The Character of Alma Tutwiler in Tennessee Williams’ The Yellow Bird

A brief analysis of the character Alma Tutwiler from Tennessee Williams’ "The Yellow Bird."

Alma Tutwiler is a prime example of a good girl gone bad.  In Tennessee Williams’ “The Yellow Bird,” Alma is described as a w, oman with no morals and no ambitions other than to experience pleasure and to have fun.  However, she did not always act in this way.  It all started the day that she allowed the winged, yellow messenger of the devil to perch upon her shoulder and compel her to speak out against her father.  From that point on, Alma fell farther and farther into darkness, gradually losing her morals and any hope of salvation.

No one expected that Alma Tutwiler would ever be anything other than a good person.  She was the daughter of a Protestant minister.  She played the organ during her father’s services.  Alma had always been seen as a quiet and shy girl.  For 30 years, she lived quietly and peaceably in her parents’ house, always paying respect to her elders and abiding by their rules.  Nevertheless, the yellow bird that had plagued the Tutwiler family for centuries was intent on finding another victim, and Alma was the chosen receiver.  The yellow bird opened the door to sin for Alma on a Sabbath similar to all others.

Alma’s father was notorious for his long sermons.  It was not unusual for him to preach far past the appointed time, and it was often necessary for Alma to begin the final hymn in order to stop him from carrying on for the whole afternoon.  The day in which the yellow bird first appeared to Alma was an exceptionally hot one, and due to the absence of air to the organ, Alma was unable to stop her father’s sermon.  He continued on, until finally, at the onset of his daughter’s wrongdoings, Alma stood, slammed a hymnbook on the bench, and demanded that her father cease preaching.  This act stunned members of the community.  The quiet, considerate Alma they had always known was now a defiant troublemaker.  Years of obeying strict rules and not being allowed to socialize with young men soon gave way to rebellion.  It wasn’t long afterwards that Alma began smoking, which was considered by her father to be an unforgivable sin.  Word quickly spread that Alma often smoked in the town drugstore, and her father soon heard the news.  He confronted his daughter, but to no avail.  Soon, he and his wife lost all control of their daughter. 

Subsequently, Alma’s rebellion and sin were given free reign over her life.  She peroxided her hair to a bright blonde and began wearing copious amounts of makeup.  Alma’s new appearance contrasted greatly with the rather plain, brunette girl the community had always known.  After her “makeover,” Alma began seeing many men.  She would go to bars in neighboring towns nearly every night, spending too much time with too many strange men and not returning home until three or four in the morning.  The elders of the community showed her no sympathy, simply dismissing her as a case in which the devil had sunk his sinful claws deep within Alma’s heart.  Her mother and father were devastated.  They could do nothing to stop her nightly escapades.  Her father tried several things, such as stealing the car key from Alma’s purse, but Alma had already made several duplicates.  He tried locking the garage door, but she simply drove through it. 

In the end, Alma settled in New Orleans, living in the same reckless and sinful fashion that she had been in her hometown.  She had a child, who proved to be just as rebellious as his mother, and moved north.  Alma and her child did not spend much time together, but shared a mutual respect.  Her son grew into a man and became a voyaging sailor.  Alma died and was said to have gone off with the father of her son.  When her son returned from sea, he had a monument erected in honor of his mother.  Alma could be said to be the product of strict parents, whose stifling rules allowed their daughter no outlet for her love, or dreams, or hope for an entertaining life.  On the contrary, Alma’s rebellion could be the result of a family curse named Bobo; a small yellow bird that has left the Tutwiler family in turmoil over so many different periods of time.

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  1. Posted January 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    great writing….go ahead


  2. Posted January 27, 2010 at 8:40 am

    excellent share

  3. Posted January 27, 2010 at 8:41 am

    great share

  4. Sahil
    Posted September 5, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Nicely summed up!

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