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Referat / Aufsatz (Schule), 2000
1) Short biography of Tennessee Williams
2) Short history of the drama „The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore“
3) Main characters of the drama
4) Plot summary
5) Most important symbols and symbolizing names
6) Stage order
7) The connection to the American Dream
Williams, Thomas Lanier; known as Tennessee (in 1939 he assumed the name Tennessee in honor of the state of the USA, where his ancestors were successful as pioneers)
* March 26th, 1911 Columbus, Missouri
Family: His father was a textile trader who spent his nights drinking and gambling, whereas his mother was neurotic and dreaming of the good old times. He loved his sister very much, she was of a weak character and later forced to a lobotomy (a psychosurgical operation) that caused a mentally handicap. Also had he a good relation to his grandfather, a priest, which whom he went on a trip to Europe in 1928. Life: The family moves to St. Louis, Missouri in 1918. Williams doesn’t like the city, he starts to study theology and literature at the University of Missouri in 1929. As he decides to become a dramatist, his father forces him to quit his studies and work in his shoe factory.
Delicate health and eye surgeries cause hypochondria. He participates in drama classes in other cities as well, New York, Washington, e.g., and writes some dramas, scripts for films, later novels short stories and poems. The following ones are the most successful: The Glass Menagerie (1942-44), A Streetcar Named Desire (1945-47), Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1954). In 1964 his longtime companion Frankie Merlo dies, this causes depressions and Williams addiction to medicine and alcohol. In 1968 he is baptized catholic, and from 1975 on he writes his memoirs, in which he admits to be homosexual. He has several domiciles in New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, and his favorite one on a small island in Florida. + February 24th, 1983 New York City; he choked to death on the stopper of a medicine bottle that he swallowed inadvertently.
The drama „The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore“ was finished 1962 at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. The first American production was done in January 1963. Although it belonged to the later works and was less successful like most of them, criticism was generally favorable, as the first dark version was altered. The reasons for the lack of success were said to be poor repeats and variations of the former more successful works with already well-known characters on the one hand and the too complicated symbolism expressed through the poet-Christ figure Chris.
The New York version ran only 69 performances and the 1964 version of the play was closed after 4 performances.
Williams’ knowledge about the setting of the play (Divina Costiera, Italy) he probably derived from two trips through Europe, one with his grandfather in 1928 and a second one in 1950. He later co-operated on a script to a movie called „Boom“ that was based on „The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore“.
(Annotation: The numbers in brackets are the pages on which the certain information is found, the letter t stands for top, m for middle, b for bottom) Flora „Sissy“ Goforth: Mrs. Goforth is a rich old widow, former American actress, good-looking (183b). All close friends call her Sissy (204 b). She was born in Georgia (183b-184t), survived 4 husbands, married the first one, Harlon Goforth (184t), while she was in her teen, became widow short after, inherited the riches from him. The last and her favorite one was a Russian called Alex. She is addicted to alcohol and medicine, suffers from different diseases and hypochondria. She is dictating her memoirs to her secretary.
Christopher „Chris“ Flanders, „Angel of Death“: 34 years old (160b), has translated a „Swami“ book (the book of an Indian philosopher) (160m, 194t), designs mobiles (160t). His vocation is to visit rich old Ladies that are about to die and help them through it (220m). He is an ambiguous character (183m). Mrs. Frances „Blackie“ Black: Mrs. Goforth’s secretary other characters:
Marquessa Constance Ridgeway-Condetti, „Connie“ or „the witch of Capri“: a friend of Mrs. Goforth’s
Rudy, a watchman
Simonetta and Giulio, servants
Two stage assistants, dressed in black, usually their function is to reset the stage props, but they sometimes are involved in the play or represent other people, for example Dr. Lullo (141m). Only in this case the other players notice them.
The drama „The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore“ is subdivided into a prologue and six scenes. In the prologue the two stage assistants explain their function and describe the setting: daybreak and flag rising ceremony on Mrs. Goforth`s Mountain. The drama takes place on the Divina Costiera in Italy in the summer 1963. Flora Goforth, a rich old widow who has survived four husbands begins to dictate her memoirs in haze of alcohol and drugs to her secretary, Mrs. Black. Flora Goforth lives in a guarded and hardly attainable villa on a mountain peak, because she is afraid of anybody who could steal her expensive things. She is visited by the young Christ-poet Christopher Flanders, who came up a steep and dangerous goat path to reach her villa. After he has been attacked by two watch-dogs, she has to take him in. Her friend, the Marquesa Constance Ridgeway-Condotti, called the „witch of Capri“, is invited for dinner and tells Flora more about her guest; that he is known to visit rich old Ladies who are about to die. Mrs. Goforth states that she's not superstitious. Flora has some crazy behavior, for example she denies her host every kind of food. He seems to be used to the crazy behavior of the old Ladies. In the afternoon of the next day when Connie, the witch, has gone, Flora and Chris talk about both of their lives, the sense of life and a lot of other stuff. He admits that he found his vocation in helping dying people through it. She understands that Connie was right with her warnings about this young man. But at this time she is already dying. The two stage assistants describe the flag lowering ceremony.
mobiles: Chris Flanders produces mobiles, he's an artist. A mobile symbolizes flexible art, something that is always the same but looks different. It symbolizes freedom, the free and flexible Chris.
griffin: a griffin is a bird, a golden one is painted on Mrs. Goforth's banner, Chris explains that a griffin is "a force in life almost stronger than death". A griffin symbolizes power and might and in golden colors wealth as well. Also a griffin, when gripping a little animal with his claws brings death, like Christopher is said to do. flag rising ceremony: The drama starts and finishes with the flag rising ceremony on Mrs. Goforth's mountain. Both times described by the two stage assistants. That cause a picture of completeness, the action is complete.
boom: Chris always says "boom" when one wave crashes against one mountain. Also he wants to make another mobile and call this one boom (224m). He later says that this means boom, "no explanation, no translation, just 'boom'" (224b). The word boom usually describes a sound that results from one thing hitting another one, in this case the old sea crashing onto the old mountains. He is fascinated by this and wants to depict that in his art.
Goforth: Mrs. Goforth's name indicates a verb; to go forth, which means to go somewhere. She says: "Sissy Goforth's not ready to go forth yet and won't go forth till she's ready..." (205t). She is of the opinion that she is not ready to die yet. Black: Blackie is not a character that is important for the drama's action. She is black, hidden, does her job and doesn't seem to have a private life.
Christopher: His name indicates his background, he's a Christian. On the contrary to this is the ambiguity of his character (183m).
The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore: The title of the drama is used by Mrs.
Goforth two times at the very end on p. 222 in the middle and on the bottom.
She understands that he has only visited her because he knew she was dying and tells him that he miscalculated with her. The second time she tells him that he should go back to Naples and work on middle-aged drunk people, because "sometimes the old milk train still comes to a temporary stop at their crazy station". She wants him to turn away from her and get other people.
(Annotation: The stage order follows from the author's notes, the prologue and the stage directions in the drama)
On Goforth Mountain there are three villas, a large white one and two small ones, called villinos. The blue villino is the home of Mrs. Goforth’s secretary, Mrs. Black, the pink one is supposed to host guests. The villas are, naturally, much further apart than they can appear on the stage. The stage represents the bedrooms of the two villinos and the bedroom and the library as well as the terrace of the white villa. The latter is the main setting. That should be extended over most of the stage. The areas not used in one scene should be covered by a folding screen.
On the first glance a connection between the drama and the American Dream is difficult, because one cannot find the obvious clues that are visible in other dramas, for example "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof".
The two main characters, Flora Goforth and Christopher Flanders both haven't lived a life so far that would be typical for the American Dream. She hasn't worked for her money, she has inherited it by her first husband (184t). This is rather the opposite of the American Dream, because its motto is to get wealthy by working hard. She owns all this money, but can't really do anything with it. She lives in a noble villa, wears the best clothes, has a whole lot of jewelry ( 164m), but can't really use it, she starts to drink and to take drugs. Her first name, Flora, means "flower" in different Romance languages. One is likely to see her like a flower, that was small and inconspicuous first (in her childhood in Georgia, she calls herself a swamp bitch), later grew by show biz first and then by her marriage with Harlon Goforth (184t). Still later her beauty faded due to the wealth, even though she still considers herself to be good-looking (183b). Due to these vast contrasts, she is not a role model of the American Dream.
He on the other hand is pretty without means, carries all that he owns in a duffel bag. That would sound like he's a vagabond, but he always visits old ladies that invited him some long time ago, Mrs. Goforth allegedly said to him "at the Ballet Ball, some years ago, quite a few (...) you asked me to come whenever I was in Europe." (183m). So you could say he lives well on other people's expenses. But that traveling around gives him the feeling of freedom. This feeling is intensified by the fact that he is an artist and creates mobiles. Those mobiles stand for freedom and flexibility. He does fit to the American Dream regarded the second factor, liberty. He is the one that is free, he can go where he wants to, probably invited by many rich old ladies that he got to know on some ball or festival some years ago. He has its inspiration inside, that is the thing to make him rich, and he carries his wealth with him. He still can become a rich person by working as an artist or poet and selling the results, becoming famous and own a lot of money. So he still could become a role model of the American Dream by using his inspiration.
Williams, Tennessee: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, The Night of the Iguana; Penguin Books, Manchester, 1976; pp. 134- 224
Allié, Manfred and Nagler, Jörg: Die Klassiker der amerikanischen Literatur - Von der frühen Nationalliteratur bis zur Gegenwart; pp. 259-264
Bordman, Gerald: American Theatre 1930-69 - A chronic of Comedy and Drama; Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996; pp. 386, 393
Collierts Encyclopedia, 1987; pp. 497-498
Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography - The New Consciousness 1941- 1968; Gale Research Company, Ann Arbor/Michigan, 1987; pp. 531f IBA Internationales Biographisches Institut; Murzinger, Ravensburg; keyword: Williams http://www.etsu.edu/hayled/DissHome.html
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