James Curry

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Mildred Howard, William Leonard, Randall Capps, Lee Mitchell


The thesis was completed for the department of Speech & Theatre which no longer exists.

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The themes of guilt and atonement have been analyzed in selected writings of Tennessee Williams. Research concerning these two themes has been developed simultaneously with Williams’s concept of the universe and man. Many of Williams’s characters seek a form of atonement or purification for their guilt which has arisen due to their “incompleteness and unnatural desires.” Williams’s basic concept concerning the universe is that it is fragmented, a universe not completed by its Creator. Consequently, Williams envisions man and his nature to be likewise incomplete. It is this incompletion in man which causes him to have “unnatural desires,” labeled as such, according to Williams, because society has made them so. Many of Williams’s characters seek atonement for their desires and sins by one of two forms; (1) violent death, (2) mental laceration. Williams’s characters who choose violent death generally do so because they feel their lives are so corrupted that only something as tormenting as death can cleanse them. The second form of atonement is the open confrontation of one’s sins and true nature to the world with the hope of cleansing one’s conscience. This second form of atonement is the one Williams himself seems to be presently undergoing. He is openly admitting his past


Communication | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America | Playwriting | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Theatre and Performance Studies