Arrowy skeletons : animal imagery in selected works of Tennessee Williams



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Tennessee Williams's primary tool in creating his art is the image. He uses the image to give his work form, to add layers of meanings to the surface stories, and to achieve organic unity and dynamic color for his plays. The frequency of animal imagery throughout his works suggests that they are central and thematic to his world view. He selects animal images which convey ambivalent, opposing ideas to define the nature of the universe; the ambiguity of the animal images suggests that Williams himself holds ambiguous opinions about certain values. The animal images also convey the major themes which Williams constantly reiterates: loneliness, incompletion, illusion, escape, time, sex, and death. The playwright's use of animal images to symbolize these ideas indicates that such images are essential in explaining his work. Williams has, in fact, created his own personal language of symbolism through animal images; he has taken many of the images that have been symbolic through the body of literature and added to their traditional meanings with his original, sometimes ironic and usually consistent, use of them. This thesis traces Williams's use of animal imagery through most of his published work through 1973 to show the origins of certain images and to analyze their meanings.



Animals in literature, Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983, Criticism and interpretation