sensitive child and by her early twenties she was classified as a schizophrenic. She was later institutionalized and eventually given a lobotomy. His sister's condition devastated Williams, and he was afraid throughout his life that he would succumb to madness as well. He based the character of Laura from "The Glass Menagerie" on his sister Rose. Williams had a younger brother named Dakin, who was eight years younger.

Their father doted on the younger brother, and there was a great deal of sibling rivalry between them. He actually based Brick and Grooper's relationship on his tumultuous dealings with Dakin. Also, Williams had a great interest in people who lived on the fringes of life, like Rose. He considered himself to be "different" and he was not popular in his youth.

Thomas was teased as a youth by a boy named Brick, and Williams added that the character was weak minded and flawed.
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