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Tennessee Williams



Tennessee Williams
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.23

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    lyrical, dramatist, turbulent, patriarch, symbolism, playwright, largely, literary, reading, writing, notable, typewriter, estate, relationship, morally, poet
     content words:    Tennessee Williams, Thomas Lanier Williams, Edwina Williams, Eventually Williams, Washington University, Spring Storm, Theatre Guild, Rockefeller Foundation, American Academy, Glass Menagerie


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Tennessee Williams
By Jamie Kee
  

1     Tennessee Williams, born Thomas Lanier Williams, was a major American playwright of the twentieth century. He was often called a poetical playwright. Although a number of his plays were unsuccessful or hardly recognized, Williams' most successful plays gained attention worldwide.
 
2     Williams was born on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, to parents Cornelius and Edwina Williams. He was the second born of three children. His father was a traveling salesman who was often away from the family. For many years Williams, his two siblings, and his mother lived with her parents, so he developed a close relationship with his grandfather. Williams was also close to his older sister, Rose. Sadly, the Williams family was seldom happy. His father, when home, would drink and gamble. His sister, Rose, spent much of her life in mental institutions. Williams felt distant from his younger brother, Dakin. When he was seven, Williams developed diphtheria and wasn't able to do much, so his mother encouraged him to use his imagination. She bought him a typewriter at the age of thirteen.
 
3     When Williams' father got a job at a shoe factory, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where they lived in a crowded, low-rent apartment. Williams disliked St. Louis. He was teased by other students and often skipped school, so he escaped the world through writing and reading. Williams published his first story while still in high school. In 1929, after completing high school, Williams entered the University of Missouri. Finances forced him to leave school and work at a shoe factory. Williams spent his days working at the shoe factory and his nights writing. Having a breakdown from utter exhaustion, he moved to Tennessee to recuperate with his grandfather. Eventually Williams went back to college, this time at Washington University in St. Louis. He later transferred to the University of Iowa where he would see his first play produced, Spring Storm (1938), and eventually earn a bachelor's degree. It was said that Williams got his nickname from his university classmates because of his southern accent. He later chose to change his first name because he considered it appropriate for a poet. That same year he published his first short story using his new literary name, Tennessee Williams.

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