Theplay “Cat on a hot tin roof” tells the story of a family of threegenerations. The play revolves around the illness of the family’spatriarch, Big Daddy, and inheritance wrangles between two brothers,Gooper and Brick and their wives Mea and Maggie respectively. Theconflict in gender identities and sexuality are the main causes ofconflict in the play that give rise to other minor conflicts.
Inact I, Maggie dominates. She calls herself a cat owing to her abilityto survive in a precarious situation of living with a man who doesnot love her. As a character she is depicted as a nagging anddissatisfied woman. She complains about her husband lack of interestin her and about Gooper’s children whom she refers as “no-neckedmonsters” (Tischler 88) She also complains that Brick’s drinkingproblem could cost them inheriting the estate and causing him toinjure his leg. As for Brick, he is depicted as an aloof andindifferent person. He barely listens to Maggie and his contributionto the conversation is minimal which portrays conflict.
Maggieis desperate for Bricks love and attention. She even seduces him withno response which clearly shows that Brick is not interested in hiswife. She thus accuses Brick of having unmanly desires and having asexual relationship with his friend late friend Skipper. She revealsthat together with Skipper’s girlfriend, they had worried abouttheir closeness back in high school. While Maggie is dying to resolvethis issue, Brick is not interested. In fact he uses his radio andhis drink to avoid solving such issues. Maggie goes as far asrevealing his intimacy with Skipper expecting a reaction from Brickwhich is not forthcoming. To her dismay, Brick revealed that he knewabout that all along.
ActTwo presents a different scene of Big Daddy and Big Mama. From theirconversations, Big Daddy is arrogant in the way he treats people. Hedoes not care that his wife, Big Mama, loves him and even dismissesher in front of others. He is selfish and narcissistic in the way heloves ad thinks about himself only. He thinks he will not die from amere spastic colon apparently caused by disgust over the lies andhypocrisy he has lived with for forty years. Unbeknown to him, he hascancer and will die soon.
BigDaddy is also not in good terms with his son Brick. Brick continuesthe lie that Big Daddy does not have cancer. Again, Brick is afraidand unwilling to discuss his homosexual desires with his father. Hehas resulted into desperate attempts to cover up these desires suchas quitting his job and even refusing to make love to his wife. BigDaddy does not openly reveal the family’s sexual history. He saysthat he just “knocked around" in his youth (Willimas 117). Healso tells the family’s sexuality history through Straw and Ochelloand likening their relationship to that of Skipper and Brick whichBrick denies. Big Daddy does not believe him and suspects that Brickis too embarrassed to admit it. On the other hand, Brick hints to BigDaddy about his imminent death from cancer but withdraws the commentthereby leaving their conflict unresolved.
Inact three, the conflict among four factions of the family is evident.Big Mama and Big Daddy are in conflict with Brick and Maggie becausethey have not given them a grandchild. Big Mama is also upset thatthey have kept the issue of Big Daddy’s cancer a secret. Mae andGooper hate Maggie and Brick. Gooper recognizes that his parents lovehis brother Brick more than him despite them grandchildren theydesired and thus hates them for that. Maggie also hates Mae becauseshe has children which she does not. She is also jealous of her richbackground. As couple, Mae and Gooper detest Big Mama and Big Daddyfor failing to recognize them as the rightful heirs of the estate.
Atthe end, these conflicts are unresolved. Big Daddy and Brick do notclearly address their sexuality as part of a family tradition as itappears. The issue of sexuality also hampers cordial gender relationsgreatly given that Brick treats his wife same as his father treatshis mother. The fact that Big Daddy insists on a grandson and not ajust a grandchild shows the unresolved gender conflict in the play.
Itis clear from the discussion above that gender identities andsexuality are some of the main sources of conflict in the play. Theyhave altered marital relations in all three couples and are themainstay of the play.
Tischler,Nancy, StudentCompanion to Tennessee Williams,New York: Greenwood. 2000.
Williams,Tennessee. Caton a hot tin roof,New York: New Directions, 2004. Print.