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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tennessee Williams

Important Quotations Explained

Act IV: Part two

Key Facts

You look so cool, so cool, so enviably cool.

Maggie mournfully remarks on Brick's inaccessibility in Act I. The favorite son and longed-for lover, Brick possesses the charm of those who have given up and assumed a pose of indifference before the world. Brick embodies an almost archetypal masculinity, that of the self-possessed, self-contained, untouchable, and phallically intact man. Before this indifferent "block," characters find themselves in the throes of desire (Maggie, Mama) or state of aggression (Daddy). Against "Brick" of a man, Maggie appears the hysterical, dissatisfied woman, prostrate before a man who refuses to recognize her desire.

"You told me! I told you!"

Brick forcefully closes his dialogue with Daddy in Act II with this seemingly gratuitous sentence. He has just told Daddy of his cancer in return for the revelation of the homosexual desire in his relationship with Skipper.

Throughout the play, Brick and Big Daddy appear to be in a narcissistic relationship with each other. Here father and son figure as doubles in their roles as revealer and recipient of the other's "inadmissible thing." Brick stages a reversal, turned things "upside down": now Daddy stands in the place he just occupied. It is a violent act, robbing Daddy of his second life. Brick's exit marks the reverse side of the narcissistic love between them, the aggressive logic of "either you go or I go" between those who mirror each other too closely.

She had a naked child with her, a little naked girl, barely able to toddle, and after a while she set this child on the ground and give her a push and whispered something to her. This child come toward me, barely able t'walk, come toddling up to me and—Jesus, it makes you sick t'remember a thing like this! It stuck out its hand and tried to unbutton my trousers!

In a rather strange digression, Daddy recalls his world travels at the beginning of his dialogue with Brick in Act II. Daddy's memories of his travels introduce a motif familiar to Williams' readers: the Mediterranean/North Africa as a primal space, a space of savagery, lawlessness, and sexual excess—in short, all that which civilization would repress. These exotic locales and their inhabitants become ciphers for the desires that remain tenuously repressed at the home. It is fitting that later Brick tells of a fraternity pledge who flees to North Africa when the brothers discover that he is a sodomite.

You been passing the buck. This disgust with mendacity is disgust with yourself. You!—you dug the grave of your friend and kicked him in it!—before you'd face the truth with him!

Daddy delivers his ultimate diagnosis of Brick toward the end of Act II. Brick is disgusted with his own mendacity before the homosexual desire in his friendship with Skipper. He dug his friend's grave rather than face the truth. Thus Daddy calls his son to judgment: "You!" he cries accusingly.

While Daddy's diagnosis rings true, we should note that it is suspiciously familiar. Indeed, it repeats Daddy's own remark to himself in Act II, where he murmurs in disgust over the mendacity in his staying with Big Mama for forty years. Brick himself has echoed Daddy's outburst on mendacity as a feint, as another way of passing the buck. Daddy has interpreted its "hidden truth. It also seems, however, that he has perhaps projected his own disgust with mendacity onto Brick, marking the narcissistic nature of their relationship.

Yep, they're no-neck monsters, all no-neck people are monsters

Maggie cattily dubs Gooper and Mae's brood a bunch of "no-necked monsters" at the beginning of Act I. The children in Cat are indeed monstrous, continually invading the scene. Against the beautiful, childless, tragic couple, the image of the family appears hilariously grotesque. For example, Mae and Gooper have spawned a litter of beasts fit for the county fair; and Mae is a "monster of fertility." This side of the family offers up a burlesque of familial love and devotion. Note in particular Daddy's birthday party in Act II.

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Misleading use of characters' names

by Jamesy777, April 19, 2014

It is disconcerting that you refer to Big Daddy and Big Mama as Daddy and Mama.

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