Sweet Bird of Youth

by

Tennessee Williams

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Boss Finley Character Analysis

A racist local politician, and Heavenly Finley’s father. Boss Finley is a rich man who believes Chance Wayne isn’t good enough for his daughter. This is why Chance has spent his youth trying to get famous: so that Boss Finley will finally lend him his approval. This, of course, is an unrealistic dream, since Boss Finley is a stubborn and vindictive man, the kind of person who remains wholeheartedly convinced of his own beliefs. In fact, he even claims that he heard the “voice of God” when he was fifteen, insisting that God told him to fight to keep “the pure white blood of the South” from mixing with other races. In keeping with this, he does not condemn the white men who are currently going around St. Cloud castrating black men, which he himself threatens to do to Chance if Chance doesn’t leave town immediately. To this effect, he orders his son, Tom Junior, to track down Chance to do his dirty work.

Boss Finley Quotes in Sweet Bird of Youth

The Sweet Bird of Youth quotes below are all either spoken by Boss Finley or refer to Boss Finley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the New Directions edition of Sweet Bird of Youth published in 1959.
Act One, Scene One Quotes

SCUDDER: There’s a lot more to this which we feel ought not to be talked about to anyone, least of all to you, since you have turned into a criminal degenerate, the only right term for you, but, Chance, I think I ought to remind you that once long ago, the father of this girl wrote out a prescription for you, a sort of medical prescription, which is castration. You’d better think about that, that would deprive you of all you’ve got to get by on. […]

CHANCE: I’m used to that threat. I’m not going to leave St. Cloud without my girl.

Related Characters: Chance Wayne (speaker), Dr. George Scudder (speaker), Heavenly Finley, Boss Finley
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two, Scene One Quotes

In her father, a sudden dignity is revived. Looking at his very beautiful daughter, he becomes almost stately. He approaches her […] like an aged courtier comes deferentially up to a crown princess or infant. It’s important not to think of his attitude toward her in the terms of crudely conscious incestuous feeling, but just in the natural terms of almost any aging father’s feeling for a beautiful young daughter who reminds him of a dead wife that he desired intensely when she was the age of his daughter.

Related Characters: Boss Finley (speaker), Heavenly Finley
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

Don’t give me your Voice of God speech. Papa, there was a time when you could have saved me, by letting me marry a boy that was still young and clean, but instead you drove him away, drove him out of St. Cloud. And when he came back, you took me out of St. Cloud, and tried to force me to marry a fifty-year-old money bag that you wanted something out of […] and then another, another, all of them ones that you wanted something out of. I’d gone, so Chance went away. Tried to compete, make himself big as these big shots you wanted to use me for a bond with. He went. He tried. The right doors wouldn’t open, and so he went in the wrong ones, and—Papa, you married for love, why wouldn’t you let me do it, while I was alive, inside, and the boy still clean, still decent?

Related Characters: Heavenly Finley (speaker), Chance Wayne, Boss Finley
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

You’re going to be wearing the stainless white of a virgin, with a Youth for Tom Finley button on one shoulder and a corsage of lilies on the other. You’re going to be on the speaker’s platform with me, you on one side of me and Tom Junior on the other, to scotch these rumors about your corruption. And you’re gonna wear a proud happy smile on your face, you’re gonna stare straight out at the crowd in the ballroom with pride and joy in your eyes. Lookin’ at you, all in white like a virgin, nobody would dare to speak or believe the ugly stories about you. I’m relying a great deal on this campaign to bring in young voters for the crusade I’m leading. I’m all that stands between the South and the black days of Reconstruction. And you and Tom Junior are going to stand there beside me in the grand crystal ballroom, as shining examples of white Southern youth—in danger.

Related Characters: Boss Finley (speaker), Chance Wayne, Heavenly Finley, Tom Junior
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Sweet Bird of Youth LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sweet Bird of Youth PDF

Boss Finley Character Timeline in Sweet Bird of Youth

The timeline below shows where the character Boss Finley appears in Sweet Bird of Youth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One, Scene One
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
...to wait tables at the ballroom where Chance went to dances on Saturday nights with Mr. Boss Finley ’s daughter. Before long, Fly exits, and a “business-like young man” named George Scudder walks... (full context)
Act One, Scene Two
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...has never approved of him. “Didn’t I tell you that Heavenly is the daughter of Boss Finley , the biggest political wheel in this part of the country?” he asks the Princess... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Because of his troubles with Boss Finley , Chance explains, he needs the Princess’s help. He then tells her what he has... (full context)
Act Two, Scene One
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Boss Finley meets with George Scudder inside his house and laments the return of Chance Wayne, scowling... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Questioning Scudder’s ability to communicate a message discreetly, Boss Finley says, “Discreetly, like you handled that operation you done on my daughter, so discreetly that... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Boss Finley states the reason he wants Chance Wayne removed from St. Cloud, saying: “My daughter’s no... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
When Chance pulls into Boss Finley ’s driveway, he sees Aunt Nonnie and calls to her, but she pretends to not... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
When Aunt Nonnie leaves, Boss Finley complains about the fact that everybody he’s associated with ends up dragging his name into... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Boss Finley denies Miss Lucy’s existence until Tom Junior tells him that she recently wrote “Boss Finley... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
...and turns on a lamp, which casts a beautiful light onto Heavenly, one that pacifies Boss Finley ’s anger as he looks fondly at his daughter. Williams notes here that “it’s important... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Boss Finley complains that Heavenly has become a “subject of talk” and “scandal,” which threatens to defeat... (full context)
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Boss Finley tells Heavenly a story about her mother. When she was ill, he knew she was... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Before Heavenly leaves the room, Boss Finley tells her that a heckler has been disrupting his political rallies, yelling, “Hey, Boss Finley,... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Boss Finley is incensed to hear that Heavenly wants to join a convent, telling her that he... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Going on, Boss Finley tells Heavenly that he’s relying on his campaign “to bring in young voters for the... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
When Heavenly says that Boss Finley “wouldn’t dare” do something violent to Chance, he says, “A lot of people approve of... (full context)
Act Two, Scene Two
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...able to get into the ballroom without a suit jacket—and wanting to get revenge on Boss Finley —Miss Lucy finds a jacket behind the bar and gives it to him, instructing him... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Boss Finley ’s voice can be heard as he brags about Heavenly to reporters, but Heavenly breaks... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Boss Finley spews racist vitriol as Miss Lucy turns down the volume on the TV in the... (full context)