A Rebel with a Cause: Tennessee Williams the Playwright: A Perspective

HarGovind Sharma, Asha Sharma

Abstract

Albert Camus, a French philosopher, thinker and writer, along with Jean Paul Sartre gave a philosophical base to French existentialism. Though he would publically disavow any ideological association to this movement which gripped post-war Europe, it was his writings, nevertheless, which would shape much of the future direction that this movement would take. In his book The Rebel, An Essay on Man in RevoltCamus gave a philosophical construct to the existential conundrum which fueled and sustained this movement. In this seminal work he defines rebellion as the quintessential human response to a seemingly absurd existence. According to him it is an act of simultaneous denial and acceptance: we negate the forces which strike at the root of our existence and, in the same breath celebrate the validity of our existence in our day today living. This is what helps us retain our faith in our own humanity while pitted against the depredations of a subversive social, moral and cosmological order. Though separated by vast intercontinental distances, cultural differences andvarying tastes and sensibilities, there is a remarkable degree of convergence of thought between Camus, the French thinker and Tennessee Williams, the American playwright. Camus’ rallying call to his ‘rebel’ finds resonance in the redoubtable fight of Williams’ protagonists in play after play wherein these ‘sensitive non-conformists’ would continue to wage a relentless battle against the inequities of the world despite their foreknowledge that they are doomed to fail. At the heart of their common philosophy, is the need to assert the fact of our existence without succumbing to the forces of negation even when the quotidian reality of life would seem to preclude any hope.

Keywords

Tennessee Williams; Literature

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