Certain critics, analyzing the work of Tennessee Williams tend to place him up on a pedestal for being a talented playwright, screenwriter, short story writer and novelist, deceivingly so. Critic John Gassner, when speaking of Williams’ work stated, “it is fair to say that Williams is the mid-century theatre’s most impressive, though not necessarily most gratifying American playwright.” Gassner would classify Williams as being a dramatist who is able to transmute the cognizance of reality and form it into a theatrical and poetic piece.
When analyzing A Streetcar Named Desire specifically Gassner was once again impressed by Williams’ naturalistic drama, which he crated. Gassner, on a whole stated, Williams’ major theme in all of his writings is “southern womanhood helpless in the grip of the new world, while its old world of social position and financial security is a paradise lost.” Then continuing on to say that in A Streetcar Named Desire, “health and desire are again at war, but more openly and more sensationally.” His grasp on Williams’ techniques and themes seem to be well reasoned and critiqued.
One statement which Gassner made on Williams’ work was “nothing is circuitous in A Streetcar Named Desire, and the dramatic action drives directly to its fateful conclusion.” This statement is very much true. There are no cycles in which one thing leads back to another, which is somewhat uncommon in playwrights. It is clear cut, leading from one conflict to another, never retracing its actions, but instead continuing forward. This allows Williams to effectively supplement each action, and then result in a conflict, which inevitably leads to a conclusion.
All in all, I concur with the critique Gassner analyzed on Tennessee Williams’ work. I found Williams to be impressive, but not altogether gratifying as well. His play, A Streetcar Named Desire was well done. He was able to transcend reality into dramatic theatrics. He took an unstable character, such as, Blanche Du Bois and was able to show the reality of her character, and proceeded to show the downfall of her life in a dramatic and poetic manner.
Blanche Du Bois is a perfect example of a Southern woman who finds her paradise lost. She was used to life on Belle Reve, where she flourished and found herself in a somewhat high social standing. All was lost, Belle Reve, her husband, her job, and her sanity. Straight from that conflict, she looked for sympathy from her younger sister Stella, which leads directly to more conflict with Stella’s husband, Stanley. Gassner described the conflict with Stanley, by saying, “It is her final tragedy that the life she encounters in her married sister’s home becomes a hell of humiliation precisely when she is most desperately in need of sympathy. Blanche was in need of sympathy, which she was unable to attain, and therefore led to her demise. From conflict to conflict, Blanche’s sanity deteriorates, and she becomes lost in an unrealistic world.
Gassner construes that, “Blanche Du Bois is not only a recognizable human being but also an expressive abstraction.” She is a character whom many can relate to. She is faced with conflict, and automatically looks for sympathy. When sympathy is not provided, she becomes lost and unsure on where to turn next. She begins living in an unrealistic world, which revolved around. She hides her past, and works desperately to survive her future.
Gassner’s critique on Tennessee Williams’ work was very agreeable. Williams is a talented playwright, screenwriter, short story writer and novelist. His play, A Streetcar Named Desire was one of his works which thrust him into becoming a well respected writer. In conclusion, John Gassners’ critical analysis on Tennessee Williams is downright sustainable and commendable and I would agree with nearly all he has to say.