Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

by: Tennessee Williams

Brick

The favorite son and mourned 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).

At the same time, Brick is an obviously broken man. Turning from his homosexual desire for his dead friend Skipper, Brick has depressively withdrawn from the world behind a screen of liquor. He is reduced to the daily, mechanical search for his click that gives him peace. Thus he would locate himself on the far side of the family drama.

Brick's brokenness is materialized in his injury, a broken ankle incurred while jumping hurdles on the high school athletic field. In a sense, it is an injury incurred out of nostalgia for the early days of his friendship with Skipper, the time of what Maggie describes as their Greek legend. This injury, a wound in his otherwise intact masculinity, is also a figure for his castration, the unmanning implied in homosexual desire.

Brick is brought to judgment on his desire twice in the place: first by Maggie in Act I and then by Daddy in Act II. When Daddy approaches what has been tenuously repressed, Brick desperately attempts to dodge him, emptying his words of all significance. As he tells Daddy, their talks never materialize: nothing is said. When Daddy presses him, Brick reveals why he yearns for "solid quiet," why he would deny that their talks take place anywhere or refer to anything: they are painful. As Williams notes, Brick's horror at the thought of being identified with the litany of epithets that he recites ("Fairies") marks the extent of his internalization of the lie of conventional morality, the lie to which Mama pathetically clings and on which Maggie places her bets at the end of the play.