‘The Angel In The Alcove’ by Tennessee Williams

Williams, Tennessee 1947

The Angel In The Alcove by Tennessee Williams, 1948

The magic trick:

Making the narrator very specific and detailed in his description of places and events, and equally as vague about the nature of his relationship with his evicted neighbor

This story blends the precise with the vague beautifully. The narrator describes the New Orleans house he lives in with such detail, the reader feels transported to its dank hallways. He describes the landlady with even more flair. He does not however go into detail about the relationship he has with the young male artist who lives next door. It is clear they engage sexually one night (“I want to, I want to, he whispered. So I lay back and let him do what he wanted until he was finished.”) but he never expounds upon the nature of his feelings. Instead he only tells of the young artist’s subsequent eviction with the detached descriptions of a journalist. The contrast of storytelling styles is gripping. Throw in the supernatural symbolism of the angel, and there is plenty here to think about and analyze. And that’s quite a trick on Williams’s part.

The selection:

I cocked an eye toward the alcove. Yes, she was there. I wondered if she had witnessed the strange goings-on and what her attitude was toward perversions of longing. But nothing gave any sign. The two weightless hands so loosely clasping each other among the colorless draperies of the lap, the cool and believing gray eyes in the faint pearly face, were immobile as statuary. I felt that she had permitted the act to occur and had neither blamed nor approved, and so I went off to sleep.


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