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The play's cat, Maggie, is a dissatisfied woman left prostrate before a brick of a man, Brick. Maggie's loneliness lies in Brick's refusal to recognize her desire. His refusal to make her his desire has made her hard, nervous, and bitter.
Imagined here as the woman constantly posing in the mirror, Maggie is perhaps the most fascinating character of the play. As Williams indicates, she holds the audiences transfixed. The exhilaration of the play lies in the force of the audience's identification with its gorgeous heroine, a woman desperate in her sense of lack, masochistically bound to a man who do not want her, and made all the more beautiful in her envy, longing, and dispossession.
Read about another desperate heroine, Blanche DuBois, from Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire.
Against the indifferent Brick, the frantic Maggie literally begins to fall to pieces. Throughout Act I, Maggie appears changing her clothes, posing before the mirror, preparing for the party. She appears at her most seductive and most vulnerable, utterly unable to lure her husband's desire. Indeed his gaze of disgust, freezing her in the mirror, precipitates her "hideous transformation" into "Maggie the Cat." Maggie's dispossession also lies in her childlessness. Her childlessness calls her status as wife and woman into question. As a childless woman she is a woman who lacks. Without a child, moreover, her and Brick's place in Big Daddy's household is not assured.
Maggie is figured through a number of tropes of virginity. Earlier she sarcastically refers to herself as "Saint Maggie"; at one point Mae enters toting her Diana trophy; at the close of the play, Mae will joke that the only way she could have conceived of a child is immaculately. The desperate Maggie is subject to a miserable second virginity, a virginity that stands, in the logic of the play, against the grotesqueness of fertility. At the risk of being glib, we should note also that Maggie's trophy symbolizes her status as a "trophy wife."
Ace your assignments with our guide to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!