Review: ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’ by Tennessee Williams

A while back I reviewed ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Tennessee Williams, and it was really well received so I thought I’d review another of ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’ by the same author- this time a copy bought for me by my sister!

‘Sweet Bird of Youth’ is the intriguing and complex tale of Chance Wayne, a young man who shacks up in a hotel room with an ageing actress, referred to most often as the Princess.

In his hometown of St Cloud, Chance means trouble, and he is back there to seek out his childhood lover, the beautiful Heavenly- aptly named, as her father is a supposedly pious, religious man.

Heavenly’s father, Boss Finley- believing Chance and Heavenly to have slept together when she was only 15 years old- has it out for the young man, attempting to chase him back out of St Cloud.

Boss is a big-shot in St Cloud, and when he found out about Heavenly’s “indiscretions” she was forced to have an operation of some kind- an operation which supposedly caused her so much despair and anguish that she is now a shadow of her youthful self.

The play basically focuses on Chance and the Princess’ dialogue, with other scenes also considering Boss Finley’s anger at the return of Chance to St Cloud, and his attempts to get rid of him.

Additionally, Williams points out the hypocrisy of this public figure- who preaches about the importance of purity, and yet has a mistress, and has no problem committing foul acts of “religion” on black men in the area.

Like many of Williams’ plays, this work was full of nuances and subtleties.

Boss Finley’s character in ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’ showed the hypocrisy of contemporary Southern public figures, and the way in which he treats his daughter shows the powerlessness of women, particularly in the South.

The two main characters argue, both look sad and the woman points into the distance, as if suggesting the man should leave.
Picture credits here

I thought the dialogue on the fading of youth had particular depth to it, with Chance and the Princess lamenting getting older, and Heavenly showing the ageing affects of trauma and sadness on someone so beautiful.

Overall I thought this was a really interesting read, and it certainly showcased a lot of important themes- such as women’s place in society, and the issues of religious and sexual “purity” and “destruction.”

While this play relied mainly on dialogue, rather than action, I thought it was a brilliant read, and the deeper messages in particular really appealed to me.

Have you read ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’? Are you a fan of Williams’ work? Did you enjoy this review of ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’?

Let me know all your thoughts below 🙂

Happy reading x

Picture credits available here

10 thoughts

  1. Wow this sounds like a really poignant read with a lot of deep themes being addressed. I’m not that familiar with reading plays but this sounds really engaging. Thanks for the great review.

    Liked by 1 person

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