Aristotle's Poetics

Price of Freedom: An Analysis of the Motivations of Different Tennessee Williams Characters with Respect to Aristotelian Definitions of Character and the Struggle between Duty and Desire College

Tennessee Williams’s paradoxical nature as an individual can be seen at many different points throughout his life. Described as “enigmatic” by both his contemporaries and biographers, the prolific playwright seems to have translated this quality into many of his most celebrated characters (Woo 1). Two classic examples of this contradictory nature are Tom from The Glass Menagerie and John from Summer and Smoke. Both of these characters are practically defined by paradox. At the same time, they are both torn between intense personal desires, primarily for freedom and personal autonomy in some variety, and the intense duty they both have to their families and circumstances. As taxing as this struggle may be for the two men, as characters, it is a blessing in Aristotelian terms, as the pull between duty and desire defines Tom and John as proper characters according to Aristotle’s definitions as enumerated in Poetics, which are that a full character must be good, proper, true to life, and consistent (Aristotle 27). Throughout the two plays, Tom and John are able to fulfill these requirements specifically because they are being torn between personal and familial wishes. However, near the end of both Summer and Smoke and The Glass...

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