Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tennessee Williams
Summary

Act I: Part one

Summary Act I: Part one

In contrast to the frantic Maggie, Brick would locate himself on the far side of this family drama. On the brink of deliquescence, he possesses the charm of those who have given up and assumed a pose of indifference before the world. Brick embodies an almost archetypal masculinity. Before this "Brick," Maggie can only find herself in the throes of desire. As Maggie laments, Brick's enviable coolness made him the most wonderful lover. As we will see, it also casts aspersions on his sexuality.

Though enviably cool, Brick is also an obviously broken man, ruined by inadmissible desires. Note in particular how he stumbles through the play, continually dropping his crutches or losing them at the hands of others. As we will see, Brick's injury functions as a symbol of his unmanning or, more precisely, castration. Here it will enable Maggie to raise the question of the unmanly desires he keeps under wraps. Maggie's refusal to abide by the "laws of silence," her repression, begins to crack his wall.

The scene also introduces us to setting for the entire play, the bed-sitting room of Big Daddy's manor. Though all of Williams's stage notes merit careful consideration, we should be sure to mark the setting's explicitly symbolic elements. First the room formerly belonged to the plantation's original owners, Jack Straw and Peter Ochello, and Williams writes that the ghost of their love haunts the room. Brick and Maggie's bed, the place where, as Big Mama will observe, the rocks in their marriage lie, was originally theirs.

Second, a gloriously grotesque console, combining a radio-phonograph, television, and liquor cabinet, towers over the room. As Williams notes, it serves as shrine to the "comforts and illusions" behind which people hide from the things the characters face. Mark especially then the moments when Brick will go to the console and, for example, turn on the radio, refresh his drink, and onward, raising a screen between him and the world.