A Troubled Past

By: Cassandra Baggaley

One of the most celebrated authors of all time is a man who went by the name of Tennessee Williams.  Tennessee’s life a tragic tale from the very beginning, and to be quite honest it stayed that way until his death.  But Tennessee was able to turn his troubles into something good.  He took his troubled past and he wrote plays about it.  

Tennessee had a hard life.  His father was an alcoholic who liked working a lot more than he liked being a father.  His mother raised him instead.  At the age of 7, he was diagnosed with diphtheria and forced to spend many hours lying down.  Growing up he didn’t spend much time with other boys.  He was too shy.  Even going to college was hard.  After one year, his father made him quit to be a shoe salesman like himself.  After putting up quite the fight, Tennessee was able to go back to college.  During this time his beloved older sister, Rose, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and was unsuccessfully lobotomized.  Tennessee’s play Glass Menagerie, was published soon after.  It was the play that started him on the road to stardom.

Tennessee took these hard details from his life and wrote about them.  He immortalized his family as several characters.  His father as Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, his mother as Amanda from Glass Menagerie, and his sister Rose as Laura from Glass Menagerie.  He once had a friend named Stanley Kowalski, and he borrowed the name for his play Streetcar Named Desire.  Tennessee also once lived in a play in New Orleans which was very similar to the scene described in Streetcar Named Desire.  Tennessee took things he saw, experienced, or felt and he put them in his plays.

Tennessee Williams is considered a great controversial playwright.  All throughout his writing career his plays were both praised and rebuked for addressing raw subjects in his honest, straightforward way.  In Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche is raped.  In Glass Menagerie, Laura has a mental illness that keeps her from interacting the same way as others do.  It was just the way Tennesee wrote, a style called Poetic Realism.

Tennessee Williams was a great playwright, that had a hard life.  He took his hard life though and wrote about it.  Because, he wrote the straight truth it often ended in controversy.  He didn’t stop.  He kept writing about controversial subject.  They were dear to his heart, as he had experienced a great deal many of them.



  • “Tennesse Williams.” Pbs.org. N.p., 08 Feb. 1999. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.
  • “Tennessee Williams Biography.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.
  • “Tennessee Williams Biography.” ThinkQuest. Oracle Foundation, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.



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