While reading the The Milk Train Does n’t Stop Here Anymore, I would wish to hold a closer expression on how the play mirrors the influence of Oriental doctrine, particularly that of Zen Buddhism. When Tennessee Williams got acquainted with Yukio Mishima and visited him in Japan, he non merely read old and modern NA? dramas, but besides saw NA? and Kabuki public presentations in Japan, and he used some elements of these in The Night of the Iguana ( 1961 ) .[ 1 ]In Iguana Williams begins utilizing limited sum of Kabuki elements, which will to the full shown in The Milk Train Does n’t Stop Here Anymore, The Day on Which a Man Dies, and In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel. In my paper I am traveling to give a comparing of Williams ‘s Milk Train to Japanese theater and besides, to indicate out the impact of Zen doctrine in Milk Train.
Allean Hale has documented the startling consequence of Williams ‘s debut to Yukio Mishima in 1957 and how this inspired the American playwright to regenerate his work with geographic expedition into the theater of the East. Williams read Mishima ‘s Five Modern NA? Plays, and visited him in Japan in 1959, where he saw a great trade of NA? and Kabuki public presentations. On the trip place, he began composing, what he referred to as “ an Hesperian Noh drama ” called The Day on Which a Man Dies ( 1959 ) , which would go the templet for In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel ( 1969 ) . He was working on four other dramas on that ocean trip ; one of them was The Milk Train Does n’t Stop Here Anymore. As Hale has demonstrated, Eastern influences would besides happen their manner into another work begun on that fertile journey, The Night of the Iguana ( “ Secret ” 366-7 ) . Milk Train, nevertheless, represents a more thorough-going effort to incorporate important sums of Eastern doctrine and dramatic art with his ain unmistakable trade name of Western theaters.
Hale gives a elaborate description of how Williams got acquainted with Yukio Mishima in the United States, and how Williams ‘s affinity for the Nipponese author and playwright went deep. Although he was merely 32, Mishima had already published 35 novels every bit good as a figure of dramas and was one of Japan ‘s most seeable cultural figures ( “ Secret ” 364 ) . Both authors were devoted to their work above everything else, which led, on one manus, to colossal end product but, on the other, to mostly unsatisfactory relationships with other people. Both came from households which claimed distantly blue yesteryears, and both had childhoods that were about mirror images of each other ‘s violent male parents, over-protective female parents, early unwellness that isolated them from other kids. Besides, they were both were gay work forces who, despite their several civilizations ‘ oppressive attitudes, recreated their loves and desires in their work ( “ Secret ” 364 ) .
Before giving history of the traditional dramatic art of NA? play, I shall give a short description of NA? and Kabuki theater. NA? and Kabuki are both traditional signifiers of Nipponese executing humanistic disciplines. As all of the histrions, even those in the functions of adult females, are male, the costumes, every bit good as the usage of masks in NA? and of make-up in Kabuki, are really of import. NA? originated in the fourteenth century as a signifier of amusement at spiritual festivals and developed further under the protection of mediaeval shoguns. NA? uses a assortment of devices to heighten the significance of gestures and motions. The supporter ever wears a carven wooden mask, of which there are six chief types: sanctum work forces, Gods and devils, old work forces, liquors, work forces, and adult females. Though the phase has small ornament, the costumes of the histrions are flowery and monolithic: the histrions wear at least five beds of garments, all of different colourss and forms. Costume and dissemble combine to give an spiritual quality to the performing artist. Hand props are besides used to specify and show significance, most notably the folding fan.
Kabuki had its beginnings as a dance signifier in the seventeenth century. In a Kabuki drama, singing and dancing are used to foster the development of the secret plan. Common subjects include the quandary of love, green-eyed monster, and epic courage. In add-on to brilliant costumes, many manners of make-up are used. One such called kumadori, or “ devising shadows, ” is an art signifier in itself. In kumadori, white foundation is applied to the full face, and one of a set of established colorful forms is painted on. The two most common colourss used are ruddy, which denotes virtuousnesss such as courage, strength, and justness, and dark blue, which expresses negative traits like green-eyed monster and fright. Black, terra-cotta, bronze, and gold are common as good.
In his Introduction to Mishima ‘s dramas, Donald Keene provides an lineation for NA? , the signifier which has changed small since the 17th century. The drama
was likely to get down with a priest on a journey to some holy topographic point. There he meets a individual of the locality whose queerly poetic words contradict his low visual aspect. The priest inquiries the unknown harvester or fishergirl, who bit by bit reveals the narrative of his former glorification, and leads us to understand that some unsated fond regard to the universe has kept his spirit behind. At the terminal of the drama, a hope of redemption, of rescue from the fond regard, is offered, and the shade fades off. ( Five Modern No Plays x-xi )
The low harvester or fisherwoman ( this figure is called the crap ) has another individuality. After casting an outer costume, the crap ‘s true nature is revealed in a climactic dance: a devil, possibly or a warrior or a beautiful adult female.
Williams was led to Arthur Waley ‘s The No Plays of Japan by Keene ‘s bibliographical note, in which he mentions that four of the five original dramas on which Mishima based his modern versions were available in English in Waley ‘s celebrated volume. The book was foremost published in the United States in 1922, and so was reissued in 1957. It seems really likely that Williams turned to Waley ‘s book before working on Milk Train. In add-on to the brief drama texts, Williams found a elaborate history and description of NA? theater and, crucially, a “ Note on Buddhism. ” From the former, Williams learned that a NA? drama is without active, meaningful struggle per Se, which tells the pilgrim of his or her earthly life, and that the drama ‘s important colourss are “ memory, yearning or sorrow ” ( 53 ) . “ The Note on Buddhism ” informed Williams that at the bosom of NA? were dogmas of Zen Buddhism ; the belief that the psyche ‘s being will be absorbed into Nirvana, or Buddha, the apprehension that the physical universe is mere semblance, and that the lone flight from stuff being, or the “ Wheel of Life and Death, ” is Enlightenment ( 58 ) . The Note besides contains information on the Bodhisattvas, “ mediators between Buddha and adult male. . . existences who, though fit to have Buddhahood, have of their ain free will abdicate it, that they may break relieve the wretchednesss of world. ” Harmonizing to Waley, the most good known of the Bodhisattvas was Kannon, who might take either a adult female or a adult male ‘s signifier but in Japan was by and large considered to be a adult female ( 57 ) .[ 2 ]I feel compelled to detect that this short sum-up is a mere simplification of Zen ; it was written by a westerner, who has ne’er practiced Zen, and read his ain Western prepossessions into the doctrine of Buddhism. At around the same clip, when Williams got acquainted with Buddhism, Zen Masterss, like Shunryu Suzuki, arrived in the United States, and gave reliable instructions. Although Suzuki arrived in San Francisco in 1959 and founded a Zen Centre, where he conveyed his reliable Zen instructions, his negotiations were published in a written signifier merely in 1970, in his book entitled Zen Mind, Beginner ‘s Mind. Until Shunryu Suzuki ‘s work, there were legion books available in English, but they contained some westernized, distorted positions on Buddhism, which, in the 1950s became instead popular in the United States. Williams obtained the westernized, simplified philosophical underpinning for which he had been seeking.
Harmonizing to Hale, Williams was particularly interested in Mishima ‘s “ adult female drama, ” The Lady Aoi, a narrative of ownership, in which the psyche of a covetous kept woman invades the married woman of her lover ( “ Secret ” 366 ) . The original version of this drama, Aoi No Uye, appears in Waley and contains a character, which does non look in Mishima ‘s version. She is the Witch of Teruhi, a diviner, who, by tweaking a bow-string calls forth the angry spirit of RokujA? , who is assailing the ailing organic structure of the Princess Aoi, and Williams seem to hold borrowed her mystical powers for Milk Train. Prepared by his reading and by seeing several public presentations both in Japan and in New York ( “ Secret ” 368 ) , Williams could transform his short narrative, “ Man Bring This Up Road ” into his ain version of a NA? drama, The Milk Train Does n’t Stop Here Anymore ( 1962 ) .
Before reading The Milk Train Does n’t Stop Here Anymore, I wish to put down my apparently unconventional critical stance of “ Zen-reading. ” As such a class is non used among critical theories, I would expect that a Zen-reading is non an exceeding manner of attack to read cultural phenomena.[ 3 ]The chief accent in my reading is based upon the premise that the doctrine of Zen Buddhism is every bit of import as western doctrine to near the Zen-inspired dramas of Williams.[ 4 ]From this prepossession, it seems to be rational if I take both the Oriental and the Western motives into consideration in my readings because Williams wrote Milk Train for a Western audience with both Occidental and Oriental dramaturgic agencies.
Sissy Goforth, the artist figure of The Milktrain represents a turning motion towards abstraction among Williams ‘s visionaries. Like the Princess and Shannon in Iguana, she enters airy provinces through poisoning, but because she exists in a more stray world-an Italian Villa on the Divina Costiera-her intoxicated visions more wholly spread out to make full the phase, favoring vision over journey. Sissy ‘s Villa is far from being an idyllic kingdom of freedom ; while in Williams ‘s successful dramas such topographic points served as a possible topographic point to get away to, in Milk Train the Villa and its environing seems much more a site of diabolic captivity. In his “ Author ‘s Notes ” to the drama, Williams suggests that “ the drama will come off better the farther it is removed from conventional theater, since it ‘s justly been described as an fable and as a ‘sophisticated faery narrative ‘ ” ( 3 ) . Reviewers did non react good to the “ fairy narrative ” when the drama opened at the Spolcto Festival in 1962 ; they regarded the drama as a Tennessee Williams low point, an awkward failure of which the lupus erythematosus said the better. The drama opened on Broadway on 16th January 1963, and it seemed to referees at the clip like a extremist going from what they had expected from Williams. The negative reappraisals closed the drama after 69 public presentations. A subsequent Broadway production in October 1963, with a revised book, met with a worse destiny, shutting after merely four public presentations. Critics such as Stanley Richards concurred that the drama was “ wholly incomprehensible ” ( 66 ) , and John Gassner, an early protagonist of Williams, declared the drama to be a “ debacle. . . a reminder that silk purses merely can non be made out of sows ears ” ( Theatre 186 ) . Richard Gilman ‘s reappraisal of the first production, “ Mistah Williams He Dead, ” has become a landmark of negative unfavorable judgment, in which he declares Williams ‘s decease as a dramatist. As Gilman remarks, the drama is used “ non to work out [ Williams ‘s ] quandary aesthetically but to exhibit them in their incipient signifier ” ( 515 ) . The drama has, over the old ages of Williams ‘s increasing goings from realist conventions, come to look to academic critics to more closely resemble the earlier dramas, as seen in Gilbert Debusscher ‘s statement that Milk Train was “ the last of his full-length dramas. . . before acute personal jobs forced the dramatist into a drawn-out artistic occultation ” ( 399 ) .
The immediate journalistic reaction against the drama was in response to the elephantine theatricalist measure which Milk Train takes beyond Iguana ‘s more limited metatheatricalism, traveling toward the progressively experimental theatricalist modes that will qualify the remainder of his work. The most obvious of these experiments in the drama are the Kabuki-style phase helpers who change scenery in forepart of the audience, thereby making a twofold consciousness of for the audience of the theatrical topic of the drama. Norman Fedder was non amused by these theatricalist effects and their going from Williams ‘s earlier poetic manner, believing that they “ garishly reveal the structural purposelessness and dissemble the unity of the drama ” ( 804 ) , and believing that “ the inordinate theatrics serve to name attending to the unsubstantial significance ” ( 804 ) .
Milk Train does non resemble the earlier successful dramas, as it has small meaningful struggle ; it is a drama in which planar characters exchange long, frequently narrative addresss, the topics of which are the memories of a life about done and the demand to welcome decease. Milk Train occurs on the boundary line between life and death, in which a pilgrim meets a character whose unrealized, ungratified spirit demands release from the universe of mercenary semblance. Williams wrote non merely his version of a NA? drama, but he opened the manner to a new personal dramatic art, with which he would brush off most of his past statements and values, explore new districts, and arrive at new decisions about the value of life and death.
Even those few critics who have tried difficult to wish the drama insist on look up toing it on Western footings. Their purposes may be good, but in the terminal they merely condescend to the drama and contribute to the general misinterpretation. Some, as will be seen, have tried to deliver a “ bland ” Chris Flanders by sing him as a St. Christopher figure or even as Christ himself. Chris is, so, a spiritual figure but his beginning is Eastern: the Bodhisattva, a Zen Buddhist figure who, abandoning Buddhahood, devotes his life to others. Indeed, everything in Milk Train ‘s symbolism, construction, and characters that struck critics as inept in Western footings is, in NA? theater, beautiful and appropriate.
For audiences of the first Broadway production, Williams provided a intimation of his purposes in a plan note, inquiring them to see Sissy non as a human being but as a “ cosmopolitan status of human existences: “ the seemingly inexplicable but certainly somehow important escapade of being alive that we all must go through through for a clip ” ( Taubman ) . Before the revised version opened for a trial at the Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia, in September 1963, Williams told The New York Times that a trip to Japan in 1961 had left him “ profoundly impressed ” with Eastern doctrine. With dry understatement, he described Milk Train as “ mistily Oriental with Occidental fluctuations ” ( “ Milk Train ” ) . The published version of the text is preceded by an epigram Williams borrowed from Yeats, another dramatist influenced by NA? , in which the poet yearns for his bosom to be set free from his deceasing organic structure and released into infinity.
Among critics, merely Allean Hale has taken Williams ‘s involvement in Zen Buddhism every bit good as Nipponese dramatic art earnestly, and her work, particularly on In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel, is important to any existent apprehension of several of Williams ‘s later dramas ( “ Tennessee ‘s ” 211-12 ) . Those few critics who have acknowledged any Eastern influence in the drama at all have limited themselves to its most obvious and least of import manifestation, the two Kabuki phase helpers, which they easy dismiss as “ bogus ” ( Weales 66 ) and “ camp Kabuki bunk ” which, one says, Williams had fallen victim to “ after passing more clip in Japan than was good for him ” ( Coveney ) . Another critic, Signi Falk minimizes the drama ‘s Nipponese influence and inflates the importance of its alleged Christian symbolism: “ The dramatist seems to unite the Oriental thought of surrender, of accepting decease, with the myth of Christ wrestling with the job of good and evil, and eventually, in behalf of world, transporting his load of wickednesss ” ( 127 ) . Indeed, Falk ‘s unfavorable judgment of Milk Train comes in a chapter entitled “ The Deteriorating Artist. ” Army for the liberation of rwanda from deteriorating, Williams set out on a new class ; the way of that class was due east, and its finish Zen Buddhism and the NA? theater.
Williams based his ain “ NA? drama ” on the 1953 short narrative, “ Man Bring This Up Road, ” a stark, simple narrative about the meeting of a done for poet and shaper of Mobiles named Jimmy Dobyne, and the affluent Mrs. Flora Goforth at her estate on a cliff North of Amalfi. He arrives hungry and dog-tired, despairing for remainder. Any opportunity of his recuperating at the Villa is dashed, nevertheless, when he rejects Mrs. Goforth ‘s amative progresss, and he is sent packing down the route every bit shortly as prevarication came up.
In Milk Train Christopher Flanders, carries in his heavy white poke a Mobile called “ The Earth Is a Wheel in a Great Big Gambling Casino, ” and his pattern of sing deceasing millionairesses earns him the moniker “ The Angel of Death. ” He has come because the once robust Mrs. Goforth of “ Man Bring This Up Road ” has acquired a fatal unwellness. She rejects the suggestion that she is deceasing of a “ lung abscess, ” which would build her as one of Williams ‘s earlier metaphoric visionaries, disfigured through an ethereal and sexual combustion. She theatricalizes her rejection of the TB metaphor by forcing an X-ray machine that looks to her like a “ baby buggy signifier Mars ” ( 12 ) over a drop, claiming that “ my exterior is public, but my interiors are private ” ( 120 ) , besides looking to project off the manner of expressionism, which presents play from the “ interior ” position of a supporter. Steeped in denial, Flora ( now nicknamed “ Sissy ” ) is nonetheless rushing against the clock to complete ordering her memoirs to her secretary, Blackie, and chew overing on the significance of life and decease. A friend, unnamed in the narrative, who lives on a adjacent island, is now called the Marchesa Constance Ridgeway-Condotti, with the unexplained honorific, “ the Witch of Capri. ” Her character seems to be Williams ‘s playful testimonial to the diviner of The Lady Aoi. In scene three, her face lit by the eerie bluish fire of a Cu brasier, Williams ‘s enchantress performs “ a conventionalized recitation ” in which she tells Sissy the narrative of Chris ‘s first mystical-and fatal-visitation to a affluent old adult female ( 51 ) .
Sissy ‘s great wealth, hardly mentioned in the narrative, is conspicuous in the drama ; she says from the get downing how she wedded to the stuff universe, like a crap. “ Blackie, ” she tells her immature secretary, “ this estate contains things appraised by Lloyd ‘s at over two million lbs greatest, besides my gems and summer pelts, and that ‘s why it has to be guarded against intruders, uninvited interlopers ” ( 16 ) . Indeed, her estate of three Villas is more like a fortress, perched at the top of a drop, like the “ Hotel for the Dying ” in Iguana, overlooking the Divina Costiera of Italy and guarded by armed watchers and attack Canis familiariss. This clasp is perched “ Above the oldest sea in the Western universe ” ( 7 ) , someplace between Earth and sky, between the material universe and the kingdom of the spirit.
The drama is framed with the visual aspect of those two “ unseeable ” Phase Assistants. During a Prologue, they raise Sissy ‘s heraldic streamer, the device on which is the image of a gryphon, “ fabulous monster, half king of beasts, and half bird of Jove, and wholly human ” ( 7 ) . This Prologue is every bit Brechtian as it is Asiatic, for the Assistants state the spectator/reader that the drama occurs over “ the class of the two concluding yearss of Mrs. Goforth ‘s being. ” In other words, like an heroic poem Brecht drama, Milk Train contains little in the manner of conventional suspension of incredulity ; it is out of inquiry that the female chief character will decease, but the chief inquiry is how she will decease. The drama ends with the Phase Assistants ‘ take downing the banner-life is over-but with a muted bugle playing Reveille instead than Taps. Reveille, the call that signals the beginning of another twenty-four hours, suggests that Sissy is traveling on to the following phase of life after her decease.
Around the Villa monsters proliferate, “ The sea is full of Medusas ” ( 44 ) , and although they are simply cutting Portuguese man-of-war, they portion the name of the fabulous female monster, one of the three Gorgons in Greek mythology, part-human, whose hairs are vipers. Like her gryphon, Sissy is something of a monster herself, a devouring, egomaniacal devil, profoundly afraid of decease. Her first line, as she awakens to another twenty-four hours of hurting, is ego personified: “ Ahhhhhhhh, Meeeeeeeeee. . . ” ( 8 ) . As she becomes witting, she utters a call of physical hurting and experiential angst: “ Another twenty-four hours. Oh, Christ, Oh, Mother of Jesus! ” ( 8 ) . Sissy, wracked by unwellness and hurting, needs to decease. Still, although faced with the chance of intolerable hurting from the abscess in her lung, she can non face the enigma of what will come after. Like the Lady Aoi in Mishima ‘s drama, Sissy sleeps merely under sedation, ever accompanied by incubuss.
In one of the first NA? parallels of the drama, Williams literalizes Sissy ‘s monstrous self-importance by showing how it has devoured the Villa. She has wired every edifice for sound, her voice perforating wood, plaster, and rock in order to cite Blackie and launch into command at any minute. Sissy ‘s self-importance demands immediate satisfaction and pervades every inch of her mountain land, denying remainder and privateness to her staff, whom she dismisses on a caprice. Sissy has besides made sure that she will keep an earthly presence even after decease: except for one dollar which will travel to her girl, the entireness of Sissy ‘s estate will travel to a cultural foundation named after her ( 12 ) .
Like a shite figure, Sissy ‘s life now revolves around her yesteryear. “ Has it of all time struck you, Connie, ” she says to the Witch, “ that life is all memory except for the one present minute that goes by you so speedy you barely catch it traveling? . . . Practically everything is a memory to me, now. . . . Four hubbies, all memory now. All lovers, all memory now ” ( 46-47 ) . Many of her addresss are soliloquies about her yesteryear in the term of determined memoirs ; ordering twenty-four hours and dark over a speaker unit system, Sissy produces a pandemonium of confused memory texts, go forthing her secretary the impossible undertaking of doing some order on them for publication. In Milk Train there is a gradual displacement from modernist memory dramas to later metamimetic memory dramas ; modern memory dramas are based upon the analytic construction of present/past, whereas in metamimetic memory dramas recollection juxtaposes two or more clip frames in a non-hierarchical manner.
Sissy ‘s life has been every bit devoted to physical pleasance as it has been to acquisition of stuff goods. Not surprisingly, her memoirs speak mostly about the earthly affair of sex with four hubbies, legion lovers, and about wild costume parties where Sissy appeared wholly bare as Lady Godiva, and sex-crazed work forces viing to “ unhorse me so they could mount me ” ( 36 ) . Her description of her last hubby, who, entirely of all four, brought her that gift, is simply a relation of his physical flawlessness and of sex they had on the first dark of their matrimony. Alex ‘s organic structure, she tells Blackie, was “ God ‘s flawlessness ” ( 14 ) . That ‘s all she says about her hubby figure four.
Sissy ‘s denial of her mortality drives her to encompass desire and self-importance all the more closely. What she needs to contend off her depression, she tells Blackie, is a lover. “ The dead are dead and the life are populating! ” ( 35 ) . Carol Cutrere in Orpheus Descending could non show herself better, but in Milk Train, this creed proves to be another false 1. Where Williams one time proclaimed sex, love, and religious flawlessness as unsmooth equivalents in this drama, he mocks this manner of thought. In Milk Train, such a credo, in the oral cavity of a deceasing old adult female, may at most be touching, or instead, comically grotesque.
Sissy ‘s memory of Alex has non yet faded into silence when Chris Flanders arrives ; he is a immature adult male, but non every bit immature as he appears. “ He has the expressions of a powerful, beat-up, but still undefeated combatant, ” Williams writes, while, in the distance, “ female voices are heard crying ” ( 19 ) . Sissy mistakes his true gift, which is non his animal being but his ability to let go of the ego-driven from life. Chris ‘s character is new in the dramatist ‘s work, since in Williams ‘s typology, a character like him ever stood for the triumph of earthly desire and its religious parallel against the forces of repression.
The following forenoon, Chris ‘s cue to re-emerge on the patio is Sissy ‘s line, “ Meaning of life! ” ( 60 ) . In Williams ‘s successful dramas, virile immature work forces served as a metaphor of a testimonial to the religious rapture of physical desire. For the American audience in 1963, Chris likely seemed another version of Kilroy, Val Xavier, Stanley Kowalski, or Chance Wayne. As I shall read his character, Chris is really Hannah Jelkes, and his function will be non to provide physical rapture but to supply a release from its spirals. As Williams told The New York Times, the values Chris brings Sissy are “ values that her life was the antonym of, an credence of what must go on ( “ Milk Train ” ) .
Critics have long associated Chris Flanders with Christian symbols. Gassner calls him a Holy Ghost ( 76 ) ; to Norman J. Fedder he is “ Christlike ” ( 803 ) and Roger Boxhill considers him both a symbol of redemption and a cocotte ( 146, 149 ) . Philip Armato considers Williams a “ Christian dramatist ” wholly ( 570 ) , while Gilbert Debusscher, more cagily, considers Chris a St. Christopher figure. Debusscher points out that the load Chris carries biddings images of St. Christopher bearing travellers across a river ( 155 ) . Williams surely seems to give several chances to see Chris as a modern St. Christopher transporting Christ across the river. When he foremost appears on Sissy ‘s patio and attempts to explicate his demand to care for others, she replies sceptically, “ Oh, you seem to be puting yourself up as a-as a saint of some sort. . . . “ ( 75 ) . Following, the Witch of Capri relates to Chris ‘s narrative as if it were a fable of Christ, concentrating upon the “ miracle ” ( 51 ) of mending and decease he is reputed to hold performed. Later Effeminate asks Chris jestingly if he can “ walk on H2O? ” ( 112 ) , and inquiries him: “ You came here to convey me God, did n’t you? ” ( 113 ) , disputing him to
conveying Him, Him ready to put out a ruddy rug for Him, but how do you convey Him? Whistle? Ringing a bell for Him? ( She snatches a snake pit off her desk and rings it ferociously. ) Huh? How? What? ( She staggers against the desk, panting ) ( 113 ) .
Williams seems to hold set up a trap for spectators/readers in the character of Chris, since they had gotten used to tie ining certain of Williams ‘s immature work forces with Christian sufferer. Sebastian in Suddenly Last Summer has received much attending as a symbol for his namesake saint, and Val Xavier, Kilroy, and Shannon have been interpreted as symbols of Christ. As Debusscher says, “ . . . observers. . . have managed to do each drama output its Christ figure ” ( 149 )
The St. Christopher metaphor seems to be a trap ; Chris ‘s moniker, “ The Angel of Death, ” is, to a deceasing adult female like Sissy, more terrorizing than soothing. Debusscher is besides puzzled that while St. Christopher carried people across a river to safety, Chris Flanders one time bore an old adult male out to sea to his decease and now has come to the mountain to escort Sissy to hers. The old adult male even paid Chris good for his assistance, and “ The Angel of Death ” appears to steal Sissy ‘s rings as she laboriously breathes her last. Debusscher claims that the St. Christopher analogue raises more inquiries than it answers: “ Christopher ‘s self-appointed undertaking of assisting old people, sooner deceasing adult females, he writes, “ through the last few yearss of their being. . . for a non wholly symbolic wages, prolongs the contrast embedded in the St. Christopher analogue ” ( 155 ) .
While one can see Chris as a Christian symbol, in his poke Chris carries another emblem, a Mobile called “ The Earth Is a Wheel in a Great Big Gambling Casino. ” Army for the liberation of rwanda from stand foring anything to make with Christianity, this is a symbol of Zen Buddhism, proposing that his airy stance is that of a gambler. Indeed, since Williams was using NA? conventions, Chris makes a much more convincing Bodhisattva than he does a Christian symbol. A Bodhisattva, harmonizing to Buddhist instructions, is ever where he/she is needed ; driven by no desire, a Bodhisattva with his/her mere presence is able to assist, since he/she has no outlooks, neither for good or bad. A Bodhisattva is null of all jobs of life, without any desire he/she can move spontaneously at the given minute, and even if his/her workss sometimes seem to be bad, basically a Bodhisattva ever has good workss.
Sissy, whether she can acknowledge it or non, needs aid since she is caught in an experiential crisis ; cleaving to her earthly being, she is get downing to feel that it is no longer plenty. When she proclaims, “ Meaning of life! ” the Bodhisattva enters-providing a silent indicant as to what life ‘s significance is, harmonizing to Buddhism, an semblance should be transcended. Just as Sissy may be seen as a devil adult female still caught in the labors of self-importance and earthly desires, Chris is a pilgrim, a holy adult male who speaks a westernized version of Zen in his specific idiolect. He portions with Sissy, haltingly, as if still seeking, an image of the universe as experienced by two puppies who huddle together at dark for security. They can ne’er be certain of their topographic point in a universe of obscureness and semblance. They do non cognize whether they please their maestro, since they “ . . . hear so many sounds, voices, and see so many things they ca n’t grok! . . . We ‘re all of us populating in a house we ‘re non used to. . . a house full of -voices, noises, objects, unusual shadows, light that ‘s even stranger-We ca n’t understand! ” ( 76 ) . Subsequently, Chris extends the metaphor: “ Yes-we all live in a house on fire, no fire section to name ; no manner out, merely the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it ” ( 107 ) . Chris ‘s address is an amplification of a line from Aoi No Uye, in which RokujA? , the kept woman who sends her spirit to torture Princess Aoi, tells the Witch of Teruhi, “ I drove out of Burning House. . . ” to assail the Princess. The “ combustion house ” is a Zen metaphor for the stuff organic structure from which Buddha lures the untutored-a piece of information Williams borrowed straight from one of Waley ‘s footers ( 182 ) . As for the Windowss Chris refers to, he elaborates on their Zen significance every bit good: “ these upstairs Windowss, non broad plenty to creep out of, merely broad plenty to tilt out of and look out of, and-look and expression and expression, boulder clay we ‘re about nil but looking, nil, about, but vision. . . ” ( 108 ) .
Chris as a airy with his vision, unlike Sissy, seems to be different in Milk Train than the visionaries in Williams ‘s old dramas. Sissy sees the universe through her drunk vision ; she seems to exist on a diet of java, mineral H2O, coffin nails, many codeine tablets, and a batch of spirits. Chris is a poet, whom Sissy respects as a “ intruder ” 834 ) , and she searches his properties to detect a book of verse form which he has written under the rubric of Meanings Known and Unknown, a rubric which suggests Rimbaud ‘s poetic vision into “ the unknown ” through the “ disordering of the senses ” ( 120 )
Critics were peculiarly bothered about the long scenes between Chris and Sissy in which, they believe, nil dramatic happens. While Weales believes that Sissy is a “ potentially a vivacious amusing character, ” she has no 1 to force against, Chris is merely excessively flat and symbolic to be her lucifer, and Sissy ‘s ultimate reversal is “ . . . non presented dramatically or defined in any footings but philosophic generalisation ” ( 66 ) . Fedder agreed: “ . . . Chris is a negligible adversary against the egomaniacal heroine who does him in at every bend. . . ” ( 803 ) . Robert F. Gross objects that while Chris and Sissy dominate the drama, their relationship is impossible to understand ( 102 ) , which would look to be a peculiar job in scene V.
Both chief characters seem to be liberated from coherency. Although they dominate Milk Train, it is instead hard, if non impossible to understand their relationship. Chris may be the “ Angel of Death ” and the embodiment of Sissy ‘s 4th hubby, and surely those ascriptions resonate throughout the drama. However, Chris may be besides seen as a gigolo, an aging tagalong to wealthy aged ladies, a burnt-out poet, a adult male bearing the weight of a ill-famed repute, a mysterious visionary, and rather perchance a darnel, a prevaricator, a stealer, or even, a liquidator. A similar long list could be assembled to Sissy. Such multiple render character relationship unstable. At 42 pages, scene V is by far the longest scene in the drama. If to this point the drama is viewed harmonizing to Western pattern, so this scene should incorporate the majority of the struggle between the adversaries every bit good as a appropriately melodramatic flood tide, followed by the reasoning action of scene six. Rather than anchoring the multiple functions of character relationship to secret plan development, the drama is exactly about what does non go on. Alternatively, Sissy and Chris engage in an drawn-out argument, interrupted by narrative soliloquies which sum up their lives and doctrines. These soliloquies are self-contained, they have small or no consequence on the action or on the character who hears them. The slow action is egg-shaped and allusive, as it ought to be in a NA? drama, in which the pilgrim is non meant to supply struggle but instead the juncture for the crap to happen release.
If the scene does non bring forth a flood tide in the Western sense, it approximates the climatic minute of a NA? drama. Here, nevertheless, “ flood tide ” is non to be understood as the point when the supporter ‘s destiny is irrevocably sealed. Rather, it is the cardinal minute of disclosure. In NA? , this is the crap ‘s long dance, where she reveals her true yesteryear and existent nature before her spirit can be released. In Milk Train, Williams provides his version of a westernized equivalent. First, Chris enters have oning an outfit Sissy left for him the dark earlier, a Kabuki robe, girded by a samurai blade. Merely as the crap, literally unveils himself or herself, Sissy has shed her ain Kabuki robe which she had worn the old eventide. It was a gift, she explained to the Witch, given her by Harlan during a rapprochement trip to the East. For the Witch, she had indulged in an flimsy mask of wellness and optimism. Now, shorn of camouflages, she is no more than her ain true, frail ego.
Among the other new ownerships Williams gave Sissy for Milk Train is a low yesteryear which she now reveals, “ born between a swamp and the incorrect side of the paths in One Street Georgia, ” she became a terpsichorean at a carnival show where she was billed as the “ Dixy Doxy ” and, like Gypsy Rose Lee, worked herself up into the large clip by exposing non merely her anatomy but her humor. It was at that place, in her teens, where she met and married Harlan Goforth who died intestate a few old ages subsequently, go forthing her everything ( 67-68 ) . From this low beginning has emerged a devil of enormous verve and even larger self-importance.
Chris responds with the narrative of his ain recent yesteryear and present experiential confusion. He has come to doubt his vision of the universe, one that has ever left him alienated from others. Chris ‘s gentle, enforced asceticism proves no lucifer for Sissy ‘s ties to her earthly being ; to turn out her verve to both of them, she attempts to score him. He suggests that decease is simply one minute, and she replies that she prefers the many 1000000s of her rich life. On larning that an ailing old adult female Chris late visited has died, Sissy is shaken but still refuses to believe that his presence suggests that her ain clip is nigh. “ Sissy Goforth ‘s non ready to travel forth yet and wo n’t travel away until she ‘s ready. . . ” she declares ( 95 ) .
When Sissy eventually does happen release, in scene six, it is with small of the grace or self-respect which accompanies the true credence Chris has urged her to seek. Even in her death minutes she misunderstands why he has come and what he has to offer-not the pleasant, impermanent release of the petit morte but the lasting release of morte. After enduring a bleeding, she retreats to her sleeping room and arrays herself in her most valuable jewellery. As she dies, she is cataloguing her ownerships: “ The pendant, if the trader that sold it to me was n’t a prevaricator, used to hang in Versailles, and the bed, if prevarication was n’t lying, was the bed of Countess Walewska, Napoleon ‘s Polish kept woman. It ‘s a celebrated old bed, for a celebrated old organic structure. . . . ” ( 118 ) .
Sissy ‘s last words to Chris are, “ Be here, when I wake up ” ( 116 ) . She still believes she will non decease. To her last breath she struggles, contending Chris away as he helps her to her deathbed. She draws a crisp pant with each pealing Chris pulls off from her fingers and dies. After all her battle, the minute of her decease is small-merely one minute among many, as Chris had promised ( 86 ) . There is no melodrama, none of the staginess of Lady ‘s decease in Orpheus Descending, of Chance ‘s Sweet Bird of Youth, merely the “ roar ” of the ocean below and the music of the Mobile as it turns in the zephyr. In Williams ‘s earlier dramas, Sissy ‘s decease might hold been viewed as calamity. In Milk Train, nevertheless, where Williams frustrates every outlook and repudiates virtually all of his traditional subjects, Sissy ‘s death-and Chris ‘s failure to steer her towards acceptance-is a grotesque comedy.
Walter Kerr says that comedy is the conflict between one ‘s celestial aspirations and one ‘s earthly desires, where the desires prevail. “ Comedy spends its hours counting-blandly, about without comment-the handcuffs that can non be gotten rid of ” ( 146 ) . In the ethos of NA? , the proper action is to cast one ‘s self-importance and transcend. On one degree, Sissy knows this- ” Another twenty-four hours, Oh, Christ, Oh, Mother of Christ! “ -but she can non make it. In a NA? drama there is no such thing, where the crap does non unshackle the ironss of Earth. In Western theater, ironss are the terra firma of comedy.
In fact, one can detect from the beginning that the drama is a comedy and an about thoroughly monstrous one. Williams is non content to demo us Sissy ‘s retentive clasp on life-an attitude he had championed in so many earlier plays-he besides mocks her for it. Sissy, an old, ravaged, deceasing adult female delighting in her past sexual glorification, is a grotesque. Williams describes the consequence of Sissy dancing in her Kabuki robe as “ a kind of grotesque beauty ” ( 43 ) . She is monstrous when she repeatedly tries to score Chris ; she is monstrous when, in an arrant absence of self-knowledge, she tells the Witch of Capri that she could ne’er get married a terpsichorean because “ they love merely mirrors ” ( 47 ) . She is monstrous because, blinded by fright and her self-importance, she is non willing to accept the truth of her state of affairs. Williams besides suggests that in her self-imposed isolation, atop an about unaccessible drop where she no longer has to hear the sound of human voices, she is monstrous. Sissy is non the drama ‘s lone grotesque figure, nevertheless. The Witch of Capri surely fits the definition, in her “ Fata Morgna ” outfit which includes blue-tinted hair, “ a conic that studded with pearls, ” and custodies like claws, “ aglitter with treasures ” ( 43 ) .
The resistance of Sissy and Chris does non reenforce gender double stars, but subverts them. Sissy is sexually aggressive and dramatis personaes Chris in the function of the object of desire ; in comparing, the immature adult male is inactive. He is ne’er identified as anyone ‘s sexual spouse, and withdraws from Sissy ‘s progresss. As double stars are weak, the English histrion Rupert Everett has played Sissy twice in a production designed and directed by Philip Prowse, foremost at the Citizens ‘ Theatre of Glasgow in 1994 and remounted in London in 1997. The latter production besides provided a male histrion, David Foxxe, as the Witch of Capri. The alteration of genders did non look to light the drama harmonizing to referees ; so, several reference an surfeit of cantonment and a attendant deficiency of sexual attractive force between Sissy and Chris. I would non wish to do a public presentation analysis, or to follow the history of the productions of Milk Train ; my mentioning this piece of its history of public presentation is meant to underpin my claim that the drama is non merely grotesque, but besides dissolves the gender double stars, which was realized by histrions and phase managers besides in pattern.
There is, nevertheless, another manner of nearing the gender issue, at least in theory. Hale writes that when Williams saw the Grand Kabuki Company on his visit to Tokyo and in New York a twelvemonth subsequently, he was intrigued by the celebrated onnagata, or female imitator, Nakamura Utaemon VI. Williams experimented with the thought of the onnagata in his dramas The Day on which a Man Dies and In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel. If Chris is viewed as a Bodhisattva who may look in both male and female signifiers, so one is invited to see the capable place of Chris as that of a woman-and possibly Sissy ‘ as that of a adult male. In this instance, the cardinal action of the drama, to the extent to which it has one in the traditional Western dramatic impression of action, is that of a gentle, artistic adult female fostering a deeply offended adult male mired in religious crisis brought on by the traps of earthly disease and a fright of decease. In The Night of the Iguana, the consequence of that action is positive: Shannon will populate and may yet happen peace. In Milk Train, the action ends in the “ adult male ‘s death-yet in the drama ‘s Eastern cosmology, this is besides positive: Sissy will decease, and in the release from the life of material semblance, she, excessively, will happen peace. One might travel every bit far as to claim that, when played by a adult male, the name “ Sissy ” acquires a new resonance: for in the face of decease, Flora is a pantywaist, so, a amusing figure unequal to the critical undertaking before her.
As Milk Train moves to its terminal, non merely make characterological and gender double stars dissolve, but the really landscape disperses into a concluding deficiency of distinction that seems a reversion to a empyreal cardinal pandemonium, with sky and sea “ fade outing into each other. Wine-dark sea and wine-dark sky ” ( 106 ) . The dramatic infinite is depopulated: Effeminate dies, her household staff spreads, taking her valuables along with them, and Chris contemplates his ain disappearance into Sissy ‘s little hovel near the shore, which is called “ ‘the Oubliette’-from the Gallic verb ‘oublier ‘ agencies to bury ” ( 81 ) . Becoming disregarded, or unobserved is one of the properties of a Bodhisattva, who merely “ comes and foliages ” harmonizing to Zen Buddhist instructions.
When go forthing, in the province of “ unobserved and disregarded, ” Chris plans the creative activity of a ruinous artefact. After the sound of powerful moving ridges striking the stones beneath the Villa, Chris ‘s Mobile will be named “ Boom, ” but the rubric does non supply an account. “ It says ‘Boom ‘ and that ‘s what it means. No interlingual rendition, no account, merely ‘Boom. ‘ ” ( 120 ) he says. This “ Boom ” resembles a Zen koan. Koans, particularly in the Rinzai subdivision of Zen Buddhism, are conundrums designed to show rational deadlocks which serve to bespeak and beef up the thought of indefinability of life and the elusiveness of conventional binary logic upon which the practician ‘s mundane thought is based. The koan-like terminal of the drama is another becoming-opaque, but in this instance it is a minute of metadramatic commentary which reflects back on the full drama, wrapping all of it in a bed of opposition to reading.