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...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1461 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 10413 literature essays, 2634 sample college application essays, 532 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in