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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof | Study Guide

Tennessee Williams

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Course Hero. "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Study Guide." Course Hero. 12 Jan. 2017. Web. 1 June 2023. <>.

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Course Hero. "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Study Guide." January 12, 2017. Accessed June 1, 2023.


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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Act 1

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof takes place in the 1950s in a plantation home on a large estate located in the Mississippi Delta. All of the action happens in the upstairs bedroom of Brick Pollitt and his wife, Maggie. Brick and Maggie are childless. Maggie accuses Brick's brother, Gooper, and his sister-in-law, Mae, of displaying their kids in front of Brick's father, Big Daddy, as a way of persuading him to leave the estate to them. They know Big Daddy will die soon from cancer. Brick wears a cast for an ankle he broke in a drunken binge the previous night, and drinks a lot of liquor. He seems detached and disinterested in Maggie's concerns. Maggie claims Big Daddy really likes Brick and dislikes Gooper and Mae. She is also frustrated about not having sex with Brick and remembers fondly when they used to make love. Brick remains unconcerned. She asks her husband to sign Big Daddy's birthday card, but he refuses.

Mae enters and brags about her children. Maggie makes fun of Mae's kids, which causes Mae to leave in a huff. Maggie feels nervous, like a cat on a hot tin roof. Brick tells her to jump off the roof and take a lover. Maggie says she only wants Brick, but he reminds her of the conditions of their marriage. Brick's mother, Big Mama, enters and says tests show Big Daddy doesn't have cancer. After Big Mama leaves, Maggie says the doctors are lying about the cancer to avoid breaking bad news, which stuns Brick. She then reveals she made love with Brick's friend Skipper because they both wanted to be closer to Brick. Brick says Maggie is claiming that he had a homosexual relationship with Skipper. Maggie knows Brick didn't have homosexual feelings for Skipper. However, Skipper did have these feelings for Brick but denied it. Skipper tried to make love with Maggie to prove he wasn't gay. He then began to drink a lot and died. Furious, Brick tries to hit Maggie with his crutch but misses. People approach the room for Big Daddy's birthday celebration.

Act 2

In the bedroom, Gooper, Mae, Big Mama, Reverend Tooker, Doctor Baugh, and Maggie celebrate Big Daddy's birthday. Big Daddy seems disgusted with his wife, and Brick remains detached while drinking liquor. Big Daddy yells at Big Mama, calling her a hypocrite for pretending to be happy about him not having cancer when she really was looking forward to taking control of the estate after Big Daddy died. Wanting to have a talk with Brick, Big Daddy kicks out Big Mama and the other guests. Brick tells Big Daddy that Maggie and Mae are each afraid about not inheriting the estate. Confident about not having cancer, Big Daddy says the two women will have to wait a while. Brick doesn't want to have this talk with Big Daddy, claiming their talks never amount to much. Big Daddy insists they talk, and wonders why Brick drinks so much. Brick claims he's disgusted about the mendacity, or lying, he deals with. Big Daddy says he has lived with mendacity his entire life.

When he thought he was dying, Big Daddy debated whether to leave his estate to Brick or to Gooper and Mae. Brick says he doesn't care. Big Daddy claims that Brick started to drink after Skipper died. Big Daddy seems to think that Brick had a homosexual relationship with Skipper, which horrifies Brick. Brick insists he had a deep, decent friendship with Skipper. Big Daddy wonders why Brick cracked up. At first, Brick blames Maggie's affair with Skipper, but Big Daddy calls this story a lie. Then Brick admits that Skipper called him and confessed his homosexual feelings. In response, Brick hung up. Soon, Skipper went on a drinking binge and died. Big Daddy accuses Brick of causing Skipper's death instead of facing the truth about their relationship. Brick says no one can face the truth. He lets the fact slip that Big Daddy really does have cancer. Stunned, Big Daddy leaves, calling everyone liars.

Act 3

Maggie, Mae, Gooper, Reverend Tooker, and Doctor Baugh join Brick in the room. Mae wants Doctor Baugh to tell Big Mama the truth about Big Daddy having cancer. Big Mama enters and expresses suspicion about the upcoming family talk. Brick gets a drink. Big Mama calls for Brick, but he refuses to sit by her. Doctor Baugh tells Big Mama that Big Daddy has cancer, which she has trouble accepting. Reverend Tooker and Doctor Baugh leave. Gooper shows Big Mama a preliminary trusteeship, which would give him control of the estate. Big Mama finds Gooper's plans to be disgusting. Big Daddy enters the room. Maggie tells him that she's pregnant, which he believes. Before giving up his estate he wants to look over his land from the house's roof. Big Daddy leaves, and Big Mama follows him. Mae accuses Maggie of lying about being pregnant, and leaves with Gooper. Brick goes out on the gallery with a drink. Alone in the room, Maggie locks up Brick's liquor. When he returns, she says now is a good time for her to conceive. Maggie tells Brick about locking up his liquor and says she'll let him drink after he has sex with her. Amazed by this, Brick seems willing to go along with his wife. However, when Maggie expresses her love for Brick he says, "Wouldn't it be funny if that was true?"

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction


1 Maggie wants Big Daddy's estate, as do Gooper and Mae.

Rising Action

2 Maggie wants kids and is sexually frustrated with Brick.

3 Big Mama mistakenly thinks Big Daddy is cancer-free.

4 Brick denies Maggie's claim that he and Skipper were gay.

5 Big Daddy thinks he does not have cancer.

6 Brick denies that he and Skipper were gay to Big Daddy.

7 Brick tells Big Daddy that he has cancer.

8 Gooper tries to convince Big Mama to give him the estate.


9 Maggie says she's pregnant.

Falling Action

10 Big Daddy plans to leave estate to Brick.

11 Mae says Maggie is lying about pregnancy.


12 To get pregnant, Maggie coerces Brick to have sex.

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