Tennessee Williams’ Has It Ever Struck You Quote: Explained

Life is a fleeting journey, comprised of a series of moments that blend into a tapestry of memories. But have you ever paused to reflect on the true nature of life? Playwright Tennessee Williams once said, “Has it ever struck you that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going?” This profound quote, taken from his play “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” encapsulates a unique perspective on the passage of time and the transience of life. In this blog post, we will delve deep into the meaning behind this thought-provoking quote, exploring its implications and shedding light on the intricate relationship between memory, the present moment, and the essence of life itself.

The Origin of the Quote

“The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” is a play written by Tennessee Williams, which was first performed in 1963. The quote in question is uttered by the character of Flora “Sissy” Goforth, a wealthy and aging socialite who reflects on her life as she faces her own mortality. Sissy, a larger-than-life figure who has lived a flamboyant existence, contemplates the nature of time and memory as she grapples with the fleeting nature of the present moment.

Exploring the Meaning

At first glance, Williams’ quote may seem paradoxical. How can life be all memory, except for the present moment? After all, isn’t the present moment the very definition of life itself? However, upon closer examination, the true depth and wisdom of this quote become apparent.

Memory is an integral part of human existence. Our memories shape our perceptions, inform our decisions, and define our identities. They are the sum total of our experiences, emotions, and interactions with the world. Memories are like fragments of a story that we collect along our journey through life, serving as a reservoir of moments that make us who we are.

In contrast, the present moment is elusive and fleeting. It slips by us in the blink of an eye, and before we know it, it becomes a memory itself. The present moment is constantly slipping away, leaving us with only the memory of its passing. We can never truly hold onto the present moment, as it is always slipping into the past.

Williams’ quote suggests that life is primarily composed of memories, except for the present moment, which is transient and intangible. The present moment is a fleeting instant that we can hardly catch before it becomes a memory. It is a reminder that life is constantly in motion, and the passage of time is inevitable. The present moment, which is so elusive, holds immense significance in our lives, as it is the only time when we can truly experience life in its rawest form.

Analysis and Implications

Williams’ quote offers profound insights into the nature of life and the human condition. It invites us to reflect on the fleeting nature of time and the significance of memories in shaping our lives. Here are some key analyses and implications of the quote:

  1. Impermanence of Life: The quote underscores the impermanence of life. Life is a series of moments that pass us by, leaving us with memories that endure. It serves as a reminder that life is constantly changing, and we must learn to cherish and appreciate the present moment before it slips away.
  2. Role of Memory: Memories play a crucial role in our lives. They shape our perceptions, emotions, and actions. Our memories define who we are and inform our understanding of the world. Williams’ quote highlights the power of memories in our lives, emphasizing that life is, in essence, a collection of memories that we carry with us.
  3. Transience of the Present Moment: The quote brings attention to the fleeting nature of the present moment. The present moment is elusive and quick, and once it passes, it becomes a memory. It serves as a reminder to be present in the moment, to fully embrace and appreciate the experiences as they unfold, for they are transient and cannot be recaptured.
  4. Importance of Mindfulness: Williams’ quote also highlights the significance of mindfulness and being fully present in the moment. It reminds us to be aware of the passing of time and to cultivate mindfulness in our daily lives, so that we can truly savor the present moment and create meaningful memories.
  5. Reflection on Mortality: The character of Sissy Goforth in “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” reflects on her own mortality, which adds a layer of existentialism to the quote. It serves as a reminder that our time on this earth is limited, and we must make the most of it by living fully in the present moment and creating cherished memories.
  6. Appreciation of Life’s Moments: The quote encourages us to appreciate the beauty and significance of the moments that make up our lives. It reminds us to pay attention to the small details, to be present for the joys and sorrows, and to treasure the memories that we create along the way.

Further Reflections

Life being all memory, except for the present moment, opens up a plethora of reflections and interpretations. Here are some additional thoughts to further expand on the topic:

  1. The Influence of Past Memories: Our past memories shape our present experiences and perceptions. They influence our decisions, behaviors, and emotions. Our memories are constantly at play in our present moment, guiding us based on our past experiences. They form the foundation of our present reality.
  2. The Creation of Future Memories: Our present moment becomes a memory in the future. The experiences we have today become the memories we carry with us as we move forward in life. This highlights the cyclical nature of memories and the continuous flow of life as a series of memories.
  3. The Subjectivity of Memories: Memories are subjective and can change over time. They can be influenced by our emotions, perceptions, and interpretations. What we remember from a particular moment may differ from others who were present in the same moment. This adds complexity to the concept of life as memory and highlights the subjective nature of our perception of reality.
  4. Memories as a Source of Meaning: Memories give meaning to our lives. They are the repository of our emotions, experiences, and relationships. Memories connect us to our past, shape our present, and provide a sense of continuity in our lives. They hold significance and add depth to our existence.


In conclusion, Tennessee Williams’ quote, “Has it ever struck you that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going?” offers a profound perspective on the nature of life. It underscores the impermanence of life, the significance of memories, and the fleeting nature of the present moment. It encourages us to be mindful, fully present in the moment, and to cherish the memories that we create along our journey. Life, indeed, is a series of memories that shape our existence, except for the present moment, which slips by us in the blink of an eye. Let us strive to live mindfully, creating cherished memories in the ever-passing present moment of life’s journey.

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