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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Reflective Essay: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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.

Monologue: Maggie

This monologue belongs to Maggie in Act I, after her argument with Brick about Big Daddy’s cancer, and after her facing the facts about Brick’s alcoholism and expressing her desire for children and for nice things, two privileges she has been denied in her marriage to Brick and in her life before him. This monologue enhances the growing problem of Maggie and Brick’s marriage, as well as Maggie’s need and desire for love, especially, then sex and nice things and eventually children from her drunk husband.

MAGGIE: You know, Brick. You know what’s wrong with us. You know you care bout our marriage, crumblin right before our eyes and not bein able to satisfy me or yourself or givin me things I want. Things I need. Love. But you’re just fillin your hurt with liquor, filling it with thoughts of what could have been and past regrets, and right now, Brick Pollitt, you’re makin regrets you’ll wish you hadn’t later. My daddy was a drinkin man, loved his liquor, the way you have with yours. Why, your own sober daddy is right here, sitting right here about to die and all you can think about is your liquor. All you can think about is your Echo Spring, not your wife, this official who’s been elected to the care of Brick Pollitt, the alcoholic. But I love you, Brick. I love you with all I have left and if-when we have children, they’ll love me too. They love you and you’ll love them and me, but right now all you love is your liquor! But Baby, that’s the truth. Mae and Gooper’s plan to freeze us out of the estate for my state of barrenness and your alcoholism won’t happen. We can defeat that plan, we will defeat that plan! I wouldn’t be barren if we slept together and you wouldn’t be an alcoholic if you woke up and realized that the past is the past, and we’ve got to live in the now, Brick! You could give me a nice home, nice things. Nice, beautiful, lovely children, but Brick, you don’t. I could give you all of my love and all of the world, but all you’d have is your Echo Spring and I’d be stuck suckin up to people I can’t stand because that’s the only way anyone gets anything around here. I can stand you, Brick, but can you stand me? Can you stand anything but your liquor? Can you stand the fact that your Big Daddy’s dyin and you don’t seem to care one bit? Look what all he’s done, for you, for Gooper, for us! The biggest an’ finest plantation in the Delta, or a share of it, and you’re throwin it away. I’ve always liked Big Daddy and Big Daddy’s always loved you, but you don’t show him no love back. You don’t show no one no love back but your glass and your bottles. Brick, my parents, my drunken father and my poor, poor mother, she had to keep our social position up. What position do we have now, Brick? You’re an alcoholic and who am I, the alcoholic’s wife? I was raised on nearly nothin, but we could have so much now, Brick. So many things. So much love. So many little hands and faces, pawing at us to scoop them up and hold them, but Brick we can’t even hold ourselves up. I’m tryin as hard as I can to stand it, Brick, but I’m like a cat. I’m like a cat on a hot tin roof! The old government bonds may have gotten me through my childhood and we may be gettin by now, but you can be young with money. But you can’t be old without it! We can’t be old without it!

Soliloquy: Brick

This soliloquy should fit after Brick and Big Daddy’s discussion in the bedroom, while Brick and Maggie are sitting in the bedroom in ACT III. Everyone has left and only Brick and Maggie are left in the room. Maggie tries to make Brick comfortable and to get him to sleep with her, but he is drinking trying for the “click”, the click in his alcoholic mind. Before Big Momma bursts into the door for the package, Maggie gets out of bed and goes to the bathroom, to further prepare herself for bed, and Brick is left alone, pondering all of these happenings. Brick is discussing his drinking and marital problems in his mind and for a second, we think he will give in and change. Hearing Brick’s thoughts on the happenings of the play enhance the wounds Brick has made for himself, and we really begin to see the character of Brick through this soliloquy. A Brick that used to be, but a Brick that we have never met..

BRICK:

The click. The click I’ve been waiting for. Yes, it’s a click in my mind and it’s only in my mind, but oh I wish it would be in my life and I wish it would be enough to shake me. I loved my wife, I loved Skipper. I loved my life. But now, I drink for the disgusting mendacity I have put upon myself and others. Maggie can’t love me, why should she love me? Why should she love a man like me who has shown her nothing, absolutely nothing for a long while? She is beautiful, she is lovely, but how can she love a cripple-hearted, cripple-footed, alcoholic like me? Oh, Maggie. Oh, Skipper. Skipper loved me, and I loved him too, but Skipper is not here and did he love me the same? We were good friends, deep friends, an unbreakable bond between us. Only death could break it, and though Maggie and Skipper slept together to feel me, the only think Skipper felt was the need to separate us for good. To love me the way he wanted? For me to love Maggie? I don’t know why, but I know I’m broken. I know I can’t bear to do this any longer, though. Big Daddy’s a-dyin and Gooper will have Mae and they’ll have Big Momma and they’ll all have his children, but who will I have? Who will Maggie have?  Who could Skipper have had? Who can all of them have now? Not me, Not this alcoholic. This man in love with his liquor. They say they love me, they do, and I know they did, but now? Now do they love me? After all I’ve put them through?

Does Maggie love me or what we had? Does Maggie love this stupid alcoholic, blinded by his broken dreams and his endless drinks? Hah, I wish it were true because I could love her. I do love her. But right now, I just love alcohol more. I love the click, but I’d love for my life to click and to have children and to love Maggie and to have her love me. If it means rehab, I’ll do it. But a man in love with his liquor? Who could conceive a child with him? Not my Maggie. Not her, she doesn’t love me like I love my liquor or like I should love her. She says it, but she does. But right now, I need another drink. Right now, I–[Maggie walks in]

Additional Scene: Six Years Later

ACT IV

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{Introduction..Six years after Big Daddy’s 65th birthday, Brick and Maggie Pollitt return to plantation to visit for the Fourth of July, and are, by no surprise to the reader, in the same bedroom as the first three acts. Big Daddy has passed on, bless his soul, almost a year after his big birthday bash. Sitting down with the family, the conclusions were, as expected, that Mae and Gooper would move into the plantation with Big Momma and help take care of Big Daddy until his dying days. After returning from  a treatment center for his alcoholism, upon finding out his wife was expecting their first child, Brick had a newfound love for his wife Maggie and took her on a second honeymoon with his share of money Big Daddy had given him in advance. Mae and Gooper moved in while Big Daddy was still alive, causing more ruckus than was necessary for the poor dying man. Living until a few months after his first grandchild (well, grandchildren, for Maggie and Brick had twins) from his youngest son was born, Big Daddy kept on doing what he always did, and even began to find Big Momma a bit more tolerable. Well, maybe more than a bit because his last words were, “I love you, Ida. And the children, too.”}

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

[In the background, adult voices and children's giggles are heard over the soft summer breeze. Rays of sunlight are beaming through the bedroom window shades as the sun sinks over the distant hills outside. We see Maggie Pollitt with her back to us, fanning herself. Unnoticeable until she turns and sits on the bed, we see that Maggie's belly is swollen, and as her left hand moves towards her bump, her wedding ring shines in the sun as she is seated. Brick, who has been sitting at the vanity drinking a mug of coffee and reading the paper smiles, walks over to his wife, and kisses her forehead. They look at each other longingly. Suddenly, their intimate moment is interrupted..]

CHILD ONE: Momma, momma, the fireworks are about to start! And–

CHILD TWO: Momma, momma, Big Momma’s made us some homemade vanilly ice cre–

[Child One pinches Child Two]

BRICK JR: Momma, he inter-interrupted me! And you must come see my mud village, I built it with my trucks, but-

SKIPPER: Momma! Make BJ stop pinching me! The ice cream! Is ready!

[we learn the children's names]

MARGARET: My darlings! Oh, my darlings! Can you not just get along? My beautiful boys, I dreamed of children, but not of animals when I prayed for you! Your father and I are resting, and we’ll be there in a second. BJ, I’m sure your village is absolutely captivating and I’ll share some ice cream and sprinkles with you, Skip, but we’re so tired from going to town today. You new sister is coming and she just can’t be taught to yell and screech, oh you have been around your cousins for too long! Huh! But what do you boys say about the color pink, eh? It’ll go perfect in the nursery and I’m sure you wouldn’t mind me redoing your rooms if–

BOYS: Oh no, momma! We’re not girls! We’ll go play quietly now!

[Brick smiles, and pats the boys on the heads]

BRICK: Run along, sons, and stake us a spot for the firework show. Spread a quilt for your mother, now and we’ll be there in a minute.

[Boys run, slamming the door and a vase rattles]

Maggie: Whew, now I can’t say I like Mae’s monsters any better now that we have our own, but the twins have gotten a bit rowdy since we’ve been here! Why, little Skip threw a buttered biscuit at me this evening while you and Gooper were on the porch havin’ a drink! Do you remember when Mae’s little monsters…

[Brick glances up from the paper occasionally, over his reading glasses and nods, but smiles to himself and lovingly pats her hand as she speaks]

Oh, she kicked again! Brick, our little Catty kicked me again! I just how she’s a girl, Catherine Marie, because I don’t know if I could survive with another little boy around here! But do you like the pink chair Brick, do you? Because we could just reupholster the nursing chair from the twins, but it’s so old and this one has little flowers and birds on it. There’s just too much to be done, Brick, and I don’t think Mae or Big Momma would let me leave in two weeks to have the baby! But with money havin’ been tight as it is and you not quite back on your feet with a job, I just don’t know, Baby. How will we afford the doctors bills and cloth blankets and diapers? It will be gettin’ cold soon, well in about three months, but how, Brick?

[Noticing the worry in his wife's voice, Brick leans over to set his coffee and paper down on the bedside table, and kneels on the floor next to Maggie's dangling feet.]

BRICK: Well, Baby, there’s somethin’ I’ve been meaning to tell you, to tell the whole family. I was waitin’ til after the fireworks show at dessert tonight, but I don’t want to rile you up too much so I’ll tell you now.

MAGGIE: Oh! {worried}

BRICK: I’ve got a job. I can’t play football anymore, and commentating reminds me too much of the past, but the Southern Times has asked me to write for them, Baby. They want me to do the sports section. Articles that will travel all throughout the South about football and baseball and such. I won’t start publishing articles until the fall, but they want me to come and write for them in a few other areas until football starts. While I was in rehab, I wrote a lot and one of the guys in my peer group said I should really send in one of my articles, so I did. You know I’ve been working on that fiction novel, and I’ll try to publish that too, but Baby this job pays a lot and it’s something I’ve begun to love doing, writing you know.

MAGGIE: Oh, oh Brick! That’s fantastic! That’s wonderful! That’s–

BRICK: But Maggie, there’s something else I’ve got to tell you..

MAGGIE: Oh no..

BRICK: The newspaper office isn’t where we live, it’s in town here. It’s here, Maggie. We’ll have to move.

MAGGIE: Oh, NO! In HERE? With Mae..and, and Gooper, and the kids? Witha baby on the way?!

[Brick, laughing heartily]

BRICK: No, no my darling. [more laughing] not here, here. But I’ve found a nice little house right outside of town that’s two stories with enough room for us, the boys, little Cat, and a study for me. We’ll be closer to Mae and Gooper and the kids and Big Momma, but I couldn’t dream of us all living together..no way! But just think, with the boys and Gooper’s last little one about to start school and with the baby on the way, now’s the perfect time for a move! I’ve gotten some money from the publishers in advanced for my book, so we’ll have enough to pay down. It might be a risk to move now with it being so soon to the due date, but–

MAGGIE: Oh, Brick! I’m so happy! So, so happy! Yes, we can move, and yes, yes, the baby is coming! But oh, with everything changing like it is and with life rolling on by, what’s a risk anymore besides taking no risk at all? We can start the move after baby is born, or I can just stay here with Mae and Big Momma the first month! Oh Brick! I can’t fathom this. I simply can’t. I’d never have imagined, five years ago, that we’d still even be together. We have two beautiful boys and a beautiful baby girl on the way. Oh, the sad times we went through! How depressing, how horrible! But now I can’t imagine life any different and I’m so happy right now, [Maggie moves her hand to her belly]..look Brick..[grabs his and and puts it on her belly], do you feel that? Little Cat’s excited, too. She’s ready to come and ready to be here. She’s ready to be loved.

BRICK: [puts his arm around his wife] Kind of like you were, eh, Maggie? So ready to be back in reality and ready to be loved? [kisses her forehead again] It just took me time to get back together, but I know we’ll be even better in these next five years than we were in the last, Maggie.

[children's voices outside are heard, calling "Daddy" and "Momma." Crickets are getting louder, and we begin to notice the room getting darker now, as the sun has vanished]

Well, I think the kids will explode if we don’t go outside shortly to see the fireworks.

MAGGIE: Oh, you go ahead downstairs, I’m going to change into a lighter dress because this heat is unbearable! [smiles] I do love you, Brick! [kisses her husband full on the lips and gazes into his eyes, then spins to walk into the bathroom and change]

BRICK: Alright, Baby. Don’t be too long!

[Brick exits, we hear a hanger clanking and a zipper zip. Maggie appears, walking out of the bathroom cooly to look out the window. Outside, we hear more giggles and Brick grunt loudly as he scoops up the giggling twins.]

[Zipping her zipper up and scooping up her hair in a comb, Maggie looks out the window and smiles.]

MAGGIE: This is going to be a big adventure, these next few years, Cat. [places hand on belly] But you’ll survive, even with two brothers and Lord knows how many cousins, you’ll survive. Kind of like me, little Catherine Marie. You’ll just be a little Cat in loving arms, but I, I was a cat on a hot tin roof. [ a tear falls]

And I’m so, so glad I stayed on.

THE END

This additional scene reflects the play’s meaning not by continuing the themes of unrequited love, lack of communication, and distrust, but by completely turning them around and showing readers the love that grew between Brick and Maggie after he learned he would soon become a father. And though the past hurt them all, the Pollitt family learned to live together and more importantly, to love together, even after the death of Big Daddy. Lack of communication was reoccurring throughout the first three acts in the play, but though there is once again a big secret to be told to the family, this surprise is joyous, and not fatal as Big Daddy’s cancer was, and will be exciting for the entire family, knowing that Brick now has a stable job and that they will be moving closer to their relatives. By turning around the themes and events from the past, this additional scene adds a newfound hope to the Pollitt family, and leaves readers with a sense of satisfaction and closure, something we all love.