A person can pick up a newspaper or turn on the television and without even looking hard, the word "sex” is most likely in one of the headlines. The stories containing the sexual topics, whether used to report a national sex scandal or used for entertainment purposes, are not new in literary works. With change over time, and a larger tolerance, sex is a more accepted theme. Some of the best-selling books of today are those in which the main theme is the sex. However, back in the nineteen forties and fifties, this was a topic that most literary writers and dramatists chose to avoid, or they kept its context within a socially acceptable level. The dramatist, Tennessee Williams, was not one to conform to these guidelines. Williams is the theater's "angel of sexuality,” the dramatist most responsible for forcefully introducing sexual issues, especially those of homosexuality, to the American stage (Jones 554).
Thomas Lanier Williams was born on March 26, 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi. His father, Cornelius Coffin Williams, was a shoe salesman who spent a great deal of his time away from the family. Williams has one older sister and one younger brother. A sense of alienation drove Williams into a private life of books and writing at an early age. In 1927, Williams got his first taste of literary acclaim when he placed third in a national essay contest.
Williams studied for several years at the University of Missouri, but withdrew before completing his degree and took a job at the shoe company that his father worked at. He eventually returned to school and received a degree from the University of Iowa. During this period, Williams experimented sexually with women, and finally with men. He wrote his first plays, joined a theatrical group, and changed his name from Tom to Tennessee. By the time he left Iowa, he was a published poet, short-story writer, dramatist, and convinced of his homosexuality (Tiscler).