Sweet Bird of Youth

by

Tennessee Williams

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Sweet Bird of Youth: Act Two, Scene Two Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Stuff, the bartender in the cocktail lounge of the Royal Palms Hotel, greets Miss Lucy, who sits down at the bar and tells him that she has just seen Boss Finley. Apparently, he came to see her with a jewel box, which she opened to find a large diamond clip inside. When she went to remove the clip, though, he snapped the box shut on her fingers—bruising one of her nails—and said: “Now go downstairs to the cocktail lounge and go in the ladies’ room and describe this diamond clip with lipstick on the ladies’ room mirror down there.” He then put the box in his pocket and stormed away. Having told Stuff this story, Miss Lucy accuses him of telling people what she wrote on the mirror.
When Boss Finley snaps the box shut on Miss Lucy’s fingers, he tries to reassert his dominance. This is because he feels she has taken away some of his power by publicly suggesting that he is too old to proficiently make love. Once again, then, he demonstrates his crippling insecurity. By acting in anger, he reinforces the notion that such insecurities drive him toward “violent action.” His behavior also demonstrates how obsessive he is about controlling his public image. Boss Finley uses rage to escape feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness.
Themes
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Stuff and Miss Lucy pause for a moment to observe a tall man with a bandage on his forehead enter the lounge. Miss Lucy asks him if he’s with the Hillbilly Ramblers (a band), and he says that he isn’t, though he does refer to himself as a hillbilly. “I come to hear Boss Finley talk,” he says in a raspy, strained voice. Given his beaten demeanor and ominous tone, Miss Lucy asks him if he’s the heckler that has been following Boss Finley around to all of his political rallies. “I don’t heckle,” he says. “I just ask questions, one question or two or three questions, depending on how much time it take them to grab me and throw me out of the hall.”
Williams uses the heckler to represent the feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness that Boss Finley can never fully shake. Although Boss projects an outward appearance of power and control, there’s always something threatening his authority (at least according to him). The heckler is then a manifestation of the insecurities that he tries so hard to escape or deny.
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Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Knowing the heckler won’t be able to get into the ballroom without a suit jacket—and wanting to get revenge on Boss FinleyMiss Lucy finds a jacket behind the bar and gives it to him, instructing him to sit inconspicuously at a table until it’s time to sneak in. He follows her instructions by hiding his face behind a newspaper and waiting. At this point, Fly comes in looking for Chance and tells Miss Lucy that he (Chance) has returned to St. Cloud with Alexandra Del Lago. Anxious to find the famous actress, Miss Lucy exits just before Chance makes his way into the lounge. Chance picks a drink off the bar, sips it, and critiques Stuff’s skills as a bartender, since he himself used to be the bartender at the Royal Palms.
The fact that Miss Lucy—Boss Finley’s longtime mistress—wants to help the heckler sabotage his event suggests that the kind of hateful revenge Boss propagates only makes his life even harder. Having heard that she wrote something bad about him in the hotel bathroom, Boss snapped her fingers shut in a jewelry box and mocks her. In turn, she is now retaliating in her own way. As such, Williams suggests that escaping one’s own feelings of insecurity by expressing rage is an ineffective way of dealing with hardship, one that only invites more retaliation and anger.
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Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
When Aunt Nonnie comes into the lounge, Chance is happy to see her and suggests they drink a bucket of champagne. Despite his enthusiasm, though, Nonnie leads him to a private corner of the bar and tells him he must leave St. Cloud. In response, he asks why everybody treats him like “a low criminal,” and she tells him to ask himself that question, adding that he should also ask his “conscience.”  “Oh, Chance,” she laments, “why have you changed like you’ve changed? Why do you live on nothing but wild dreams now […]?” Hearing this, Chance agrees that life is a “wild dream,” popping a pill and washing it down with a swig from a flask in the middle of his sentence.
During this conversation, Aunt Nonnie references the fact that Chance’s obsession with becoming a famous actor is nothing but a “wild dream.” Although she is one of the few people in St. Cloud who advocates for him, even she is unable to deny that he’s coasting on his fading good looks, which she knows won’t ultimately get him very far. Nonetheless, he decides to ignore her concern, instead using drugs and alcohol to deny the fact that a life of chasing fame has “changed” him for the worse.
Themes
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
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Talking about what he has become, Chance and Nonnie discuss Chance’s past. He reminds her that he directed and acted in a big one-act production that won the state drama contest when he was seventeen. “You went with us as the girls’ chaperone to the national contest,” he reminds Nonnie. After they reminisce a bit about that trip, Chance mentions that they didn’t win, saying they only placed second. “Chance, you didn’t place second,” Nonnie says. “You got honorable mention. Fourth place.” Chance says that he remembers, and adds that they would’ve won if he hadn’t forgotten his lines. Nonnie tells him that his mistake only endeared him to her, mentioning that Heavenly also loved him because of that incident. “It was on the way home in the train that she and I,” Chance begins, but Nonnie tries to cut him off, saying, “I know, I—I—”
Chance makes his tendency to delude himself overwhelmingly apparent by claiming that his acting troupe won “second place” in the national contest, when in reality they placed fourth. He wants to think of himself as someone who has always been close to greatness—in fact, he wants this so badly that he actively manipulates his own memory so that he can maintain this narrative about himself. After all, if he continues to believe that he’s always been close to achieving something fantastic, his chances of actually becoming famous will seem more realistic. Unfortunately, though, he isn’t quite as talented as he likes to believe, as evidenced by the fact that he forgot most of his lines at this national contest. Of course, this only endeared him to Nonnie and Heavenly, a testament to just how easy it used to be for him to charm people.
Themes
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Despite the fact that Aunt Nonnie doesn’t want to hear him tell the story, Chance explains that he bribed one of the conductors on the train to give him and Heavenly a private car, where they had sex for the first time. “I cried in her arms that night, and didn’t know that what I was crying for was—youth, that would go,” he says. He also adds that in that moment he swore to himself that he’d never place “second” in a contest again. Quickly shifting gears, he shows Nonnie his contract with the Princess, but she’s unimpressed, saying, “Chance, even now, if you came back here simply saying, ‘I couldn’t remember the lines, I lost the contest, I—failed,’ but you’ve come back here again with—” Still, he pushes on, insisting that the Princess’s “local-contest-Beauty” will get him and Heavenly famous.
In this moment, the audience sees the extent to which Chance’s obsession with Heavenly is intertwined with his obsession with becoming famous. This is made evident by the fact that his memory of making love to her for the first time also encompasses his promise to himself that he’d never place “second” in a contest ever again. Of course, he once again deludes himself, since he didn’t even place second in the national contest, but this doesn’t matter to him because he’s too preoccupied with the idea of gaining success and Heavenly’s love at the same time. As such, it becomes clear that his motivations regarding his relationship with Heavenly perhaps have more to do with his stubborn desire to succeed than with actual love; his desire to win her over is an obsession, not an actual romantic impulse.
Themes
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Aunt Nonnie tells Chance that Heavenly won’t be able to win a beauty contest because she’s “not young” anymore. “She’s faded,” she says. Chance begins to argue to the contrary, divulging his plan with the Princess to her, but Nonnie tells him to keep his voice down, saying that if Boss Finley catches wind of such ideas, Chance will be in “great danger.” Once more, she pleads with him to leave, then gets up and exits the lounge. Left sitting in the lounge, Chance takes out another pill and swallows it with a swig of vodka. As he does so, his old friends Bud and Scotty spot him and start whispering to their partners—Edna and Violet—about him. Hearing this, he calls over to them and says hello, trying to get them to join him in a song they all used to sing, but nobody sings with him.
When Aunt Nonnie says that Heavenly’s youth has “faded,” she goes along with the prevailing opinion in St. Cloud that the young woman’s operation has ruined her beauty and youth. This doesn’t stop Chance, though, since he is obsessed both with the idea of succeeding and with the idea of winning over Heavenly. As such, nothing anyone says will dissuade him from carrying out his plan to become famous in the Princess’s rigged contest. However, it’s rather obvious that he should probably heed Nonnie’s advice to leave, considering the fact that no one in St. Cloud seems to advocate for him. Even his old friends refuse to treat him like they used to, a sure sign that no one will help him stand up to Boss Finley when it comes down to it.
Themes
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
When Chance goes over to join his old friends, Violet and Edna leave, and Bud calls for the check. The two men claim that their partners must not have recognized Chance, but Chance says he doesn’t mind getting “snubbed” because he has “snubbed” people himself many times. He then sees Miss Lucy walking through the lounge. She comes over and tussles his hair, which he tells her to never do to a man with thinning hair. “Is your hair thinning, baby?” she asks. “Maybe that’s the difference I noticed in your appearance.” She goes on to add that she used to not be able to “stand” how attractive Chance was, but now she can “almost stand it.” She also mentions that she heard he was working as a beach-boy in Palm Beach, and Stuff—who’s passing by—adds that he also heard Chance was there “rubbing oil into big fat millionaires.”
Although the people of St. Cloud are weary of Chance, this doesn’t seem to have stopped them from talking about him in his absence. In fact, he has clearly become a hot topic of conversation, though one gets the sense that his fellow townspeople enjoy speculating about his demise. This is made clear when Miss Lucy admits that she no longer finds him as attractive as she used to, almost taking delight in the fact that his hair is thinning. This attitude is most likely derived from the fact that Chance has always been someone who easily cruised through life, coasting on his good looks and never having to work as hard as anyone else in order to get by. Now that his looks have started to fade, though, he’s left with very little—something that tickles people who may have always felt that he unfairly benefited from something as superficial as exterior beauty.
Themes
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Chance is embarrassed by the information Miss Lucy and Stuff have broadcast about his life, and he denies their claims, saying somebody must have been telling lies about him. Conversation then drifts to the Youth for Tom Finley rally that is soon to happen in the hotel ballroom. “He’s going to state his position on that emasculation business,” Bud says, referring to Boss Finley. Chance, for his part, doesn’t understand Bud’s reference, so Scotty explains that a group of white men recently castrated a random black man they found on the street in order to “show they mean business about white women’s protection.” Apparently, Boss is going to address this in his speech tonight, and Bud says that Heavenly will be standing by his side as he does so.
At this point, the play begins to engage ideas about racism in a more prominent way, as Williams makes it clear that St. Cloud is currently undergoing a period of bigoted hysteria. This is made evident by the fact that a group of white men have horrifically injured a black man who didn’t even commit a crime. These men wanted to send a message about integration, one that warned black men from engaging in sexual activity with white women. As such, Boss Finley’s obsession with “pure white blood” manifests itself in the community at large, and the audience begins to understand that his political agenda does little more than promote hate and violence.
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Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
“I doubt that story,” Chance says, and Stuff asks him if he really doubts that a black man was castrated. “Oh, no, that I don’t doubt,” Chance says. “You know what that is, don’t you? Sex-envy is what that is, and the revenge for sex-envy which is a widespread disease that I have run into personally.” What he doubts, Chance clarifies, is that Heavenly will stand next to her father as he “explains and excuses on TV this random emasculation” of a young black man. After talking about his love for Heavenly and how he plans to take her out of St. Cloud, Chance pops another pill, and his old friends ask him what it was. “I washed down a goof-ball,” he says. “When you’re not having fun, it makes you have it.”
Throughout Sweet Bird of Youth, Chance is not a particularly sympathetic protagonist. After all, he seemingly only ever thinks about himself. In this moment, though, he expresses a genuine hope that Heavenly won’t actually stand next to Boss Finley and endorse hateful, racist ideals. Chance clearly disagrees with Boss’s violent bigotry, thereby humanizing himself somewhat. Indeed, he understands how terrible this act of “random emasculation” is, perhaps because he himself has experienced the “sex-envy” that he believes drives such violence. However, it’s worth noting that, although he believes “sex-envy” drove the castration, this opinion overlooks a whole slew of racial considerations that most likely were also factors, and in associating himself with the victim Chance even gives himself a backhanded compliment—that other people hate him because they are jealous. Even in his attempt to empathize, then, Chance isn’t quite able to step outside of his own limited perspective.
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Changing the subject, Miss Lucy asks Chance to tell her whom he’s traveling with. “Miss Lucy I’m traveling with the vice-president and major stockholder of the film studio which just signed me,” he brags. As Chance goes on boasting, Bud asks the name of the film he’s going to be featured in, and Chance quickly invents a fake title: Youth. Before long, though, Bud and Scotty lose interest and try to leave, and Chance starts underhandedly insulting Scotty’s profession as a banker, which has made him—according to Chance—fat and slow. “I don’t get by on my looks,” Scotty says, “but I drive my own car. It isn’t a Caddy, but it’s my own car. And if my own mother died, I’d bury her myself.” With this, he and Bud leave.
Chance takes great pleasure in telling his old friends about his impending success. It’s worth noting that his make-believe movie—the one that will supposedly make him and Heavenly famous—is called Youth; this isn’t surprising, considering that what he wants most is to turn back time so that he can regain his perfect looks. Even though his hair is thinning and his face is “ravaged” now, he still believes he can trick his former friends into thinking that he’s young enough to star in a film about youth itself. Of course, they know exactly how old he is, but this doesn’t stop him from trying to loop them into his fantasy. What’s more, when his friends lose interest, Chance turns on them and mocks their accomplishments, once again acting as if his good looks should automatically entitle him to a better life than his peers. Even though it’s clear that someone like Scotty has ended up with a better life, Chance is unwilling to admits his shortcomings, instead doing anything he can to continue denying the fact that he is a failure.
Themes
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Once again, Miss Lucy tries to persuade Chance to leave, but their conversation is interrupted when the Princess enters the lounge calling out for Chance, who simply rushes away. Though he hasn’t left the lounge, she can’t find him, perhaps because her eyes have a “dazed, drugged brightness.” In fact, even her dress isn’t fully zipped, and she seems confused and haggard. As she teeters around looking for Chance, Miss Lucy offers to help her, and Chance finally comes running over, all the while saying that she should’ve stayed in the room. As he tries to get her to return to the room, she says, “Chance, when I saw you driving under the window with your head held high, with that terrible stiff-necked pride of the defeated which I know so well; I knew that your comeback had been a failure like mine.”
Knowing what it feels like to fail, the Princess recognizes what Chance is unwilling to admit: that he hasn’t succeeded in impressing anyone but himself. Despite the fact that he has been driving around St. Cloud in an expensive Cadillac, nobody believes that he has actually become famous or wealthy. In fact, Scotty even manages to guess that the car doesn’t belong to Chance at all. Nonetheless, Chance continues on with a “stiff-necked pride,” one that keeps him from accepting that none of his plans to become famous will work and that he is merely an unsuccessful man who can no longer benefit from youthful beauty.
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Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
The Princess keeps telling Chance about what she felt when she saw him driving in her Cadillac, revealing that she experienced a pang of emotion and affection for him. “I felt something in my heart for you,” she says. “That’s a miracle, Chance. That’s the wonderful thing that happened to me. I felt something for someone besides myself. That means my heart’s still alive, at least some part of it is, not all of my heart is dead yet.” As the Princess confesses her newfound affections, Dan Hatcher’s voice sounds in the lounge. Moments later, he steps into view with Tom Junior and Scotty: they are outside the lounge, which opens onto a small raised balcony. From down there, they yell at Chance to come down to them. As Chance stalls, Boss Finley’s arrival is marked by the sirens of police cars escorting him to the hotel.
The Princess is quite similar to Chance. The primary difference between the two of them is that she has actually enjoyed fame and success, but now she finds herself wallowing in the same kind of self-pity as Chance, since her career has ended and left her with nothing but faded beauty. Unlike Chance, though, she’s willing to admit this. Although she wants to escape the embarrassment she suffered at her comeback premiere, she no longer wants to fully deny reality. In turn, she suddenly finds herself capable of thinking about someone other than herself. For her entire life, she has been focused on herself—her career, her youth, her beauty. Now, though, she discovers that she’s capable of empathy. Of course, it’s worth noting that this form of empathy is in its own way a bit self-centered, since the main reason she begins to care so much for Chance is because he reminds her of herself. Nonetheless, this is perhaps the first time she has ever paused to truly think about another person.
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Boss Finley’s voice can be heard as he brags about Heavenly to reporters, but Heavenly breaks away from him and runs into the lounge, where she suddenly finds herself facing Chance. “For a long instant,” Williams notes in his stage directions, “Chance and Heavenly stand there: he on the steps leading to the Palm Garden and gallery; she in the cocktail lounge. They simply look at each other…the Heckler between them.” Suddenly, Boss Finley rushes in and grabs Heavenly and pulls her away. As Chance stands dumbstruck in the wake of this encounter, Hatcher and Tom Junior continue yelling at him to come down to them, suggesting that they meet in the bathroom, though Chance avoids this by saying that he refuses to have conversations in bathrooms.
This is a significant moment in Sweet Bird of Youth, as it is the only encounter Chance and Heavenly have with one another. Despite the fact that Chance talks about Heavenly throughout the entire play, Williams only provides the audience with this fleeting moment, in which the two characters don’t even speak or touch. Rather than embracing, they simply stare at each other, suggesting that their love is perhaps not as enduring or strong as Chance often makes it sound. Of course, it’s impossible to say with total confidence what the true nature of their relationship is, since Williams doesn’t provide any insight into their romantic dynamic other than the things that Chance says. Because of this, the emphasis of the play centers on Chance’s obsession rather than on the actual specifics of their love story.
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“I used to leave places when I was told to,” Chance tells Hatcher and Tom Junior. “Not now. That time’s over. Now I leave when I’m ready. Hear that, Tom Junior? Give your father that message. This is my town.” He also adds that Boss Finley was merely “called down from the hills to preach hate,” whereas he (Chance) was “born here to make love.” As he speaks, Tom Junior becomes enraged, and the other men have to hold him back from murdering Chance on the spot. Seeing this, Chance taunts him, though he also adds that he still has “credit” with him because he’s Heavenly’s brother. In response, Tom yells, “Don’t say the name of my sister!” He then tells Chance once again to come down, but the Princess tries to keep him from doing so.
Again, Chance takes issue with Boss Finley’s message of hate, which the old man advances by using his political platform to endorse racist ideas about purity and corruption. However, when he contrasts himself to Boss Finley, Chance makes the grandiose claim that he was “born here to make love.” Although this is true in the sense that Chance has worked as a gigolo the notion that he brings genuine emotional love to the world is debatable, considering how self-centered and obsessed with becoming famous he is.
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Still separated, Chance asks Tom Junior to tell him what has happened to Heavenly since he was last in town. “I know I’ve done many wrong things in my life, many more than I can name or number, but I swear I never hurt Heavenly in my life,” he says. In response, Tom asks if Chance is insinuating that somebody else gave his sister a disease. “You remember that time when you came home broke?” he asks. “My sister had to pick up your tabs in restaurants and bars, and had to cover bad checks you wrote on banks where you had no accounts. Until you met this rich bitch, Minnie, the Texas one with the yacht, and started spending week ends on her yacht, coming back Mondays with money from Minnie to go on with my sister. I mean, you’d sleep with Minnie, that slept with any goddam gigolo bastard.”
Williams gives the audience another look into Chance and Heavenly’s relationship. This insight only confirms what has already been established: Chance has lived the fast life of a man who swings through town once and a while to see his supposed lover. Although the fact that he kept returning to Heavenly might suggest some kind of genuine love, his multiple absences don’t quite align with the kind of romantic relationship normally considered genuine or enduring. Williams suggests that Chance is most interested in the idea of his relationship with Heavenly, meaning that he has never been willing to actually put in the time to cultivate a true romantic connection.
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Continuing his rant about Chance’s irresponsible behavior, Tom Junior outlines how Chance contracted a disease from the rich woman with the yacht and then passed it to Heavenly. “My little sister […] had hardly even heard of a thing like that,” Tom Junior says, “and didn’t know what it was till it had gone on too long.” Interjecting, Chance says that he left town before finding out he had the disease, but this only enrages Tom even more. “You found out!” he yells. “Did you tell my little sister?” Chance then claims he assumed she’d write to him if something was wrong, but Tom points out that Chance never gives valid addresses when he leaves. “My little sister, Heavenly, didn’t know about the diseases and operations of whores, till she had to be cleaned and cured—I mean spayed like a dawg by Dr. George Scudder’s knife,” he adds.
For the first time in the play, the nature of Heavenly’s operation becomes clearer. After sleeping with Chance—who was also at that time sleeping with another woman—she contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Because of this, she had to get an operation that left her sterile. What’s most upsetting about this story to Tom Junior (and in general) is that Chance knew he had an STD, but did nothing to inform Heavenly, instead letting her contract the disease herself. Once again, Chance proves his inability to consider others, focusing solely on his own desires. Indeed, what he’s most interested in is finding “pleasure in love,” and this has nothing to do with building an actual romantic and caring relationship with Heavenly. Living with this kind of mentality, Chance doesn’t think twice about wronging Heavenly without even staying to help her through the hardship he has caused.
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Before leaving, Tom Junior warns Chance that he too will “get the knife” if he doesn’t leave St. Cloud tonight. Having heard all this, the Princess tries to convince Chance that they should leave. As she does so, The Lament drifts through the air, and she stops to consider it. “All day I’ve kept hearing a sort of lament that drifts through the air of this place,” she says. “It says, ‘Lost, lost, never to be found again.’ Palm gardens by the sea and olive groves on Mediterranean islands all have that lament drifting through them. ‘Lost, lost’…The isle of Cyprus, Monte Carlo, San Remo, Torremolenas, Tangiers. They’re all places of exile from whatever we loved.” Uninfluenced by this, Chance tells her to let go of him, but she points out that she’s the only person holding him “back from destruction in this place.”
The Princess’s acknowledgement of The Lament is worth considering, since she associates the place itself—the Royal Palms Hotel—with the song’s lonely strains of “exile.” In this moment, she seems to realize that she can’t simply run away from her troubles. Although she has been trying to escape the embarrassment of her comeback by moving constantly, she realizes that she’ll never be able to fully leave behind her worries. After all, her demons are chiefly emotional, meaning that they will follow her wherever she goes, even if she visits “the isle of Cyprus” or “Monte Carlo” or any other paradise.
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Calling for a wheelchair, Chance has the Princess rolled away by Stuff and a bellboy, making him the only person in the room other than the heckler. For a moment, he breathes heavily and loosens his tie, but then a large group enters and streams through the lounge carrying Youth for Tom Finley banners. Chance watches as the crowd enters the ballroom followed by Boss Finley, Tom Junior, and Heavenly. Just then, Miss Lucy rushes into the lounge and tells the heckler to wait to strike until the lights are dimmed. “I don’t want to hurt his daughter,” the heckler says when she proposes that he ask a different question, one that won’t affect Heavenly. “But [Boss Finley’s] going to hold her up as the fair white virgin exposed to black lust in the South, and that’s his build-up, his lead into his Voice of God speech.”
In this scene, the heckler correctly assesses the fact that Boss Finley has conflated the idea of Heavenly’s purity with a racist notion regarding integration. Indeed, Boss Finley wants to use Heavenly—dressed in the “stainless white of a virgin”—to show his followers what he believes they stand to lose if they allow blacks and whites to fully integrate. Though the heckler is an antagonistic figure for publicly shaming Heavenly for her sexuality, he also seems to be one of the few characters to see through Finley’s posturing to the hateful bigotry beneath.
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The heckler says he doesn’t believe Boss Finley has heard God’s voice. In fact, he doesn’t think anybody has, since the “silence of God” is a “long and awful thing that the whole world is lost because of.” As he finishes saying this, Boss Finley’s voice issues from the ballroom. Stuff turns on the TV so they can watch the event from the lounge, and Boss Finley explains that he was called by God to carry out a mission. “And what is this mission?” he asks. “I have told you before but I will tell you again. To shield from pollution a blood that I think is not only sacred to me, but sacred to Him.” With this, the heckler rises and enters the ballroom.
If the “silence of God” is a “long and awful thing that the whole world is lost because of,” it’s unlikely that God would break that silence to talk to Boss Finley, of all people. After all, Boss Finley is a man primarily concerned with advancing a racist political agenda, one that he hopes to use to win his campaign. Nonetheless, he claims that God ordered him to protect white “blood” from “pollution,” once again drawing upon his obsession with purity and corruption.  
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Boss Finley spews racist vitriol as Miss Lucy turns down the volume on the TV in the lounge. “I can’t and will not accept, tolerate, condone this threat of blood pollution,” he declares. Suddenly, the heckler’s voice sounds over the TV: “How about your daughter’s operation?” he shouts. While he talks about Heavenly, somebody hits him hard, and the ballroom breaks into chaos. The doors burst open and the heckler is thrown down a set of stairs while Boss Finley forges on with his speech. Meanwhile, Chance sits completely still in the lounge, watching the heckler receive a severe beating. Just before the curtain falls, Heavenly comes out of the ballroom and starts sobbing before collapsing to the ground.
In this final moment of Act Two, Sweet Bird of Nothing descends into chaos. Not only does the heckler receive a serious beating, but the entire ballroom breaks into a fight and Heavenly passes out, unable to handle it all. By showcasing this hectic atmosphere, Williams suggests that the kind of hate propagated by people like Boss Finley only leads to mayhem and discord. Although Boss is a politician—and thus should act for the greater good of his community—he only sows turmoil within St. Cloud. Words like “pure” make his ideas sound almost wholesome, but what he actually forces onto the townspeople is anger, hate, and violence.
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