Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


This study has two major purposes: (1) to show that there is a tradition of psychological primitivism in the works of several Midwestern writers, and (2) to show that William lnge, a native of Independence, Kansas, is a member of this tradition. The first chapter outlines the above major purposes of the study and offers a brief biographical sketch of William Inge. This sketch shows that Inge meets the two qualifications that this study places upon Midwestern writers. These two qualifications are (1) the writer must have spent his formative years in the Midwest, and (2) the writer must have written to some extent about people and events in a Midwestern setting. The second chapter defines in detail what is meant by psychological primitivism. Psychological primitivism, broadly defined, entails a belief in living close to the instincts of nature and defying the inhibitions of society. The chapter then illustrates how psychological primitivism is manifested in the Midwestern writings of such authors as E. W. Howe, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, and most important, Sherwood Anderson. It is pointed out that psychological primitivism is not a private characteristic of Midwestern writers, but their very environment is largely responsible for the fact that it appears so often in their works. It becomes apparent that Midwestern writers of psychological primitivism possess two dominant characteristics: (1) a conscious or unconscious psychological inclination, and (2) a storehouse of personal experience in the Midwest from which they drew creative material. Chapter three illustrates that William lnge exemplifies the characteristics cited immediately above, and then detailed evidence supporting lnge's membership in the Midwestern tradition of psychological primitivism is presented. This evidence is primarily derived from the published plays and personal comment s of William lnge. The fourth and final chapter recapitulates the evidence presented in support of the two major purposes of the study, and concludes that lnge indeed deserves a place in the Midwestern literary tradition of psychological primitivism. A secondary conclusion of the thesis attempts to ascertain, at least in part, the causes for the demise in popularity that lnge has endured during the past ten years. It is concluded that lnge's desertion of Midwestern themes in his recent dramas has separated him from his true inspiration, and that this desertion, coupled with an apparent personal philosophical incoherence on the part of lnge, may partially explain his recent failures.


Ralph Coder

Date of Award

Summer 1967

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


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