Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

by: Tennessee Williams

Act I: Part one

Summary

Brick is taking a shower in the bedroom he shares with his wife, Maggie. Maggie enters and undresses, complaining that one of his brother Gooper's children hit her with a hot buttered biscuit. They are no better than animals at a country fair. Gooper and his wife Mae have been having them perform for Big Daddy, incessantly reminding him of their own childlessness. They are trying to cut Brick out of the estate now that Daddy is dying of cancer.

Maggie lowers the shades and continues, saying that Brick is only aiding and abetting Gooper and Mae in their scheme with his drinking and much-publicized stunt last night on the high school athletic field. Brick broke his ankle jumping hurdles. Maggie is confident of their advantage. Big Daddy dotes on Brick, abhors Gooper and his "monster of fertility" of a wife and has a "lech" for Maggie herself.

The children scream downstairs. Maggie's smile fades when she notices Brick is oblivious to her. This constant rejection makes her humor bitchy. She recounts how Gooper and Mae plied Daddy at the dinner table and tactlessly kept exchanging tactical signals, how they affect refinement because of Mae's family name and crown as the Memphis cotton carnival queen, and an anecdote about a former queen getting a mouthful of tobacco in the eye during the parade.

Suddenly Maggie catches sight of Brick staring at her in the mirror and starts. She asks why he looks at her that way. She knows she has undergone a "hideous transformation," become hard and frantic. She is lonely, since living with someone you love, who does not love you back, is lonelier than living alone. When Brick asks if she would like to live alone, Maggie gasps and attempts to resume ordinary conversation.

Asking if Brick enjoyed his shower, she offers him an alcohol or cologne rub. Brick replies that he is no longer in shape. Maggie replies that he remains the only drunk she knows who has yet to lose his looks—he maybe even looks better. He has always looked "enviably cool." Maggie recalls that drinking was beginning to soften up Skipper, and stops short.

She recalls how Brick was the most wonderful lover in his indifference, his perfect calm. She would stab herself in the heart if she knew he would never sleep with her again. Maggie is determined to win, however. "What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?" she asks. "Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can…"