Tennessee Williams: The Whole Meaning Of My Work

Photograph by Michael Childers/Courtesy of Corbis/

Interview with Studs Terkel

I'm not sure I've ever met a complete person. I've met many people that seemed well-adjusted, but I'm not sure that to be well-adjusted to things as they are is a desideratum--is that the word? that which is to be desired. I'm not sure I would want to be well-adjusted to things as they are. I would prefer to be racked by desire for things better than what they are, even for things which are unattainable, than to be satisfied with things as they are. I don't think the human race should settle for what it has now achieved at all, any more than I think America must settle for its present state. My people fought for the beginning of this country. I am totally an American, and I'm an intensely patriotic American in the sense that I feel a longing for this country to go forward and be unafraid. I feel intensely American, but I am not satisfied with the present state of things in this country and I'm afraid of complacency about it. I'm afraid of our thinking that all the rest of the world is in error and we're totally right. Nobody is right. And the whole meaning of all my work is that there is no such thing as complete right and complete wrong, complete black, complete white. That we're all in the same boat and really the boat is the world, you might even say the universe. All creation is the boat, not just one nation, not just one ideology, not just one system. That everything is in flux, everything is in a process of creation. The world is incomplete, it's like an unfinished poem.


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