Article Comment 

Hillary Eddlemon: In defense of Tennessee Williams




In response to Mr. Duncan''s letter ("Thinks Williams should be downplayed," Voice of the people, Sept. 8) and The Dispatch poll regarding Tennessee Williams, I would like to state my personal disbelief at the ignorance of a legendary author and playwright.  


As a student here at Mississippi State University, I feel that it is very important to do the proper research on the public figure one is trying to "downplay."  


Mr. Duncan stated in his letter Williams was nothing more than a homosexual drug addict who only deserved a nod for his accomplishments, and a very small one at that, because "this is the Bible Belt where morals still exist."  


It is true Williams, like everybody else on the face of the earth, had his demons, but what Mr. Duncan apparently fails to realize is the city celebrates Tennessee Williams as an author, not Tennessee Williams the homosexual drug addict. It hardly seems befitting for a Christian living in the Bible Belt to condemn someone just because that person does not hold similar Christian values, or "morals," as Duncan called them. (After all, doesn''t the Bible say to love one another?) 


After reading Mr. Duncan''s letter, I could only draw the conclusion he has never actually read or seen any of Williams'' work, because if he had taken the time to read even just one of his short plays (The Glass Menagerie comes to mind.), he would have realized that Williams was a master of the English language. He would have enjoyed the almost musical way the dialogue floats off of the page, he would have shared in the frustration and sorrow of the characters, and he would have gotten chills as the play closes with the character of Tom uttering the phrase "...Blow out your candles, Laura -- and so goodbye."  


As stated earlier, it is true that Williams had his demons. It would probably be safe to say that his abusive, alcoholic father and neurotic snob of a mother, not to mention the unfortunate fate that befell his older sister Rose and his struggle with sexuality all contributed to his experimentation and dependence on alcohol and barbiturates.  


But those things also served as a basis for his writing. Williams saw the ugly in humanity and exposed it beautifully through his writing. He was not afraid to question traditional views on society or to empathize with women (certainly not qualities to scoff at in the South during the 40s and 50s).  


With all of this being said, it really is a shame that well over half of the people who voted in the poll claimed to never have read anything by Williams or to even be a fan of his work. I hope that the only reason most of the voters are not fans is because they have never been presented the opportunity to read his work or to see his films, though I highly suspect Mr. Duncan''s attitude is the same carried by many other citizens of the city. Again I say it really is a shame.  


Not only is the written word a rapidly dying art form, but it is very likely that the citizens of a city do not even know why they celebrate this world renowned playwright, much less care to learn.  


Seven Broadway plays, seven film adaptations, three Donaldson awards, three New York Drama Critics'' Circle awards, two Pulitzer prizes, a Tony award are evidence much of the world feels differently. 




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Reader Comments

Article Comment jls commented at 9/16/2011 8:54:00 PM:

Very well said, Hillary!!


Article Comment wesduncan commented at 9/16/2011 10:27:00 PM:

Ms. Hillary,

You seem so quick to put words in ones mouth. For one, when you say he is celebrated as an author and not who he was in his personal life, that is so contradicting. Who one is behind the scene makes him or her who they really are.. Wouldn't you agree?? So lets say a serial rapist in Columbus became to be a great songwriter.... Shall we celebrate him too????

I never once CONDEMNED him as you called it. I simply stated the truth about who he was as a person. The truth sometimes hurts. If you read correctly, I never claimed to read his work. I simply took time to read a short biography on him to find out who he was as a person, not an author. Therefore as a christian, I have no desire to waste my time reading literature written by someone of his character.

Listen to the public, chances are you just might be blinded by his beautiful work as you call it and not want to accept who HE was. You can blame his demons on his family as you did, however that is a pitiful excuse to defend a person's sickening way of life. We all have choices. That is the problem with society. Everyone wants to blame someone else for their failures or way of life. My heart goes out to people raised in bad environments, but by no means is it a crutch for them to live their life a certain way.

In conclusion Ms Eddlemon, everyone is entitled to their personal opionion as I was. But how dare you call me ignorant because I didn't take the time to read the work written by a homosexual. So before you decide to go publicly naming me as a condemner, get your facts straight because not once did I say anything negative about Mr. Williams. I simply stated the truth about his demons as you call it. If the truth codemns someone, then so be it.


Article Comment hillaryeddlemon commented at 9/16/2011 11:37:00 PM:

Condemn-1. to express an unfavorable or adverse judgment on; indicate strong disapproval of, censure

Ignorant-1.lacking in knowledge or training; unlearned
2.lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact: ignorant of quantum physics.
3.uninformed; unaware.

Just thought I'd provide you with the definitions of those words.

Mr. Duncan, you DID condemn the man,as you said he should not be celebrated because of his sexuality, and you ARE ignorant of his work, seeing as how you just admitted to not ever having read anything he wrote.

And if we as Christians all decided what to read, which music to enjoy, and which movies to see all based on the authors', singers', or actors' personal lives and decisions,there would not be very much to enjoy in this life. I can't count the number of times I've been to a church and heard the song "I Saw the Light," by Hank Williams. But by your standards, this song should not even be sung, because Hank Williams was an alcoholic and drug abuser. But most Christians tend to take this fact with a grain of salt and sing the song anyway, just because it's a Gospel song and they enjoy it. This is how most forms of entertainment should be experienced, and the work of Tennessee Williams is no different.

I am very much able to enjoy Williams' work without letting his sexuality or drug dependence bother me. And it's not because I'm "blind" or I don't want to "accept who he was." I'm very accepting of the fact that he was a person, just like you and I, who made his own decisions. But is it my place to judge another human being? No. I think I'll leave that responsibility to God.


Article Comment wesduncan commented at 9/17/2011 8:06:00 AM:

See it as you may. I simply stated my opinion on the extent of recognition this man receives in Columbus and stated the truth about who he was. If that makes you angry, I'm sorry. Yes I am ignorant to his work and am proud to be seeing that I could care less about it. I'm sure you are ignorant to many things in life too Ms. Eddleton.

So lets leave it at this: You have your opinion and I have mine. So you can stop stereotyping me and my level of knowledge for the simple reason that I do not care for Tennessee Williams along with many other residents.


Article Comment hillaryeddlemon commented at 9/17/2011 12:28:00 PM:

Ok, first of all, I am not guilty of "stereotyping" anyone. I'm not providing that definition for you. You can look it up yourself.

And your level of knowledge on the subject has spoken for itself through your letter and comments.

Secondly, I would have been more than happy to chalk this up to a difference of opinion, had a legitimate reason for disliking Williams' work been presented. As it is, you had no main reason other than the fact that he was gay. That is ridiculous. That's no different than someone refusing to read your writing because you are straight. Would you have written the same letter about a gay columnist of The Dispatch and claim that we as a community should not read his work? Probably not. The only reason your letter was considered acceptable is the fact that Tennessee Williams is a dead celebrity.

When you wrote that letter, you had to know that there would be opposition as well as nods of approval. Homophobia is a very controversial issue.

So I'm leaving it at this:

Make your own decisions, people. Read, listen, and see what interests you. But for goodness' sake, do not base your decisions on the lifestyle choices of the authors. You will soon become frustrated with your limited choices. Who cares if you enjoy a play that a gay man wrote? As long as you are living well and you have made everything right between God and yourself, it shouldn't matter.

There's absolutely no reason that Columbus should stop celebrating Tennessee Williams.


Article Comment wesduncan commented at 9/17/2011 1:52:00 PM:

You keep that dictionary in your purse.. You seem to need it a lot. And have fun celebrating Mr. Williams' "honorable legacy and contribution to history".


Article Comment yankee commented at 9/17/2011 9:19:00 PM:

I take back what I said about the Dispatch making an error by printing Bother Duncan's first letter about Tennessee Williams. It's important that he be given space in print and online to display the magnitude of his mind so that others may profit by his example. Toward that end, it's worth repeating Brother Duncan's words about Tennessee Williams:

"Yes I am ignorant to his work and am proud to be seeing that I could care less about it."

Here, though, I disagree. Brother Duncan may be proud of his ignorance but, in truth, he isn't really ignorant. What he is is really really stupid. You can educate the ignorant, but there really isn't much to do for stupidity except recognize it when we see it. Thanks to the Dispatch we now do.


Article Comment wesduncan commented at 9/18/2011 11:21:00 AM:

Yes we do recognize stupidity now.. Thanks to you for posting.


Article Comment dz commented at 9/18/2011 7:48:00 PM:

Great letter Hillary. I agree completely. Should we ignore the beautiful psalms of the Bible just because David murdered an innocent man for his own personal gain? Should we ignore the testimony and letters of Paul since he was a murderer and persecutor of Christians before his conversion? Didn't Jesus see the worth in the prostitutes, thieves, and those who were afflicted with demons? We all have our God given talents, and Mr. Williams was blessed with an ability to see life and write it down as elegantly as he did. These things should be celebrated, even if his own personal life was filled with struggles.


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