Tent Worms Essay.
The short story “Tent Worms” by Tennessee Williams is a portrayal of a depressed wife who is battling her emotional instincts. The story reflects her decaying marriage and the decaying life of her dying husband. There are three characters in the story, the husband Billy Foxworthy, the wife Clara Foxworthy, and the doctor who is referred to only as Doc. The setting for the story is a rented summer home that is away from the “ poisonous vapors of the metropolis” (98).
The trees surrounding the summer home have been taken over by tent worms, this fact of the story sets up the initial conflict between Clara and Billy.
As Clara sits and listens to her husband complain about the tent worms she becomes more and more agitated. Her emotions are not in regard to the tent worms directly, but are the product of a deeper problem. Billy Foxworthy is dying and his wife is caught between grieving for the future death of her husband and enjoying the knowledge that her rotted marriage will soon be over.
The limited third-person point-of-view shows the feelings of Clara vividly, in the first paragraph she states on his addiction to the tent worm problem, “If he but knew! He has more to worry about then those tent worms! ” (96). This is the first time that the problems regarding Billy are introduced to the reader. At this point, the issue Clara expresses is not completely clear; a general assumption can be made that something is out of the ordinary.
When a verbal conflict takes place between the couple, the lack of resolution of the conflict suggests there is more to come of the situation. The argument ends on Billy snapping at Clara “Stop being childish! ” (96). Next, the author deepens our understanding of what Clara is feeling. Soon after the argument Billy takes to his typewriter and Clara sits outside on the sun terrace. Thickening the plot, Clara’s thoughts are expressed clearly, “For five years Clara had not thought about the future. She was thinking about it now.
It had become a tangible thing once more, owing to the information she had, to which Billy did not have access, in spite of the fact that it concerned Billy even more than herself, because it concerned what was happening to Billy that Billy did not or was not supposed to know. ” (96-97). This new information allows for some early connections to be made regarding Billy’s health issues, the issues facing Billy and Clara’s marriage, as well as Clara’s inner conflicts. The next step in the raising action is when Billy decides he wants to burn the tent worms out of the trees.
He uses a newspaper to ignite the nests and in doing so he also ignites the conflict between he and Clara that had been left unresolved prior in the story. After a brief argument, Clara gives up in her effort to stop what she believed to be childish acts. Temporary resolution of the building conflicts occurs when she gives to his persistence. She realizes she cannot stop him and decides to move past the matter. She does this by drinking. In her slightly drunken state she drifts in her thoughts of days to come; she sees the funeral she will have to face; she thinks about the dynamics of dating after Billy dies.
Here, Tennessee Williams has introduced the thoughts of Clara’s character without distinguishing the emotions she is feeling. The reader is forced to question Clara’s feelings, however, as soon as that question pops up, Tennessee Williams answers it. Clara’s emotions are clear in “Ah! Her attitude was healthy, she was not being insincere and pretending to feel what she didn’t. Pity? Yes, she felt sorry for him but when love has ceased being five or six years ago, why make an effort to think it would be a loss? “(98).