Friday, November 11, 2011

The Occasional Series of Ideas for Papers on John Kennedy Toole, Part 10

Tennessee Williams and Toole

In the Toole papers, there is only one mention of Tennessee Williams in the papers from pre-1963. In an undergraduate assignment (see Evidence of Influences version 2.0, page 11), when Toole discussed Chaucer's Wife of Bath, he compared her to Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Joel Fletcher, a college friend of Toole and confidant to Thelma toward the end of her life, argued in his memoir that Confederacy parodies A Streetcar Named Desire (Ken and Thelma, p. 26). In a critical essay, Robert Siegel argued that in Williams's work, the flesh and the spirit "seek, test, and do battle with each other" ("The Metaphyics of Tennessee Williams," in Magical Muse, 2002, page 112+). In Roger Boxill's Tennessee Williams (1987), Brick is described as "a child in a world of adults" (117).

Castration is also a theme common to Williams and Toole (to say nothing of Walker Percy's The Moviegoer). Boxill sees a castration theme in "Three Players" (115), a short story which represents an early draft of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Castration is a theme in the symbolism of the planetary god Saturn and in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which Young claims was a predecessor to New Orleans Carnival.

In Confederacy, Ignatius spouts Boethian ideals while clearly himself being very carnal. He is also treated and acts like a child, though he is thirty.

Thesis: Compare the carnal/spiritual split in Toole and Williams, and the issues of immaturity and castration.