Printer Friendly

Exorcizing blue devils: The Night of the Iguana as Tennessee Williams's ultimate confessional.

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ADMITTED MORE THAN ONCE THAT HE HAD WRITTEN all of his plays for his beloved sister, Rose. Their unusually close relationship, borne of their childhood isolation and unfortunate family life, was changed permanently when their mother, Edwina, approved a lobotomy for Rose--then in her twenties--in an attempt to treat the girl's schizophrenia. As a result, Williams dedicated much of his creative energies to his sister: through his dramas he relived their relationship, mourned the loss of his childhood playmate, and exorcized his guilt over not having protected her better.

While virtually all Williams scholars agree that Rose is present in a great many of the playwright's works, most seem to recognize only one recurring plot as taken from his relationship with his sister: that of the troubled young woman who turns to a young man for much-needed help, only to be abandoned (as in The Glass Menagerie [1945]) or even harmed (as in A Streetcar Named Desire [1947]). However, the developing relationships between Williams's male and female protagonists become much more complex than this singular observation, which represents Williams's feelings of guilt and mourning over Rose's unfortunate lobotomy. Instead, in coping with the loss of Rose, he moves from this stage of grieving to an expression of anger (as in Suddenly Last Summer [1958]), finally settling the personal torment with the realization that Rose was in reality doing fine and it was he who needed emotional support from her. He expressed this theme most completely in 1961's The Night of the Iguana. Because of these character relationships that clearly move beyond the failed relationships of the late 1940s, a second theme concerning Rose develops in his work: a troubled young woman appeals to a troubled young man for help, and as their relationship develops, they discover that in truth they need each other. (1)

By 1961, when The Night of the Iguana was published, Tennessee Williams had found comparative stability in his life. He was with then long-time partner Frank Merlo (who, sadly, would die of cancer two years later); his substance use was as controlled as it ever would be; and he was beginning to accept Rose's fate. In Iguana one discovers that Williams was coming to terms with the fact that the old Rose was gone. It is also the first time in his writings that Williams understood his emotional dependency on her: Rose was his tie to the sweetness and warmth of his childhood, which had vanished long ago. Through a great amount of introspection, he finally accepted the fact that he was not perfect but rather a frail person in need of those around him. He also accepted the fact that he could not always be responsible for people and events--such as Rose's lobotomy--that were never his to control in the first place.

It is vital to note that The Night of the Iguana, like most of Williams's works, deals with the playwright's emotions and state of mind at the moment of creation, not with pure historical fact. Thus, in this essay, we will consider his point of view and not that of the audience, so stage directions are as important as dialog.


It is important to compare the setting of The Night of the Iguana to that of Suddenly Last Summer as these settings demonstrate his growth towards the positive. While both stage sets are filled with the flora and animal sounds of a jungle, the setting of Suddenly is very cloistered, stressing Catherine Holly's confinement and Mrs. Venable's ultimate control. The surroundings in Iguana, on the other hand, are a real jungle and hence are very open and wild; no one in this play has decisive control over what's happening, not even the lusty proprietor, Maxine Faulk. This openness allows the characters great freedom: no one in Iguana is ever physically confined to Maxine's hotel, nor is anyone truly dominated and controlled by another.

While the stage directions in Suddenly call for a terrifying sort of jungle setting, those in Iguana dictate very little about the mood. In the rare stage directions specifying setting, Williams actually paints a beautiful picture, such as at the beginning of act two: "The scene is bathed in a deep golden, almost coppery light; the heavy tropical foliage gleams with wetness from a recent rain" (289). The stage directions at the beginning of act three describe the nighttime scene as a clear sky and a nearly full moon that "bathes the scene in an almost garish silver which is intensified by the wetness from the recent rainstorm" (327). Further, the moon's light reflects from puddles around the veranda, adding even more silver to the scene. All this metallic color and shining light, which brighten up and contrast with the night, are a stark reversal of the frightening, even gory descriptions of the garden in Suddenly. Donald Spoto, in his comparison of the two settings, notes that the jungle of Iguana is "full of promise for the future" (249); Mrs. Venable's garden certainly is not.

Despite representing Williams's growth toward the better, this jungle is not perfection. There are no easy answers here, no quick fixes, and nothing is assured of working out. Among all the positives are sprinkled some negatives: Fred's recent death, Maxine's obvious loneliness, and Hannah Jelkes and Nonno's financial and medical difficulties. Even the family of German tourists, according to Thomas P. Adler, is there to remind us that this isn't Paradise (120). But these negatives are not devastating. Maxine and Reverend Shannon can make playful quips about Fred's death (Shannon repeats the rhyme "Fred's dead" several times throughout the play); Maxine's loneliness is at least partially appeased by sex with Pancho and Pedro, and she is now pleased by Shannon's arrival; the Germans are nothing more than annoying interlopers; and Hannah and Nonno have found temporary succor at the resort, where Nonno can finish his poem. Nonno is also blissfully unaware of their problems, thanks to a series of minor strokes.

Thomas P. Adler repeatedly points out that the jungle is not Eden but rather Gethsemane. This is an excellent analogy: as Gethsemane was the place where Jesus sought relief from his burdens, so is the jungle the place where the defrocked minister Shannon goes at his greatest time of need and weakness, pleading with Maxine to hide him from his troubles. Maxine succinctly establishes this pattern by asking, "Why do you always come here to crack up, Shannon?" (339). A short time later, she informs Hannah that Shannon "cracks up like this so regular that you can set a calendar by it. Every eighteen months he does it, and twice he's done it here ..." (341). Shannon repeats his pattern of withdrawal: he again feels he is at the end of his rope (in the opening of the play he declares that he can not continue beyond Maxine's resort with his tour group), and so he retreats to the protection of the resort.

Thus we discover something in this play not seen in the others: the main setting is an imperfect but safe haven. In The Glass Menagerie, the apartment may have provided Laura protection from the outside world, but it was ultimately her prison. In A Streetcar Named Desire, the Kowalski tenement was supposed to be a safe retreat for Blanche but was instead her undoing. In Suddenly Last Summer, Catherine was never safe in the garden, at least during the time framed by the play. But in Iguana, the jungle is a sanctuary for Shannon and Hannah, and there is a possibility that it will continue as such even after the play's time frame. Finally, the characters in need have a place they can truly go to for help.

Characters and Models

Not surprisingly, Hannah Jelkes is modeled after Rose Williams. There are several points that connect Hannah to Rose, the first being Hannah's physical description. It is not so much that she looks like Rose as that Williams writes poetic descriptions of Hannah that are very much like those of other Rose-inspired characters. During her initial appearance on stage, Williams writes that she "is remarkable-looking--ethereal, almost ghostly. She suggests a Gothic cathedral image of a medieval saint, but animated" (266); "she is softly lighted so that she looks, again, like a medieval sculpture of a saint" (339). Similarly, Hannah is described as looking "like a guardian angel" in the stage directions at the beginning of act three (327).

This curious religious imagery, which in Iguana is reserved for Hannah alone, was used with previous incarnations of the Rose character. Compare it to how Williams described Laura's lighting in Menagerie's stage directions as "having a peculiar pristine clarity such as light used in early religious portraits of female saints or madonnas" (133-34). In Streetcar, the dress Blanche has selected to wear to the asylum is, as she describes it, "the blue of the robe in the old Madonna pictures" (409). And while Catherine is never actually called a "saint" or "Madonna" in Suddenly, she is virtually always in the protective presence of a nun.

Hannah's reserved demeanor is certainly reminiscent of Rose. This might seem to harken back to many of Williams's Southern ladies, and in fact during the play's early stages of development, Hannah was actually from the South (Prenshaw 16). In the third act, when Shannon has been tied to the hammock after his ultimate "crackup," he asks Hannah to fish around in his pants pockets for his cigarettes. She is hesitant, because (according to the stage directions) she "has always had a sort of fastidiousness, a reluctance, toward intimate physical contact" (348). While there is nothing overtly sexual about what he asks her to do, she is still held back momentarily by her puritanical character. Looking throughout the play, one sees that this is only the most obvious instance of her reserved character, for Hannah perpetually displays a prim--even uptight--personality. This trait links her to Rose's fear of intimacy, which went so far as to result in hysterical laughter, strange sexual rants, and feelings of illness in the presence of boys her age. While Hannah may not be as sexually maladjusted as Rose, she is certainly sexually reserved

A third connection to Rose and previous Rose-characters is Hannah's "crack-up." Like Rose, Hannah has had in her past at least one serious mental breakdown. She calls her mental trouble a "blue devil," an appellation that harks back to all the uses of the color blue connected to the Rose characters: Laura's nickname is "Blue Roses"; Blanche always hears a "blue piano" and selects a blue dress to go on her "trip"; Sebastian has the Blue Jay notebook that demonstrates that he has all but abandoned his poem for that summer and instead will spend his energy on Catherine; and in the Signet Classic version of Suddenly (which differs from the original New Directions release as well as from that in The Theatre of Tennessee Williams), the first clear sentence from Dr. Cukrowicz's first lobotomy patient was "Oh, how blue the sky is!" (19). Williams biographers, such as Lyle Leverich and Donald Spoto, have established that Rose Williams's favorite color was blue.

Hannah is a virgin at the time of the play, as descriptions of her in act three of the only two sexual encounters she ever had indicate. Rose died a virgin, and the play suggests that Hannah has no foreseeable romances. She and Shannon make it clear that, should they go traveling together, it would not be romantic--at least at the outset. Even more important, though, is the very fact that Hannah considers her encounters with a man who kept touching his knee to hers in a movie theater and another who immodestly "enjoyed" her underwear to be sexual. These two experiences--in which Hannah was not an instigator and from which she derived no sexual pleasure (physically, at least)--can be directly related to Edwina Williams's attitude towards sex, which she impressed upon Rose repeatedly: sex was enjoyment for men and an obligation for women (Spoto 12-3; Leverich 50).

Hannah's frank belief that these "trysts" can truly be counted as her own intimate experiences would be approximately as deviant from the usual definitions of sexuality as were Rose's painfully conflicted sexual mores and desires. Rose was painfully shy but by all accounts also had a high libido. Her puritanical upbringing did not allow for any healthy sexual expression, but as her sexual frustrations grew (along with her other mental illnesses), so did the frequency of her unexpected sexual utterances around boys. During her hospitalization but before her lobotomy, Rose had frequent outbursts of shockingly sexual language and even masturbated openly (Leverich 335n).

In Iguana, Reverend Shannon is patterned after Williams himself. Like Williams and other characters who represent the playwright, he is emotionally fragile and has a tendency to run away from stressful situations (such as the culture and jobs he failed). Shannon, like Williams (and possibly Tom Wingfield of Menagerie), is a heavy drinker--he just happens to be attempting sobriety during the course of the play. Even more specifically, Shannon's first initials are T and L, and he is the "grandson of a bishop, and the direct descendant of two colonial governors" (333). Thomas "Tennessee" Lanier Williams was the grandson of a minister and a direct descendant of Tennessee's first Senator (Memoirs, photo plates). Of further interest is the topic of homosexuality: Williams was gay; there are slight hints that Tom Wingfield is; and Shannon was gay in early drafts of Iguana (Ganz 104).

Maxine Faulk, the blustery proprietor of the hotel, is based on Edwina Williams. While she is by no means flighty, chatty, or coy--as was the self-styled Southern belle Edwina--she is the protective force in Shannon's life, just as Edwina was in Williams's. As mentioned previously, she relates at least twice that Shannon returns to her whenever his emotional problems manifest themselves fully. Williams biographers such as Spoto and Leverich frequently document that when things got bad for Williams, he often returned home to Edwina's protection or wired her for money (much to Cornelius's chagrin). In act two, Maxine finally confronts Hannah about their "situation" by saying:
 I want you to lay off him, honey. You're not for Shannon and
 Shannon isn't for you ... I got the vibrations between you--I'm
 very good at catching vibrations between people--and there sure
 was a vibration between you and Shannon the moment you
 got here. That, just that, believe me, nothing but that has made
 this ... misunderstanding between us. So if you just don't mess
 with Shannon, you and your Grampa can stay on here as long as you
 want to, honey. (321-22)

Hannah has displayed no romantic interest in Shannon, and she also has made known no reason to think she would be bad for him. Nevertheless, Maxine uses Hannah's desperate need for shelter to bribe her away from Shannon so that she can have him all to herself. Such was Edwina's attitude toward her son: she was voraciously protective, going so far as to deem all others unfit for her boy. She was especially jealous of women with whom he was friendly.

Maxine does more than protect Shannon: she pampers him. Upon his arrival, she immediately fetches him a drink, removes his shoes and socks for him, offers him replacement footwear, acts as a buffer between him and Miss Fellowes, and lets him stay at the hotel (which is technically closed) free of charge. She even tries to shave him as he reclines in the hammock, despite his weak protestations. Maxine acts this way for the duration of the play. Even her sexual advances toward Shannon--which he rebuffs--relate to Edwina's stifling clinginess to Williams. Like Maxine, Edwina pampered Williams, indulging him in whatever he wanted as a child and giving him money and shelter well into adulthood.

Times of Need

Hannah, no doubt, is in need when she enters the scene. When she and Nonno first approach Maxine, the stage direction describes her as possessing "a proud person's hope of acceptance when it is desperately needed" (278). But Hannah and Nonno have no money to pay for the hotel, and Maxine is closed for the month and unwilling to help. To make matters worse, Hannah later confides that Nonno has had a series of mild strokes. The audience would surely be aware that a ninety-seven-year-old man in his condition would be especially vulnerable in the terrible heat and humidity of tropical Mexico.

Because of Nonno's physical predicament, their financial difficulty, their distance from home (Nantucket), and the fact that Hannah has no other family, it is easy to understand that she--like Laura, Blanche, and Catherine--is at her greatest time of need and that one more catastrophe might push her over the edge. Should Nonno die (the most likely foreseeable catastrophe at the outset--his last name is even Coffin), Hannah would lose much of her ability to make a living, her only living family, and her sole companion. Her situation is indeed dire.

However, the Rose character in this play is different from those in Williams's previous works. Those "Roses" are the hapless victims of circumstance, completely at the mercy of fate and of those around them. They are unable to take care of themselves on a daily basis, much less fight their way out of their eventual desperate situations (for which they always need someone else's help). In Hannah, though, Williams's portrait of Rose is that of an inwardly strong and resourceful woman who is able to care not only for herself but also for her partially disabled grandfather, even in hostile environments. Laura, Blanche, and Catherine all depended on others for support and assistance; Hannah is the one who supports and assists. So while her need is now great, and she does require assistance, she is certainly not helpless.

Hannah's strength is both described in the stage directions and demonstrated through actions and dialogue. When Nonno embarrasses her by continually babbling about getting money from the other tourists, the stage directions tell us that "only as strong a woman as HANNAH could remain outwardly impassive" (313). When Maxine confronts Hannah about her lack of finances--another humiliating moment--Hannah declares, "I am not a weak person, my failure here isn't typical of me" (320). When Shannon warns that he shouldn't finish his thought for fear of hurting her feelings, Hannah assures him, "I'm not thin skinned, Mr. Shannon" (357). She is even physically strong enough to push Nonno's wheelchair uphill in the steaming hot jungle. In the face of these and other humiliating hardships, Hannah keeps her composure perfectly and marches on; she is thus diametrically the opposite of the previous Rose characters.

What is different about the great need in this play, as opposed to Williams's prior works, is the fact that the troubled young man is clearly in need of help, too. Shannon is about to have a nervous breakdown, something not new to him. He therefore retreats to Maxine, reaching out for help and declaring, "I can't leave this veranda for at least forty-eight hours" (260). His claim is that he is feverish and the women in the bus have been mercilessly making demands of him.

But Shannon's troubles run far deeper than that. As his utterances throughout the play indicate, Shannon has an enormous fear of failure; fail is all he's done as an adult: he failed the church and its followers by sleeping with an underage girl from the congregation and by spewing forth an angry sermon about Western theology, which got him locked out and sent to an asylum. He failed numerous tour companies and has been fired for it; in fact, he is on probation with his present employers, Blake Tours, for a botched tour the previous month. He is now failing Blake Tours again by having this breakdown and retreating to Maxine's hotel. Shannon sums up his desperation when he says, "You know my situation: I lose this job, what's next? There's nothing lower than Blake Tours" (259).

He's also not at all good at dealing with stress, as his retreating to his cubicle in fits of moaning whenever Charlotte or Miss Fellowes come looking for him demonstrates. In combination, his fear of failure and his buckling under pressure are disastrous: under stress, he begins to withdraw from the situation and so makes things worse. When a crisis deteriorates beyond the point of acceptability to others, he is deemed a failure and is relieved of his duties. This description of Shannon is a painfully accurate portrait of Williams's own inability to deal with unpleasant situations, such as his rough home life, Rose's years of hospitalization, and his failed jobs through college.


When she first appears, it is evident that Hannah, in keeping with the other Rose-inspired characters, is more desperate than she probably ever has been, and she turns to Shannon for help. But unlike in the previous plays, when Hannah asks for help, she receives it:

HANNAH: ... if we don't get in here, I would have to wheel him back down through the rain forest, and then what, then where? There would be just the road, and no direction to move in, except out to sea--and I doubt that we could make it divide before us.

SHANNON: That won't be necessary. I have a little influence with the patrona.

HANNAH: Oh, then, do use it, please. Her eyes said no in big blue capital letters. (282)

In this brief exchange, Hannah's desperate situation is spelled out and she asks for help. Shannon encourages her and promises that things will work out for the traveling pair. While some of the troubled young men to whom the other Rose characters turn indicate they would help, help never comes: in Suddenly Last Summer, Sebastian "abandons" Catherine by dying and causing her problem, and it is not certain whether Dr. Cukrowicz can save her. Here, though, Shannon comes through by persuading Maxine to allow Hannah and Nonno to stay at the hotel instead of retreating to the unsavory vagrant hotel Maxine later suggests.

Much like Dr. Cukrowicz in Suddenly Last Summer, Shannon actually takes a keen interest in Hannah and Nonno. This is unlike Tom Wingfield and Stanley Kowalski, who are both burdened by the respective young women who need them. In fact, Shannon goes further than Dr. Cukrowicz by repeatedly going out of his way to assist the ailing pair--something the doctor may not have done. When Nonno nods off during the initial exchange with Maxine, Shannon awakens him "with infinite gentleness" (285). Shannon offers to trade sleeping cubicles with Hannah because he knows hers will leak in the rain. He refers to Nonno as "Grampa," which Hannah feels is a sign of respect and sincerity from him (but not from others, including Maxine). He gently slips Nonno a little money to make the old poet feel good about a recital, despite the fact that the German family that had been his audience had paid Nonno nothing.

These and other repeated kindnesses on Shannon's part are striking for two distinct reasons. First, toward the other characters in the play--even his old friend Maxine--he is abrasive; not once does he attempt to comfort anyone else, despite the fact that Charlotte is young and smitten with him, Maxine is newly widowed, and the ladies on the bus have had a terrible trip. Second, none of the kindness he shows--save getting Maxine to let the pair stay at the hotel--is expected or asked of him. Shannon actually goes out of his way to comfort Hannah and Nonno; he doesn't just do so when convenient for him.

At the same time, though, Shannon is just as much in need as Hannah; while he initially turns to Maxine, she is not helpful (Maxine just tries to get Shannon drunk and attempts to have sex with him). What he needs is someone who understands his desperation and anxiety, someone to listen to him, and that person is Hannah. During his actual "crack-up" toward the end of the play, Maxine simply has Shannon tied to a hammock and is content to let him sweat it out. The stage directions for this action say that "his struggle is probably not much of a real struggle--histrionics mostly" (341); when Hannah initially expresses concern over the seemingly rough treatment of Shannon, Maxine declares that he enjoys it. This attention simply perpetuates the cycle: Shannon "cracks up" at least partially for attention, and Maxine obliges.

Hannah, on the other hand, sees through what Shannon is doing but understands that there truly is something wrong. Instead of being content to allow him his fit of hysterics, she talks to him about his troubles. Of all the people in the jungle, she alone has the personal experience and saintly disposition to deal properly with Shannon and actually help him. In fact, she reveals to him her own emotional troubles from her past:

HANNAH: I can help you because I've been though what you are going through right now. I had something like your spook--I just had a different name for him. I called him the blue devil, and ... oh ... we had quite a battle, quite a contest between us....

SHANNON: How'd you beat your blue devil?

HANNAH: I showed him that I could endure him and I made him respect my endurance.


HANNAH: Just by, just by ... enduring. Endurance is something that spooks and blue devils respect. (352-53)

Hannah's revelation not only exposes Shannon to a like side in her but also imbues in him a respect for her. She has revealed a strength that he himself does not possess. Her attentions are also perhaps the first time someone has actually demonstrated true interest in Shannon's well-being.

Unlike most of Williams's works up to this point, there is no act of betrayal in The Night of the Iguana. Furthermore, it is important to understand not only the actions but also the obligations of each character. In the previous plays, the young male to whom the young female turns for help is expected to help her, because of either family bonds (Tom, Stanley, and Sebastian) or professional necessity (Dr. Cukrowicz). Shannon, on the other hand, has absolutely no ties to Hannah and Nonno; he simply assists them out of the goodness of his own heart. And while Hannah might well feel she must pay Shannon back for his getting Maxine to cooperate, her interest in him is too tender, sincere, and personal to be a simple "thank you." In helping him, she exposes parts of her past that she probably keeps to herself with most people--things that a woman of her reserved character would generally consider to be signs of weakness and too socially distasteful to reveal.

Even greater than the absence of betrayal, there is the possibility that Shannon and Hannah will end up together in some capacity. While Hannah politely rebuts Shannon's initial reasoning for their becoming traveling companions, and it looks as though Shannon may stay on with Maxine, the end of the play is quite open. Shannon has not actually agreed to stay at the hotel; Hannah never actually refuses Shannon; and she is now alone with Nonno's death at the very end. Her last lines are telling: "Oh, God, can't we stop now? Finally? Please let us. It's so quiet here, now" (375). She is expressing a wish to settle down in some way, and her reference to "here"--the hotel, or at least this part of Mexico--shows that she wants some amount of finality and stability in her life. Now that Shannon has found someone who understands him and doesn't think him a total failure, it is easy to surmise that he could be that stability, someone to fill the loneliness in her life.

In fact, Glenn Embrey finds hope at the end of Iguana, believing this is the very first such instance in a Williams drama (including Suddenly)(198) and even going so far as to call Iguana "wishful thinking," less believable or realistic than most of Williams's previous plays (204). (2) It is easy to see why: even in Suddenly, the fundamental problems are never resolved, and so the negative tensions are left even with Dr. Cukrowicz's final wish that Catherine's story be considered. In Iguana, on the other hand, most of the characters' problems are worked out at least enough so that they feel accepted (especially in Shannon's case) and not so alone in the world.

Whether Shannon and Hannah actually become companions or not is, however, secondary to the feelings of resolution and satisfaction they get from one another. The very first time Shannon sees Hannah is when he is in the middle of his feverish, frustrated rant to Maxine, and as if in the presence of some angel, he is "suddenly pacified by her appearance" (266). As mentioned above, he is only calmed after being tied up, when Hannah speaks to him at length. He can even be perfectly calm one moment while talking to Hannah, be suddenly thrown into near-hysterics when Charlotte or Miss Fellowes comes around for him, then calm down again as soon as he resumes talking to Hannah. In each other, Hannah and Shannon find comforting and accepting companions who share the burdens of mental and emotional strain--much like Williams and Rose.

The great changes presented in this play reflect the transformations Williams felt in his own relationship towards Rose. In 1956, he began visiting his sister quite frequently after avoiding her for about half a decade; he became more comfortable with her and her situation. Rose's transformation from pre-operation to post-operation was quite dramatic, and not necessarily for the worse: her delusions remained, but after the operation she became calm and peaceful, whereas beforehand she had been vulgar, excitable, and prone to hysterics (Leverich 335, 497). The fantasies she had prior to the lobotomy were violent and paranoid; afterwards, they were family-centered and ordered.

Examining the relationship between Hannah and Shannon along with the documented shifts in Williams's own attitudes and behaviors towards Rose, one discovers that Williams had made his way completely through the classic stages of grief to the end: acceptance. In Iguana, Williams does not treat the Williams character harshly, as he had in the other plays. He finally understood that, like Shannon, he was not infallible and could not always save others--or even himself. Like Shannon, Williams needed help, too: he needed Rose's companionship, love, stability, and the memories of their happy childhood. Of equally great importance was the time Williams spent with the "new" Rose: in getting to know her all over again and understanding that she was calm, happy, and well-adjusted, he could stop feeling guilty for any wrongdoings he felt he had done her. He began to see that, like Hannah, Rose was "enduring."

Works Cited

Adler, Thomas P. "Before the Fall and After: Summer and Smoke and The Night of the Iguana." The Cambridge Companion to Tennessee Williams. Ed. Matthew C. Roudane. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1997. 114-27.

Embrey, Glenn. "The Subterranean World of Night of the Iguana." The Critical Response to Tennessee Williams. Ed. George W. Crandell. Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1996. 197-210.

Ganz, Arthur. "A Desperate Morality." Tennessee Williams. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 99-112.

Leverich, Lyle. Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams. New York: Crown, 1995.

Prenshaw, Peggy W. "The Paradoxical Southern World of Tennessee Williams." Tennessee Williams, 13 Essays. Ed. Jac Tharpe. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1980. 3-28.

Spoto, Donald. The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams. Boston: Little, 1985.

Williams, Tennessee. Suddenly Last Summer. 1958. Tennessee Williams: Four Plays. New York: Signet, 1976.

--. Memoirs. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975.

--. The Theatre of Tennessee Williams. 8 vols. New York: New Directions, 1971-1992.


University of North Dakota

(1) I will generally limit references to four of the thirteen plays that fall within this time frame: The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Suddenly Last Summer, and The Night of the Iguana. These plays represent the full spectrum of the theory presented here (though see note two on the plays from the early 1950s), and using thirteen plays in a single article could lead to confusion and unnecessary length.

(2) Some plays prior to The Night of the Iguana could be viewed as having somewhat positive endings, but they are not as bright in their possibilities. Summer and Smoke and The Eccentricities of a Nightingale (1948) end with Alma's breaking out of her shell, but the stage directions (especially in Summer and Smoke) make it clear that this is not a change for the better. The Rose Tattoo (1950), Camino Real (1953), and the Broadway version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof(1955) all have reasonably happy endings, but they are also departures from the main theme treated here. This was during a period when Williams avoided visiting Rose in the hospital; consequently, he also avoided developing the theme discussed herein, namely that of the desperate female in the hands of the unstable/unreliable male. And even Period of Adjustment (1960) is seen by many critics as being about heterosexual couples simply going through the motions of marriage: the men, they claim, would have been much happier with each other than with their wives.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Mississippi State University
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Haake, C. Allen
Publication:The Mississippi Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2004
Previous Article:The enigma at the keyboard: Chopin's Mademoiselle Reisz.
Next Article:Reconstructing rebellion: the politics of narrative in the Confederate memoir.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |