Sweet Bird of Youth

Sweet Bird of Youth Literary Elements


Drama, Tragedy, Southern Gothic

Setting and Context

The play is set in the fictional town of St. Cloud, on the Gulf Coast, around the end of segregation.

Narrator and Point of View

There is no narrator but the play tends to be written from the point of view of Chance Wayne.

Tone and Mood

Melancholy, dreamlike, boozy, poetic, grandiose.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Chance Wayne is the protagonist; Boss Finley is the antagonist.

Major Conflict

There has been almost lifelong conflict between Boss Finley and Chance Wayne because Boss feels that Chance is responsible for his daughter's fall from grace. Chance is trying to regain his footing in society by becoming a great star and attaching himself to the faded movie star, Alexandra Del Lago.


When Princess decides to leave town, Chance stays behind, subjecting himself to the wrath and abuse of the local men who have always had it out for him.


Chance's discussion with Scudder about Heavenly foreshadows the drama and tragedy to come.


Boss is said to dislike Chance, but this is a huge understatement; he is almost obsessed with him and cannot think about anything else other than driving him out of town for a second time.


Allusions to Hollywood, to the Bible.


There is a great deal of theatrical imagery that heightens the drama of the play.


Boss Finley insists that Chance ruined Heavenly's life, but Boss has also ruined her life by restricting her choices and forbidding her from being with Chance, the man she loved.


There is a parallel between the Princess's fading looks and the loss of her youth that she is all too aware of, and Chance's loss of youth and looks.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

When "the town" is mentioned, it often refers metonymically to the opinions and actions of people living in St. Cloud.


The royal palms are not explicitly personified, but they are referenced multiple times and their shadows are projected on the stage as if they were characters in the play.