Thursday, February 11, 2016
"The bird that I hope to catch in the net of this play is not the solution of one man's psychological problem. I'm trying to catch the true quality of experience in a group of people, that cloudy, flickering, evanescent - fiercely charged! - interplay of live human beings in the thundercloud of a common crisis. Some mystery should be left in the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery is always left in the in the revelation of character in life, even in one's own character to himself" (Williams 116-117)
One doesn't often see a hefty set of stage directions when reading through an average play script. However, Tennesse Williams manipulates his stage directions to conceal the meaning and tone of the entire play. Aside from assigning just mere movements for the characters, Williams goes on to describe his exact goal for the play's tone. He crafts the stage directions more as if he were composing a novel instead, with powerful diction and excited syntax.
The surprise insertion of these meaningful directions are in no way unintentionally placed. At this moment in the play, the atmosphere is taut, tense and awkward, which prompts Williams to be specific with how he sets the scene. He uses colorful words like "flickering" and "evanescent" in an excitable tone to paint the perfect picture of how naturally the scene is supposed to play out. Williams wants to capture the central emotion of people struggling through the chaos of the real world while also still leaving a sense of mystery behind.
As the reader progresses through the play, the reader should expect to see those wise directions applied. As the scene builds up tension, it becomes obvious that these directions have set the tone universally.
Word Count: 200
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
"We drank together that night all night . . . I said, 'SKIPPER! STOP LOVIN' MY HUSBAND OR TELL HIM HE'S GOT TO LET YOU ADMIT IT TO HIM!' . . . HE SLAPPED ME HARD ON THE MOUTH! . . . When I came to his room that night, with a little scratch like a sly little mouse at his door, he made that pitiful, ineffectual little attempt to prove that what I had said wasn't true . . . In this way, I destroyed him . . . (Williams 60)"
Williams, in crafting this passage, adjoins two different tones in an easily identifiable shift. The beginning of the passage is in all capital letters, as to signal the common tradition of someone shouting in the text. As the passage progresses, the author not only switches back to natural text but also uses small, sympathetic and defeated diction to bring the tone from extremely loud to an awkward, tense kind of softness. The author crafts this through the use of powerfully descriptive diction such as, "pitiful," "ineffectual," and "destroyed." At the conclusion of this passage the reader has traveled from a loud-mouthed description to an awkward blanket of quiet, covering the conversation.
Williams not only experiments with the diction to shape his tone, but also manipulates the syntax and adds in some literary devices. In the passage, the speaker says that she and the other character involved "drank together all night that night", and the intentionally poor syntax proves it. The words are arranged together in a way so repetitive and nonsensical that it sounds like something a child would say. The author embeds this in the passage with an intent of creating a kind of curious sense of doubt, making the reader question whether they should take this information seriously or not. Also, in addition to the small language mentioned previously, the author uses to simile to describe Skipper as "a sly little mouse". It adds to the small tone as does using the hyperbole "destroyed him."
Through this vivid diction and carefully-arranged syntax, author Tennessee Williams crafts a passage with a small and awkward tone that some would question whether or not to take seriously in relation to the rest of the play. Williams might have also intentionally done this writer's trick to keep the sense of mystery afloat, as he likes to do in all of his works. However, there is little mystery involved in recognizing William's writing skills.
Word Count: 400
"Brick, y'know, I've been so God d*** disgustingly poor all my life! - That's the truth, Brick! . . . You don't know . . . how it feels to be poor as Job's turkey and have to suck up to relatives that you hated because they had money and all you had was a bunch of hand-me-down clothes and a few moldy three-per-cent government bonds . . . So that's why I'm like a cat on a hot tin roof" (Williams 54-55)!
Many readers up to this point could translate Maggie's extended metaphor and anxious attitude as being frustrated from pure lack of intimacy or even total loss of chemistry with Brick. It's here that she reveals more than just what we can infer. While Big Daddy had been dying of cancer, the couple had been battling the rest of the family for his wealthy inheritance. However, he, like most traditional fathers, doesn't want to pass on his legacy to a branch of the tree without future generations. Maggie, with her poor background, just wants to feel rich, and Brick is refusing to give her even that. In conclusive reality, this is her "hot tin roof."
Word Count: 200
Monday, February 8, 2016
"When something is festering in your memory or your imagination, laws of silence don't work, it's just like shutting a door and locking it in a house on fire in hope of forgetting that the house is burning. But not facing a fire doesn't put it out. Silence about a thing just magnifies it. It grows and festers in silence, becomes malignant . . . (Williams 32)"
Prior to the key quote cited above, romantically frustrated, Margaret, had been fighting with her husband, Brick, about past affairs and why he doesn't show her affection anymore. Throughout the play, scandalous and often important secrets are kept from various members of the family, from Big Daddy's fatal illness to the real reason Brick became an alcoholic and lost all affection for Margaret. Williams, being a controversial writer, slowly starts to later bring these issues to light, just as his intentions are in getting the theme across. The whole play is spent establishing secrets with the reader that are driving the characters to be so distressed, but none of the characters know truly, which is what the quote suggests in relation to the text. The secrets are ruining relationships and "festering" inside each character, eating them alive with guilt. Just like the universal metaphor of the "cat on a hot tin roof", this quote compares one of the text's central ideas to being burned. Keeping the truth secret is only torment to a smart soul.
The work's true essential reality is the presence of the all-natural truth. If one chooses to hide the truth, the one and all parties involved will end up burned, no matter the controversy.
Word Count: 300
Tennessee Williams is a playwright well familiarized with using symbols and extended metaphors to hint at a greater truth. For an outside example, the whole play of A Streetcar Named Desire is a symbolic entity of the moral destruction that actual desire can do. In this work, the "cat on a hot tin roof" is a blatant extended metaphor for being stuck in a harmful situation but not having the will to escape from it.
The two main characters in the play portray the sad truths of many modern young couples today. Brick is an alcoholic with a numb outlook on life and love. Margaret is still hopeless devoted to Brick and lusting after him, though he carries no affection for her anymore. Margaret, while expressing her unrecognized want for Brick, then questions "what is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? . . . Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can (31)." What is the point in fighting for a harmful relationship when someone's still going to get burned? Margaret is so blindly devoted that she doesn't get the hint when Brick tells her to "jump off the roof" because "cats . . . land on their four feet uninjured" and to "find a lover (40)." He's telling her that she's better off without him, yet she stays trapped on the hot tin roof, like the cat she suggests.
Word Count: 200 (minus passage citations)
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
In 1950s Mississippi, a father is dying of cancer and the family is vying against each other for his inheritance. Prior to this, his son, Brick's, love life has begun deteriorating and Brick's life falling into alcoholism. His wife, Margaret, is lusting for him heavily, though his heart is elsewhere.
Word Count: 50
For my next title, I choose something a little different to add to my variety of literature. I decided next to move on to Tennessee Williams' tense play on serious subjects, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. Many may have heard of or seen the film based on the play, or at least read William's most famous play, A Streetcar Named Desire. I'm reading this play not only to make up my page limit but to increase the variety of literary works of which I break down and analyze.
Williams first released this play in 1954 - a time where most of the play's subject matter was not spoken of in public. The play deals with the ideas of feminine desire, homosexuality, sexual tension, and what it means to be a man, most of which in the golden days of the 1950s were not readily talked about in the media. The play stands as one of the most controversial of its time. The intense mood is already set by the end of Act One, and one could predict that it's only going intensify further.
To enhance my experience reading the play and your experience reading my blog, I present you with a few relevant links:
- Possible themes and symbols via SparkNotes: http://www.sparknotes.com/drama/cat/themes.html
- Trailer for the 1958 film (starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, & Burl Ives): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWsG_Qj1wUo
- Critical review of the film and play collectively: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/sep/30/cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof