In his play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams employs setting, conflict of man vs. man and man vs. self, and the characterization to reveal the mendacity of the Pollitt family, and that lies fool not only others, but can possibly fool oneself.
Opening in a small bedroom in one of the largest plantation mansions in the Delta, during the 1950′s, the setting of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is one of the most important aspects of the play. Set in the sweet south, there seem to be few worries and cares on the surface of the Pollitt family, but with a positive report on Big Daddy’s cancer, as well as being during the “baby boom” after WWII, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is set on changing times, and lies in which to keep everything the way it was. Knowing Big Daddy had cancer, his children and daughter-in-laws let him go by without knowing, planning to reveal it to him on his birthday. Being a strong willed, hard-working southern man, Big Daddy believed there would be nothing stopping him and news of such a horrible sickness would crush him. Maggie and Brick’s marriage was more than on the rocks, but their childlessness could affect their share in the estate, or even in society. Lying to themselves about their motives and even their love, Maggie and Brick continued with their “play marriage,” acting as if everything-besides Brick’s increasingly abusive drinking-was okay. After believing he drove his friend Skipper to his death, Brick began drinking to feel something, and to escape for the mendacity that loomed over him and his marriage. The sweet south Williams presents us with could do nothing to stop the Pollitt families lies, whether it be about Big Daddy’s cancer, Maggie and Brick’s marital issues, Brick’s drinking, or even the true relationship behind Brick and his friend Skipper.
Having many different conflicts within the family of main characters, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’s use of the conflict of man vs. man and man vs. self between the characters of the play reveals the fooling of others and even oneself through lies. The children lying to Big Daddy by keeping his cancer a secret, knowing they should tell him; Maggie lying to herself about the things and children she wants, knowing Brick may not provide these things for her; and Brick lying to himself about the spring for his alcoholism fool every character in the play. Keeping this information from Big Daddy, Mae and Gooper are plotting against Maggie and Brick to get more than their “fair share” of the estate before Big Daddy even knows what is going on. Maggie’s lies about her marriage to Brick, knowing that he is too consumed within himself and within his alcohol, she flits about her “outside of the bedroom” life as if nothing is wrong, though she and Brick have come to an agreement not to sleep together. Brick’s troubles with his marriage, sprouting from his deep friendship, betrayal, and then suicide from his best friend Skipper spiral him into alcoholism, to escape from the lies he has been living in. The lies of the authenticity of Brick and Skipper’s relationship, whether it was socially acceptable or not, added to Brick’s sadness and need to drink. Conflict spurting from lies swarms the Pollitt family throughout the play.
The characterization of Brick Pollitt reveals lies can even fool oneself. What once was a true, beautiful friendship between Brick and Skipper became soiled with lies and caused Brick to believe that the true happiness he had found in his friend had turned into a dirty, unacceptable type of relationship. This idea, encourage by Maggie and others around them, caused Skipper to take to alcohol and one night call Brick to confess his “love” to him. Brick, startled by this lie that had gotten the best of even his bosom friend, hung up on Skipper and never heard from him again. Skipper’s suicide caused Brick to become distant and alien to the rest of his family and the world, knowing a love that no one else knew, a pure, clean friendship, and having it fall and shatter right before his eyes. Drinking not to have fun or get drunk, Brick aims to become numb and detached from the rest of the world, being consoled only bye the lies within himself. Mendacity, what Brick was running-drinking-from, in reality, also laid within him.
The setting of the South-an independent, carefree, but sweet place, as well as the conflict among characters and even themselves, and the characterization of Brick Pollitt reveal that lies fooling others can also fool oneself, and that the mendacity of the Pollitt family.