Theatre: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

"I've got the guts to die. What I want to know is, have you got the guts to live?"
Big Daddy

A 1955 play that won Tennessee Williams his second Pulitzer Prize, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has endured thanks to numerous productions ever since. One of its best known versions was a 1958 film adaptation, staring Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor and Burl Ives.

The story concerns the Pollitt family, and all the ugly family issues that rear its ugly head as they reunite for the birthday of its patriarch, Big Daddy. Big Daddy, unaware that he's dying, tries desperately to connect to his angry, alcoholic favored son, Brick, who is married to Maggie. Meanwhile, the other family members try desperately to suck up to Big Daddy to get some of his fortune. Of course, tensions between father and son have to be resolved some time...

This work features examples of:

  • Adaptational Sexuality: Brick's homosexuality was all but erased in the 1958 film adaptation. As his deeply closeted sexuality was the character's entire motivation in the original script, this glossing-over was a major detriment that led to Tennessee William's disowning the production.
  • Arc Words: "Mendacity."
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: In the 1958 film, Maggie goes out to the pouring rain and gets her hair soaking wet, but the next time we see her, it's perfectly dry and styled.
  • Broken Pedestal: Brick is shattered that Skipper killed himself, showing he was not as strong as he thought he was.
  • Brutal Honesty: At one point, Maggie angers Brick so much that he tries to hit her with his crutch, but he misses and falls. One of Gooper and Mae's kids runs in the room, and asks why he is he on the floor. Brick calmly responds: "Because I tried to kill your Aunt Maggie. But I failed. And I fell."
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Big Daddy has cancer (though this is hidden from him with a diagnosis of a spastic colon).
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: the play ends with Maggie removing all of the liquor, locking it away, and then telling Brick she'll only give it back to him if he has sex with her. A mild case, but a case nonetheless.
  • Downer Ending: The original ending was this. Later, Williams wrote a Bittersweet Ending at the insistence of the stage director, Elia Kazan. The published version of the play contains both endings, with Williams offering the reader to choose between them.
  • Driven to Suicide: Skipper
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Brick. He explains that drinking causes a "click" in his head, that makes him feel peaceful.
  • Empathic Environment: In the movie version, a storm rises and starts to rage at the point where Brick and Big Daddy start arguing, it downpours (as if Nature itself were crying) when Big Daddy learns the truth about his illness, and the storm dissipates entirely once all of the conflict of the movie has been resolved. (At one point Big Daddy even compares the storm raging outside to the one raging inside his own house.)
  • Fake Pregnancy: "I've got life in me, Big Daddy!" It's up to the reader to wonder if Big Daddy's response is that he genuinely thinks she's pregnant or if he knows she's lying and is just enjoying the lie.
  • Gayngst
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Brick and Skipper - at least that's what Brick claims.
  • Ignore the Fan Service: Maggie walks around wearing a sexy white slip, but Brick refuses even to touch her.
  • It's All Junk: In the film, Brick does this to his family's possessions to send a message to his father about the importance of personal love rather than material love.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Big Daddy.
  • Lingerie Scene: Maggie has one at the beginning.
  • The Masochism Tango: Brick apparently hates Maggie, and he can't even bear to touch her - but he says that he won't divorce her.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Wouldn't it be funny, if that were true?" Was first used in the original version, shows up in some productions from time to time, and can mean all the difference between a happy ending and a bittersweet one.
  • The Modest Orgasm: Brick brings it up at the end, saying that he and Maggie could have had sex without Mae and Gooper hearing it in the next room, because "not everybody makes much noise about love".
  • My Greatest Failure: Brick refusing to answer Skipper's phone call, possibly saving his life.
  • The Patriarch: Big Daddy.
  • Right Through the Wall: Gooper and Mae know that Brick and Maggie are not having sex, because they share a wall, and they hear her pleading and his refusal.
  • Sealed with a Kiss: The 1958 film version ends with Brick kissing Maggie.
  • Sexless Marriage: The marriage between Brick and Maggie became this. This is about to change at the end.
  • Stocking Filler: Maggie is shown changing her stockings at the beginning of the film.
  • Streetwalker: When Big Daddy talks about his travels to other countries to Brick, he mentions that once in Morocco, a child prostitute so young she could barely walk tried to open his fly. He was so grossed out that he left the country instantly.
  • Title Drop: Maggie uses the title to describe her life.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Big Daddy has cancer, which is considered to be so horrifying that the doctor doesn't dare to tell it to him.
  • The Un-Hug: In the 1958 film, Maggie hugs Brick at one point. Brick instinctively raises his arms to hug her back... then lets them down and tells Maggie to let go.
  • Unnamed Parent: Big Daddy.
  • Unusual Euphemism: For example "Frig Mae and Gooper, frig all dirty lies and liars!"

Alternative Title(s):

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof