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Additional resources for Gentlemen Callers: Tennessee Williams, Homosexuality, and Mid-Twentieth-Century Broadway Drama

Sample text

In medical language, it spreads by—metastasis! It creeps through the capillaries and into the main blood vessels. From there it is spread all through the surrounding tissue! Finally nothing is left outside the decay! (134–5) The Signs Are Interior 23 Eloi’s solution is equally fanatical. The city ought to be burned to the ground, “purified with fire” (136). Eloi is torn between his hysterical sexual obsession and the guilt it induces, which is represented by Miss Bordelon, who, he’s convinced, waits and listens inside.

If, however, there was to be no earthly deliverance from the terrifying depths of Williams’s feelings, in Auto-Da-Fé there was at least a new willingness to admit their existence. This is a major step forward. What is still missing is another kind of escape: an escape from the conventions of theatrical realism. As Williams became truer to his promise to be wild, passionate, and mad, he would recognize that realism was too small a vision to contain his characters’ increasingly out-sized emotions.

Everything comes back to dirt. From the dust and disorder of his room (which he refuses to let his mother clean) to the very air around them, the city, he tells his mother, is permeated with filth. This fetid old swamp we live in, the Vieux Carré! Every imaginable kind of degeneracy springs up here, not at arm’s length, even, but right in our presence! [ . ] This is the primary lesion, the—focal infection, the—chancre! In medical language, it spreads by—metastasis! It creeps through the capillaries and into the main blood vessels.

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