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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tennessee Williams

Act II: Part three

Summary Act II: Part three

Brick continues and asks whether Daddy knows how people feel about such things. Brick explains how a fraternity chased a boy off the campus after discovering him and he ran all the way to North Africa. Daddy replies that he has come from "death's country" and is not easily shocked. Exhausted, he asks why Skipper cracked up.

Brick decides to settle the score, to exchange one "inadmissible thing" for another. He insists that his friendship with Skipper was real, deep, clean, and true until Maggie got the idea Daddy is talking about. Skipper and he kept up their game for one season after college. Then Maggie "laid down the law" and forced him to marry. She went on road with the Dixie Starts, making a show of being the team wife. Upon Brick's back injury, she jealously wormed her way between the two men. Maggie and Brick were never closer than "two cats on a—fence humping." She put this idea into Skipper's head, and he became a lush and died.

Analysis

With Brick at his feet, Daddy continues to demand the truth. Their bargain leads to Brick's own "recitative," his own account of what ensued between Maggie, Skipper, and himself.

First, however, Brick attempts another dodge, a feint that Daddy must elucidate. He attributes his drinking to his disgust for the mendacity. Daddy has every reason to suspect his son of passing the buck as he uttered the same lines a few moments earlier in his lecture to Big Mama. Brick's declaration is an example of empty speech, speech that would put its listener off the track of his desire. As we will see, Daddy will appear to make sense of Brick's proclamation of disgust at the end of his tale but in a way that strangely seems to refer to his own state of affairs.

Brick crumbles once again upon the second revelation of homosexual desire in his friendship with Skipper. In erupting violently at Daddy, Brick "doth protest too much." His horror at the thought of being identified with the litany of epithets that he recites, his disgust at the gossipmongers about him, only points to a fear that they might be true. Brick's desire is either utterly unspeakable or only in epithets ("Fairies") that would ward off, but nevertheless reveal his guilt. The incongruous but perfectly timed interruption of Reverend Tooker marks the presence of a lie of conventional morality, a lie that Brick, the darling child of this conventional world, has repeated to lethal consequences.

Thus, even in admitting his love for Skipper, Brick would still make it the stuff of legend: good, true, and completely asexual. Though he had sex with Maggie, they were than two cats humping on a fence, and he and Skipper shared a higher love. In Brick's fantasy, Maggie is to blame for Skipper's ruin, and the conniving Maggie is the scapegoat. She planted the idea of sodomy in poor Skipper's head. She led him to sleep with her. She caused his death. Note here the ambiguity in Brick's confession of jealousy at Skipper and Maggie pairing off, and that it remains unclear which of the two he covets.