Adam's Reviews > The Night of the Iguana

The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams
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's review
Mar 28, 12

bookshelves: fiction, southern-gothic
Read in March, 2012

This is a great dark little piece about some pathetic characters at the end of their run in a 40’s Mexican hotel. Shannon is the de-frocked priest, always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, contemptuous of the American tourists he is responsible for transporting between hotels and attractions. Maxine, the “stout, swarthy woman…affable and rapaciously lusty,” handily manages the hotel on her hustling, but admits that she only has a few years left “to make this place attractive to the male clientele, the middle-aged ones at least.” Even the relatively young Hannah is tired of her strange life as traveling sketch artist, accompanying her poet-showman grandfather, who is approaching the end of his life literal life (his last name is “Coffin!”).

No one is particularly likable—Shannon with his weak constitution and resignation; Maxine with her brass and overbearance; the tourist women with their annoying demands.

And yet, it’s dark, as I say; like you want to eat popcorn while you enjoy watching people fail. Perhaps like the fun the local hotel workers have tying up a caught iguana…. Wiliams seems to enjoy making fun of his characters as well. He helpfully explains “One can see [Shannon] exchanging these pleasantries with the rocking-chair brigades of summer hotels at the turn of the century—and with professors’ wives at little colleges in New England. But now it has become somewhat grotesque in a touching way, this desire to please, this playful manner, these venerable jokes.” I loved the playwright’s well-placed descriptions like this one and the wicked dialogue exchanged between the characters.
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