The theme of escapism in representative full-length plays of Tennessee Williams



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In his literary works Tennessee Williams exhibits a concern with escapism which complements his personal episodes of escapist behavior. Williams characterizes his motivation for becoming a writer as a desire to hide from the unpleasant realities of his adolescence. He admits that he uses liquor and drugs to blot out an awareness of problems in the real world. Like many of his dramatic characters, Williams often runs away from troublesome circumstances by taking trips to distant places. Williams seems to present three distinct approaches to escapism in his full-length dramas. In The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire he depicts escapists who are destroyed by their inability to live in reality. Their futile attempts to avoid actuality often only create new problems. In Camino Real, Williams' fantasy play, a few escapists are able to flee from a harsh environment because the limitations of a realistic setting do not apply to their situation. In the non-fantasy world Williams creates in Sweet Bird of Youth and The Night of the Iguana, successful escapes are no more possible than they were for the Wingfields or Blanche DuBois. In each of these last two plays, however, one escapist manages ultimately to accept reality and endure life without relying upon escapism.