About this sample
About this sample
Words: 1367 |
7 min read
Published: Apr 11, 2022
Words: 1367|Pages: 3|7 min read
In the play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams advocates the view that denial of the truth surrounding one’s circumstances disrupts the relationship dynamic between that person and others around him or her. Williams develops this view of denial through describing the dysfunctional actions and choices of the Pollitt family. This is especially shown through the actions of Margaret, Brick, and Big Mama. Brick is in denial about Skipper’s sexuality and in turn his own sexuality. This denial bleeds into his relationship with Margaret, who is denial about how he feels about her. Big Mama faces her own form of denial when faced with Big Daddy’s failing health. Furthermore, Williams includes less prominent instances of denial such as the denial also has when he is told the truth about his failing heal. Williams illuminates to readers that denial of the truth can lead to turmoil between people in a family or group.
The Pollitt family is brought together because of Big Daddy’s sixty-fifth birthday and to hear the news of whether or not Big Daddy has cancer. The illusion that Big Daddy may not have cancer and then the truth that he does cancer is the root of Big Mama’s denial. Big Mama demonstrates the effect denial of mortality has on the family. Williams uses this scenario to show how the heads of the house are vital roles in the family dynamic. Big Daddy is the glue that holds the family together and the acknowledgement that the head of the house may die means the disruption of the current family dynamic. Throughout the first two acts of the play, Big Mama repeatedly shows optimism that Big Daddy does not have cancer. That optimism changes in Act Three when Big Mama is faced with the fact that Big Daddy is indeed dying of cancer. She says “Yes, it’s just a bad dream, that’s all it is, it’s just and awful dream (Williams 103). Big Mama’s denial about the cancer disrupts the already turbulent dynamic between her and Big Daddy even further. Big Daddy is very blatant about his feelings towards his relationship with Big Mama. He says to Brick in a private conversation, “All I ask of that woman is that she leave me alone. But she can’t admit to herself that she makes me sick.” Williams states in a stage direction, “Big Daddy is famous for his jokes at Big Mama’s expense, and nobody laughs harder at these jokes than Big Mama herself.” Big Daddy lusts after other women in the family, mainly Margaret. Big Mama’s denial about Big Daddy’s feelings sets the mood for the dynamic of the rest of the family since they are the head of the household. Big Mama’s denial that Big Daddy is dying, and Big Daddy’s denial of his own mortality leads to a power struggle between Gooper, and his wife Mae, and Margaret. Both parties want Big Daddy’s inheritance; however, neither can directly talk to either Big Mama about it because of her denial of Big Daddy’s ailing health. Similarly, neither party can talk to Big Daddy about the inheritance because he believes, falsely, that he is not dying.
With all of Pollitt family together, it quickly becomes clear that Brick has an alcohol problem, in fact he directly states to Big Daddy that he is an alcoholic. This stems from the interaction between Margaret and Skipper that resulted in Skipper’s suicide. Skipper’s suicide was also fueled by his own denial of his feelings for Brick. The pressure of this denial became too much for Skipper to handle and, much like how Brick is drinking his problems away, Skipper chose to end his life to handle his problems. Rebecca Holder states, “Brick believes he is the only member of his family who tells happening truth instead of engaging in performed truth, but he discovers that his ‘truth’ about Skipper is just as performative as Margaret's false pregnancy announcement and Big Daddy's delusions about his health”. Brick is not in denial that he his has a drinking problem but instead he is in denial about the idea that he may not be a part of the sexual norm. Like his actual crutch, Brick uses liquor as a psychological crutch to block out any thought he has that could revolve around his sexuality. Margaret does not directly state that Brick is using liquor to mask his memories of Skipper, but she does state that he is denying Skipper’s death by not taking Margaret to bed. Marian Price states, “Margaret and Big Daddy have surely touched a wound- namely, Brick’s suppressed knowledge that this homophobia contributed to his friend’s demise.” Although he is in denial of his own sexuality and wants to block out the idea of it, he is still reminiscent of his friendship with Skipper. In fact, he is in denial of Skipper’s death. To combat his denial about the death of Skipper, brick tries to reminisce to when they played football together by going to the local track at night. This then causes Brick to break his ankle and increases the dysfunction in the family. In the first act, Brick states, “I don’t want to lean on your shoulder, I want my crutch!” Brick’s broken leg heightens the tensions between Brick and Margaret, because it is a truer symbol of Brick’s dependence on alcohol to take away his potentially problematic thoughts.
The denial that Brick has for Skipper’s sexuality and the questioning of his own sexuality is part of the cause of Margaret’s denial. Williams uses Brick’s refusal to have anything to do with Margaret after the adultery that ensued between her and Skipper to fuel Margaret’s denial of Brick’s true feelings for her. This scenario is fueled by the stereotype that women have to produce children to be successful and Williams also uses this to show the effect of wealth. Before marrying into Brick’s family, Margaret was poor and if she does not have kids with Brick there is a higher probability he might not get Big Daddy’s inheritance and she could be poor again. Her constant focus on getting Brick to give her children causes a bigger gap to grown between her and Brick. Other family members start to acknowledge that Margaret and Brick are having problems, especially Mae. Margaret goes so far to telling the rest of the family that she is pregnant, when the truth is that Brick will not go to bed with her, “Brick and I are going to — have a child!”. This fact heightens Margaret’s denial of Brick’s true feelings for her. Margaret is unable to accept that Brick does not want to have anything to do with her. This could partly stem from her own view of herself. Margaret directly compares herself to “a cat on a hot tin roof” (Williams, 11), or, in other words, she views herself as a true feline; however, because she cannot get Bick to sleep with her, she is all alone. Margaret’s denial about Brick’s feelings for her and her stubborn determination to have children with Brick drive the play forward.
An even further example of denial in the play once again stems from Big Daddy. Big Daddy not only denies his own failing health, but he also denies the fact that his son, Brick, might be gay. However, on pages 60 and 61 Big Daddy talks to Brick about Brick and Skipper’s friendship and says that there was something not “exactly normal in [their] friendship”. In response, Brick becomes belligerent, and passionately denies these accusations by being defensive. This denial leads to even further tension between Big Daddy and Brick.
Throughout the play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams uses the characters to the express the opinion that the denial one feels about a certain situation causes devastating dysfunction on the people surrounding him or her. Tennessee William addresses this point to the reader through the lives of the Pollit family. This is especially true with Big Mama, Brick, and Margaret. Brick denies everything when it comes to Skipper, Margaret can not face the fact that she may never get Brick to sleep with her, and Big Mama can not Acknowledge Big Daddy’s failing health.
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