Sweet Bird of Youth

by

Tennessee Williams

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The woman with whom Chance Wayne is obsessed. Heavenly has known Chance for a long time—in fact, her first time having sex was with Chance when she was only fifteen. Perhaps because of this, her father—a hard-hitting racist politician named Boss Finley—has always hated Chance. To make matters worse, when Heavenly last saw Chance, they had unprotected sex and Chance transmitted an STD to her without even mentioning anything about the disease. As a result, Heavenly had to have an operation, which George Scudder botched, making her sterile for the rest of her life. Incidentally, Boss Finley has arranged for George Scudder and Heavenly to be married. Boss Finley has also forbidden Heavenly from seeing Chance again. Although Heavenly never outwardly declares her love for Chance, she does point out that if her father hadn’t refused to let her marry Chance, then Chance probably wouldn’t have gotten an STD in the first place. Regardless, Boss Finley doesn’t listen to her, which is rather typical in this play; though Heavenly’s presence and beauty drives many of the characters in Sweet Bird of Youth, Williams does not give her much time onstage, instead making her into a rather flat character who ultimately becomes more of an abstract idea than an actual person.

Heavenly Finley Quotes in Sweet Bird of Youth

The Sweet Bird of Youth quotes below are all either spoken by Heavenly Finley or refer to Heavenly 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 One, Scene Two Quotes

Princess, the great difference between people in this world is not between the rich and the poor or the good and the evil, the biggest of all differences in this world is between the ones that had or have pleasure in love and those that haven’t and hadn’t any pleasure in love, but just watched it with envy, sick envy. The spectators and the performers. I don’t mean just ordinary pleasure or the kind you can buy, I mean great pleasure, and nothing that’s happened to me or to Heavenly since can cancel out the many long nights without sleep when we gave each other such pleasure in love as very few people can look back on in their lives…

Page Number: 36
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:
Act Three Quotes

Of course, you were crowned with laurel in the beginning, your gold hair was wreathed with laurel, but the gold is thinning and the laurel has withered. Face it—pitiful monster. [She touches the crown of his head.] … Of course, I know I’m one too. But one with a difference. Do you know what that difference is? No, you don’t know. I’ll tell you. We are two monsters, but with this difference between us. Out of the passion and torment of my existence I have created a thing that I can unveil, a sculpture, almost heroic, that I can unveil, which is true. But you? You’ve come back to the town you were born in, to a girl that won’t see you because you put such rot in her body she had to be gutted and hung on a butcher’s hook, like a chicken dressed for Sunday….

Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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Heavenly Finley Character Timeline in Sweet Bird of Youth

The timeline below shows where the character Heavenly Finley appears in Sweet Bird of Youth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One, Scene One
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
...Cloud. “I’ve still got a mother and a girl in St. Cloud,” Chance answers. “How’s Heavenly, George?” Scudder deflects this question, saying they’ll talk about that later and glancing at his... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
...to St. Cloud, but you didn’t know better.” When Chance asks if Scudder’s referring to Heavenly Finley, Scudder refuses to disclose names, merely saying that he came to warn him to... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...without my girl.” Still, Scudder insists that Chance doesn’t have a girl in St. Cloud. “Heavenly and I are going to be married next month,” Scudder says before suddenly leaving the... (full context)
Act One, Scene Two
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
...he never let this life completely ensnare him, periodically returning to St. Cloud to see Heavenly and to make everybody “buzz with excitement” about his arrival. Before long, though, he was... (full context)
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
After getting discharged from the Navy, Chance’s relationship with Heavenly became vitally important to him. At this point, the Princess interrupts him and asks if... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
Chance tells the Princess that he always has had Heavenly’s love to come back to. “Something permanent in a world of change?” she asks, and... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
...the Princess’s help. He then tells her what he has in mind: he will show Heavenly the acting contract drawn up by the Princess. Then the Princess will start using her... (full context)
Act Two, Scene One
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
...his house and laments the return of Chance Wayne, scowling that the wretched man “had” Heavenly when she was only fifteen. He knows this because he has seen the picture Chance... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
...showing Chance too much kindness, saying she “aided and abetted him in his corruption of Heavenly.” In response, she says, “I remember when Chance was the finest, nicest, sweetest boy in... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
...Palms. After a tense moment, Boss tells Tom to mind his own business. Just then, Heavenly enters, and Boss Finley sends Scudder and Tom away. Suddenly affectionate, Boss tells Heavenly they... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
When Heavenly tries to leave, a servant gets in her way as he enters and turns on... (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 his “mission.” Cutting... (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 about to... (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... (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 is a Protestant and that—even though... (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 crusade [he’s]... (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... (full context)
Act Two, Scene Two
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure 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,”... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
...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... (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 away from him and runs into the lounge, where she... (full context)
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
Love, Obsession, and Pleasure Theme Icon
Escapism and Denial Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Purity and Corruption Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Act Three
Youth, Beauty, and Time Theme Icon
...actress.  “Get her back on the phone,” Chance orders. “Talk about me and talk about Heavenly to her.” Finally hearing him again, the Princess replies: “Talk about a beach-boy I picked... (full context)