Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

February 26, 2009
By Grace Eichler BRONZE, Mason, Ohio
Grace Eichler BRONZE, Mason, Ohio
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Money. Power. Acceptance. Love.

The desires of any human.
Any American. The American Dream.
Richard Brooks's film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, shows a Memphis plantation family and the arguments involved in achieving this Dream. The different aspects of family and their influence on a person's success are displayed by the conflicts between characters. Big Daddy, the patriarch and self-made plantation owner, and Big Momma have a marriage based on money rather than love, but Big Daddy sees no problem with it. When Brick and Gooper, Big Daddy's sons, learn about their father's illness, Gooper plans ways to assure his inheritance of his father's ten million dollar worth. Gooper (Brother Man) and Mae (Sister Woman) continually compare themselves to Brick and his wife, Maggie. With five children 'and number six coming up,' Gooper and Mae are convinced that they are better than Brick and Maggie, who remain childless and with a broken marriage, and try to convince Big Daddy of the same thing. The three examples of 'families' show that while the American Dream can be achieved by relying on money rather than others, it will only take a superficial meaning.

The relationship between Big Daddy and Big Momma began in casual courtship, but then she 'was four months on with Gooper and Big Daddy said 'That's my son, ain't it? Well, I want it. I need it. It's gonna have no body else's name but mine. Let's get the preacher. That's what marriage is for'family.'' Big Daddy proves his misunderstanding of marriage, but shows no intention of fixing anything. He hasn't 'been able to stand that woman in forty years,' while Big Momma 'loved [him.] So much . . . even [his] hate and hardness.' The family doctor sees the mistakes in their relationship, and doesn't tell Big Momma about her husband's illness. She excuses his attitude as mere irritability: 'When old couples have been together as long as me and Big Daddy, they get irritable with reach other from too much . . . devotion.' Her blindness towards her husband and his condition only hinders their relationship. He blatantly refers to her as 'what's-er-name' and talks to Brick about getting a mistress to 'smother in minks and choke with pearls.' Later in their marriage, when they went on a tour of Europe, Big Daddy let Big Momma buy anything she wished, and they have a basement full of items that have not been looked at since their initial purchase. In his defense, Big Daddy argues that he 'did love her. I gave her anything, everything.' Brick realizes the truth and tells him that they were merely 'things, Poppa. You gave her things, not love. You can't buy love.' Big Momma, defeated, sees that her marriage is empty and 'we was never a very happy family.' They both contributed to the success of the plantation, but the success of their marriage never got their attention.

Gooper, along with Big Momma, never was on Big Daddy's priorities. While he praised Brick's athletics and looks, he 'can't stand Gooper and Mae and those five screaming monkeys.' Gooper constantly has to fight for his father's attention, even though he is the firstborn son. When Big Daddy wills his plantation to Brick, tempers flare. Gooper tries to convince Big Daddy in any way he can that Brick is unsuitable for the responsibility of maintaining the land. Gooper went to law school, is highly educated and has a family that can help run the plantation, whereas Brick, according to Mae, 'never carried a thing in his life but a football or a highball.' The competition between the two sons, although effort is overwhelmingly one-sided, only assures Big Daddy of his choice and tears the brothers apart. Regardless of birth order, Big Daddy prefers Brick to Gooper, and the same goes for his daughters-in-law.

The bias towards Brick and Maggie is too much for Gooper and Sister Woman to handle, and they begin to plot ways to prove their incompetence. Their major argument is their children. They have five healthy, albeit horrendous, 'no neck monsters,' as Maggie refers to them, and Sister Woman is pregnant again. Maggie and Brick, however, are childless. Brick continually refuses to make love to her: 'How in hell on earth do you imagine you're gonna have a child by a man who can't stand you?' Maggie can't tear herself away from Brick, no matter how unendearing he makes himself: 'Why can't you lose your good looks, Brick? Most drinking men do . . . I think you've even gotten better looking since you went on the bottle.' He suggests that she 'takes a lover' because he is not interested in her. Sister Woman and Gooper hear all of their conversations, and pass along all they know to their children, who pass it straight back to the source. In one scene, the oldest daughter gets mad at Maggie and yells 'You're just mad 'cause you can't have babies!' Big Daddy realizes the horrible split between the sisters-in-law and brothers, and is disgusted by his eldest son.

The apathy, hatred and jealousy that destroys Big Daddy's family is one that Richard Brook tries to emphasize in the film through the incredible acting, drawing the viewer into the story until he or she wants to be destroying the basement full of memorabilia alongside Brick. When Brick's defensive wall of alcohol is sobered, he spills his reasoning to Big Daddy, admitting that he drinks because of his 'disgust at mendacity and lies and liars.' They talk over his disgust and how both men share a part in causing it. When Sister Woman tries to plead with Big Daddy one last time to give the land to Gooper and their family, Maggie lies on the spot and says that she is pregnant. Sister Woman confronts her in front of the family, explaining how 'we hear the nightly pleading and the nightly refusal.' Brick makes his first gesture of kindness towards Maggie when he retorts that 'not everybody makes as much noise about love as you do.' That night, Maggie asks Brick if he could ever forgive her for lying like that. Brick, standing next to the couch where he had formerly slept, looks at her and says 'there'll be no more lying in this house' and throws his pillow onto their bed. 'Lock the door, Maggie.' Brick realizes his love for Maggie was buried under his disgust for the lies in his family and is able to finally love his wife, fulfilling his Dream.

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