Your Soul Constricted: Tennessee Williams on Alma in SUMMER AND SMOKE

Geraldine Page in Summer and Smoke, captured by Roy Schatt.

"Look at this tiny toy town of perfect lawns and manicured women and order and balance applied to all of those things for which there can never be order and balance. The body is dead and now lies in a room attended to by people who cover it in linen and bathe its limbs and mutter prayers for its proper deliverance. The body is still dead, and its survivors still devastated, but the prayers continue. Food is delivered, comfort murmured, backs and hands patted. Casseroles and cards and comforting words. A beautifully handwritten note at the top of which a hole has been punched, a piece of pink ribbon pulled through it: a prayer for healing you can hang from a wall. All of this attention comes down upon you and smothers you and ties you closer to the town; your roots sink ever deeper into its soil, even though you never felt loved or welcomed here. And there is that huge sky, laughingly reminding you that there is so much out there in the world beyond Glorious Hill, places to go, people to meet, passions to be plumbed, and here you are, a ribboned prayer on the wall, a corset to be tied, a church social to be attended, at which you will serve sandwiches without crust or complaint, and you die some more, your soul constricted beneath that girdle and beneath that sky.

"And that is Alma," Tenn told me, "and that is me."

From James Grissom's Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog (Vintage). © 2015


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