Psychologically Troubled Combat Veterans in Early Postwar American Drama
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CitationMccaffrey, Charles. 2019. Psychologically Troubled Combat Veterans in Early Postwar American Drama. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractIn the late 1940s, the award-winning playwrights Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Sidney Kingsley each included a combat veteran as a main character in their first postwar play. Each play presents a combat veteran who displays a different psychological problem that hinders his readjustment to civilian life. In Miller’s All My Sons, Army veteran Chris Keller alienates himself from civilians who did not experience the brotherhood and shared sacrifice of men in combat. In Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Army veteran Stanley Kowalski, dominates others with the violent behavior that helped him survive combat. In Kingsley’s Detective Story, Navy Veteran Arthur Kindred resents those who avoided wartime service while he suffered through combat.
This thesis contends that contextualizing these plays in relation to the cultural moment when they were written, provides present-day viewers a crucial path toward a deeper understanding of each play. If present-day viewers consider early postwar anxieties regarding combat veterans, they can see another facet to the dramatic characters Chris, Stanley, and Arthur. When a present-day viewer fully recognizes these main characters as psychologically troubled combat veterans, they can see themes within the plays which they might otherwise currently overlook.
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