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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof | Study Guide

Tennessee Williams

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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Act 1, why did Brick and Skipper turn down jobs and start up the Dixie Stars?

After college, Skipper and Brick wanted to keep their close friendship. If they each got different jobs, Brick would end up starting a family with Maggie, thereby separating him from Skipper. However, neither Brick nor Skipper viewed their relationship as being homosexual. Instead, they idealized their friendship as something decent, according to society's standards. The fact that they were both football heroes supported this idealization. So, Skipper and Brick decided to start a football team called the Dixie Stars, which they hoped would enable them to continue their dream; namely, their close friendship. However, Skipper probably sensed that he was deceiving himself. He had homosexual feelings for Brick but wouldn't admit to them, and he was rejected by Brick when he finally did, so Skipper began to drink heavily.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, for what purpose does Tennessee Williams have Dixie enter at the end of Act 1?

By having Dixie come into the room, Tennessee Williams emphasizes the invasion of Margaret and Brick's privacy. They are having a highly charged, personal argument, which Dixie interrupts. Throughout the play, people disrupt personal talks, thereby disturbing communication. Also through Dixie, Williams shows Gooper and Mae's animosity toward Maggie. Dixie's parents have apparently expressed their hatred for Maggie in front of Dixie. Dixie conveys this hatred toward Maggie by shooting at her with a cap pistol. In this way, Dixie represents her parent's deviousness. They pretend to be loving, caring people, but in reality they harbor resentments toward Maggie. Maggie expresses her jealousy of Gooper and Mae's children by calling Dixie a "no-neck monster." Finally, Williams shows how information spreads indirectly in the Pollitt household. Maggie has tried to keep her frustration about not having children private. Even so, news about her frustration has spread, as Dixie shows by saying, "You're just jealous because you can't have babies."

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, for what purpose might Tennessee Williams have disabled Brick with an ankle injury?

Tennessee Williams uses Brick's disability as an outer reflection of his inner psyche. The author shows Brick as having a crippled or stunted inner being. Because of his self-delusion about his relationship with Skipper, Brick cannot honestly come to terms with himself, which hampers his relationships with others. Brick detaches himself from people, using alcohol to support this detachment. Alcohol could be seen as a crutch that supports his crippled soul. Like a disabled person who cannot walk without a crutch, Brick cannot relate to people without the crutch of alcohol. By having Brick break an ankle, Williams is able to show this inner dynamic in a physical way by having Brick literally use a crutch for support.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in what way do Gooper and Mae communicate with each other?

Gooper and Mae have secret, intense communication with each other, which often involves gestures. Maggie notices this underhanded communication style. She says that during dinner, Gooper and Mae often exchanged "pokes an' pinches an' kicks an' signs an' signals." Tennessee Williams emphasizes Gooper and Mae's real feelings as opposed to the artifice they present to Big Daddy. Also, the author shows that Gooper and Mae have a plan that they have agreed upon and are putting into effect. At times, the communication between Gooper and Mae seems choreographed, as if they are acting out a designed script. For example, they work together in an obviously planned way to get Big Mama to listen to the doctor about Big Daddy's illness.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, how does Tennessee Williams use the set locations of the bathroom and the gallery to develop the play's themes?

Tennessee Williams uses the bathroom and the gallery to develop the theme of lack of communication. For example, in Act 1, Brick uses the bathroom as a hiding place to avoid communicating with Big Mama. In Act 2, Brick tries to escape to the gallery to avoid talking with Big Daddy. In addition, during Act 2, people such as Big Mama come in from the gallery to interrupt the communication between Brick and Big Daddy. The author also uses the bathroom to introduce the theme of delusion and artifice. The play starts with Brick taking a shower in the bathroom. He comes out drying himself and looking clean. As the rest of the play shows, Brick is obsessed with keeping himself morally clean, especially with regard to his friendship with Skipper. The author uses the bathroom and shower to foreshadow Brick's focus on moral cleanliness. Near the end of the play, Maggie uses the gallery to break through Brick's delusion. She throws Brick's crutch over the gallery's railing in an attempt to make Brick face life without the crutch of alcohol.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in what ways does Big Mama invade the privacy of other characters?

In Act 1, Tennessee Williams has Big Mama invade the privacy of Maggie and Brick by coming into their room and making accusations to Maggie about her not satisfying Brick in bed. During this scene, Big Mama startles Maggie by entering her bedroom through the gallery. Maggie says, "People have got to have some moments of privacy." Big Mama does not think people have any right to privacy in her house. In Act 2, Big Mama invades the privacy of Brick and Big Daddy by coming through the bedroom to answer the phone. Through these actions, Williams shows that Big Mama lacks healthy boundaries. She believes the private affairs of her children are her affairs as well. The author might have Big Mama act in this way to show her insecurity. Big Mama must know that her husband despises her, even though she tries to deny it. Also, Big Daddy claims that Big Mama really wants him to die to get control of the estate. If this is true, perhaps Big Mama invades the privacy of her family to keep as much control as possible of the estate. She might be concerned that her children, with Big Daddy's assistance, are plotting to limit her control of the estate.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Act 2, in what ways does Tennessee Williams use humor?

Tennessee Williams uses humor mostly through Big Daddy's harsh jokes about Big Mama. The author does this to show how Big Daddy copes with the frustration and mendacity he deals with concerning his wife. For years, Big Daddy has pretended to care for Big Mama when he really despises her. Big Daddy makes fun of his wife to help him deal with his dislike of her and to hurt her. In a way, Big Daddy is getting his revenge on Big Mama for being so obnoxious. Williams, therefore, uses humor to convey the theme of cruelty. Also, the author uses humor with Big Mama's crude jokes, which show her oppressive personality.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Act 2, for what purpose does Tennessee Williams have Gooper and Mae's children sing a song to Big Daddy?

Tennessee Williams uses the children's song to Big Daddy to emphasize how Gooper and Mae are orchestrating a plan to influence and deceive Big Daddy. The children sing a cloyingly sweet song about how much they love Big Daddy. Mae guides this performance like a choir director, directing a chorus. The whole song has been obviously planned and rehearsed to persuade Big Daddy that Gooper and Mae and their children love him. However, the entire song is a lie. In reality, Gooper and Mae hate and resent Big Daddy. In fact, if the children replaced the word love with the word hate, then the song would be very truthful. Of course, the reason for this deception is to convince Big Daddy to give his estate to Gooper and Mae.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Act 2, why might Big Daddy have created a scenario about how Brick broke his ankle?

Big Daddy creates a scenario about how Brick broke his ankle, which involved Brick chasing after women on the track and then tripping. Big Daddy probably does this for two reasons. First, Big Daddy wants to reassure himself that Brick is not having marriage problems with Maggie. If Brick denies this story and says he has no need to chase other women because he has Maggie, then Big Daddy would know that Brick does not have marriage problems. Also, Big Daddy wants to find out if Brick was drunk when he broke his ankle. Brick admits he got drunk and broke his ankle jumping hurdles. Although this confession provides Big Daddy with some of the information he wanted, it does not ease his mind about Brick's marriage.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Act 2, how does Tennessee Williams develop the symbol of the cat?

Tennessee Williams expands the symbol of the cat to include Mae as well as Maggie. Brick says that both Maggie and Mae "look nervous as cats." Big Daddy agrees with his son. Both Maggie and Mae are nervous about getting Big Daddy's estate and are fighting each other to get a bigger piece of it. Brick says that these women have this similarity because they both come from families that fell on hard times. Because of this, both women are determined to get the wealth and prestige they lacked growing up.

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