Who is Brick?

As I continue to read Cat on a hot Tin Roof I have come to the conclusion, as many others have, that Brick is gay. Although this is never explicitly stated it is implied in different context of the story line. The first distinct clue is pointed out through his drinking. As a reader we find out that he began his drinking problem after the death of Skipper. However, because it is never stated that Brick is gay it is hard to know whether he truly was gay or just in an intimate and loving relationship with Skipper.

 

There relationship almost reminds me of the movie Broke Back Mountain and how one of the males really did not state that he was gay but rather was just in love with the other man. This is how I interpreted Brick’s relationship with Skipper. I believe that it is hard to say if he really was gay or just that Skipper was the only person he ultimately loved.

 

However, I do find Brick’s name to be very ironic to the way he carries himself throughout the story. When I think of the name Brick I think of someone strong and masculine. However, Brick is broken. He is overwhelmed with the feelings that he has lost a friendship that he can never regain. He does the opposite of what I think of when I hear his name and he breaks down. He uses his drinking to hide his feelings. He doesn’t face the fact that Skipper isn’t coming back so if he keeps drinking perhaps he just wont remember him anymore. Brick is no longer strong and masculine but has become weak and afraid. 

Reading Between the Lines

When comparing the text of Cat on the Tin Roof and the movie I found Maggie and Brick’s relationship quite interesting. Based off of the text I assumed that Maggie was not attractive but in the movie it is the exact opposite. The foundations of their relationship are tested time and time again in the book. It is rather obvious that their relationship is going through quite a few problems, including not being romantically involved and Brick’s drinking.

One moment that I wanted to focus in on was the moment in the video we viewed in class, the one when Brick insists that Maggie explain to Big Daddy what happened between her and Skipper. While explaining herself, Maggie says how she had wanted to sleep with Skipper to prove to Brick that his best friend was bad and to essentially “get rid” of him. She says a line after explaining all of this that is extreme to the scenario. She says “as I assume was Skippers plan too” or something to that effect. Now, I don’t if I was reading into this too much but wouldn’t mean that Maggie was saying it was Brick’s idea to sleep with Maggie to “get rid” of her? Basically saying to have Brick to himself.

I think the relationship between Brick and Skipper seems rather obvious to the audience as it is introduced in the text. Skipper was a part of Brick and when he kills himself Brick seemingly can’t handle it and begins to drink himself into a frenzy. The true question is why does Maggie hold on to a relationship that seems to have lost its spark? Now, I think its important to keep the time period in mind when asking that question.

I also found the differences between the ending of the text and movie rather interesting. From the text, I as a reader didn’t come away with a happy feeling. I felt as if the relationship between Brick and Maggie was the same. Brick had no interest and Maggie was trying to be over controlling. In the movie, the ending is quite different. It makes the audience feel as if Brick has come around and loves Maggie. He demonstrates actions as if they are going to be romantically connected again and have a happy, normal relationship.

I wish that we could go deeper into the play and see if Maggie really does become pregnant and who Big Daddy gives the plantation to.

Maggie and Mae: More Alike Than We Think

Chapter 5 of Robert J. Corber’s In Cold War America presents an interesting perspective of homosexuality in Tennessee Williams’ pieces, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  In part of this chapter, Corber analyzes the homosexual versus the hom(m) o-sexual relationships that different characters in the play establish.  While I found some of this information quite shocking (mostly the analysis that Big Daddy was gay– I completely overlooked that!), I was persuaded by most of Corber’s reasoning.  However, his analysis of Maggie seemed less convincing.

Corber explains Maggie’s desire to establish her use-value despite her attempt to “redefine her place in the hom(m)o-sexual economy” as a way for her to simply solidify her position as a “desiring subject” and her way of participating in the hom(m)o-sexual economy “on her own terms” (Corber 128).  Corber notes Maggie’s resentment of Gooper and Mae’s manipulation of Big Daddy through their “monstrous fertility” and claims that Maggie does not try to deceive Big Daddy into leaving the estate to Brick.  This is where my disagreement lies.  With Maggie’s pregnancy announcement, she is quite clearly manipulating Big Daddy in such a way that he decides to grant the estate to Brick– making her just as deceitful as Mae and Gooper. Throughout the play Maggie hints at her discontent at having grown up poor (Williams 41) as well as her desire to straighten Brick out so that Big Daddy will give him the property.  

Corber claims that “despite [Maggie’s] willingness to participate in the hom(m)o-sexual economy, she does not allow herself to become its instrument” (Corber 129).  Maggie has a complicated web of desire between using her sexuality for pleasure with Brick versus reproduction and Corber claims she only temporarily “renounces her body as a means to pleasure only” (130). I disagree as I think she clearly participates in the hom(m)o-sexual economy in the conventional ways by using herself as a commodity. Also, Maggie very clearly had a motive in bearing a child throughout the entire play which is why I disagree with Corber’s claim that her sexual desires were purely for pleasure and that they were in fact also motivated by the desire for reproduction. For these reasons I disagree with Corber and believe Maggie is as commonly an instrument of the hom(m)o-sexual economy as Mae is.

What are your thoughts?

   

Dilemmas in Dixie: Cat On a Hot Tin Roof and the changing South

   As I am reviewing Cat On a Hot Tin Roof to catch up after a week-long trip through Tennessee Williams’ home state of Mississippi and his adopted city of New Orleans, a more subtle symbolism to the Pollitt family catches my eye. Besides the issues of sexual identity and the role of sexuality in Brick and Maggie’s relationship and the harsh societal ideals of the 1950s, there is also the role of the location in the deep South, on the eve of the societal struggles of the Civil Rights era, that I find interesting. (Also, I’m going off the whole play here, so reader beware.)
     First off, there are the generational differences. Big Daddy is a product of the old agricultural South, starting out as a field hand and working his way up to own a vast plantation, seemingly the picture of success in a sepia-toned Gone With the Wind way. But he is far richer of a character than that, and we see that he has his personal divides that leave the man and the image he projects as two different people: the patriarch of a family drowning in a web of deceit, made most obvious by the disconnect between how healthy he thinks he is, and the fatal truth that leaves him a moaning wreck at the end, suggesting that he has let reality slip away from him, and the intrusion of the passage of time has disastrous results for him. The rivalry between his sons over the plantation’s future, exasperated by his illness, paints an unsteady future for what he has worked so long to build up, and lends a sense of futility to Big Daddy’s life. He has created this immense, thriving plantation on the surface, yet who does he have to hand it to? Either a scheming couple and their no-neck monsters, focused on money above all else, or the other son who  is conflicted with his own demons. A clear reminder of the play’s setting are the black housekeepers a visual reminder of the deceit larger than any of the characters. In this way, Big Daddy is a sort of symbol of the old, agrarian South of vast plantations and cotton wealth, materially successful but built on shaky moral ground.
    At the time the play was written, this Old South was on its way out, and just as Big Daddy has an uncertain choice for his inheritance, the South of 1955 was facing a future troubled by conflicts. Gooper and Mae are depicted as scheming to gain control of Big Daddy’s fortune, to capitalize on his success for monetary gain. Whereas industrialization came early to the North, the South remained dominated by agriculture well into the twentieth century, and when industry did develop in Dixie, it was often tied to Northern firms looking to exploit the vast resources and manpower of the rural South. Birmingham became the Pittsburgh of the South due to Northern steel mills setting up shop closer to Alabama’s iron deposits; Atlanta became a business hub for the South after Northern railroads founded it as a crossing for their southern extensions. Gooper and Mae’s interest in the plantation strikes me as little more than as a source of financial benefit, to me recalling the industrialization of the early twentieth century that grew in fits and starts off the agricultural wealth of the old South.
    Then, there is the parallel of Big Daddy’s impeding death and Maggie’s desire to have a child to secure her husband’s inheritance. Her husband is wracked by issues that deal with the nature of the societal norms he is a product of, as he re-evaluates how effectively he can hide the duality of his orientation and the image he wants to preserve as a suitable heir to his father. In 1955, the South’s own issues of identity were coming to a head, as the facade of prosperity that its politicians and businessmen promoted were overtaken by the national attention to the burgeoning Civil Rights struggle, as the South’s black population had the political, social, and economic muscle to demand a re-evaluation of the South’s cultural deceits, for change and a new social order to come to the stultified South. Both Brick as a character and the South as a society were deeply troubled as Tennessee Williams was writing Cat, and what could be the outcome? Creating a child with Maggie would require Brick to overcome his nature in an act he has an aversion to, in order to secure his future through the child to secure his bloodline, a child born as the grandfather dies. It is a tantalizing parallel with the South being forced to go through the social turmoil of the 1950s and 1960s, through facing its racial demons head on in order to move on to a steadier future, losing the old South’s culture in the process. However, this is a stretched metaphor; and I understand questioning if Brick and Maggie’s marital dysfunction preventing future familial stability is an appropriate analog for the racial dysfunction of the old South preventing future social stability. But as the landowner grandfather passes away, his conflicted son is forced to confront his personal demons,  with the possibility of creating a child to secure his position. Likewise, as the century-old tradition of the old South slipped away, the culture was forced to confront the ghosts of racial strife, in order to create a new social structure to secure its place in the modern nation.
    What thoughts do others have on this idea? While the streetcars no longer run to Desire, New Orleans is a very thought-provoking, enigmatically romantic city in its history and worn-down atmosphere, and while I was in the Big Easy, I mused over what Tennessee Williams would have taken from his life in such a distinct culture and region.

Edit: Reworded a phrase.

Why Subtlety is Not so Subtle

It seems quite clear as we read Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that Brick is gay. It is never said outwardly. It is only ever implied.  But in our eyes, it seems quite obvious that he was romantically involved with Skipper and has been depressed ever since.

My curiosity is whether or not this was as visible to us now as it was when the play was first published.  Homosexuality existed back in the 50s, but it clearly was not talked about so explicitly and casually as it is today.  So with this context, we see Brick and Maggie’s marriage, and all I can question is whether or not this remains in context to today.

Certainly there are people who are raised in communities in which homosexuality is viewed as a sin, but that does not necessarily mean that someone who is gay in such a community would be so closeted and married.  Maybe such a scenario still happens, but if so, it still does not seem so common.

What I conclusively took from this text is that though these issues were very real when first published, they do not apply nearly as much as they do today.  While certain popularly banned books like Lolita still irritate audiences today, stories like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof may not hit the same note.

This is not to discredit the play’s importance. Rather than seeing it as revalent to society today, it seems to be a building block of how society has become.

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof – Act 1

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Before I began reading Act 1 of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I did a little bit of google searching and came across this still from the 1958 film adaption. I didn’t really think anything of it until after I finished reading. Looking at it now, I think that it perfectly illustrates the relationship between Brick and Maggie. There seems to be a disconnect and tension between the two characters. From Brick’s comments to Maggie’s overall disappointment, it is apparent that their relationship isn’t a happy one. I guessed that it might be the case, but as we get deeper into Act 1 it seems to become more apparent that Brick may be gay. When Skipper is brought up, he reacts in a strange way. He seems to have no interest in Maggie, or his relationship with her for that matter. Things just don’t seem quite right. I think that after Skipper died, Brick gave up caring about anyone. I’m looking forward to learning more about his relationship with Skipper. As I read, I began to feel sorry for Maggie. She seems to be trapped in this relationship, or lack thereof, with most of the blame being pushed her way. Do you feel sorry for Maggie? What do you think of her situation? Do you think that Brick is gay, or at least had some sort of feelings for Brick?

Maggie and Brick’s differences and Maggie’s potential motivation

After reading Act I, I am the most fascinated with the character of Margaret, or ‘Maggie the cat.’, or perhaps, how she compares and contrasts with Brick.

I find it interesting that the stereotypical sexual roles are reversed in Brick and Maggie’s marriage. Maggie seems admittedly desperate to sleep with Brick. It is revealed that they have not slept together in quite some time. While most couples have ‘lulls’, it is more common for us to think that the wife would prolong the lull, for reasons of boredom, dissatisfaction,  low sex drive, or any other thing we could think of. It was pretty surprising for me to find out that Brick was the one disinterested in Maggie.

The interactions between the two of them are comical to me. Maggie seems to go and on, in an almost frantic way, and Brick is very apathetic and distracted. Physically, they are somewhat contradicting, as well. Maggie is described as having lovely arms, and it is implied that she has a shapely figure. While it is stated that Brick is firm like a young man, some of the descriptions make him sound like a young boy. He is also crippled at the time, from a broken ankle. While reading, I thought of Maggie as this small, fierce, feisty little thing, and Brick as this slowed down, methodical, passive individual. They are certainly an interesting pair. I’m excited to see the scenes played out, to see how the characters are portrayed.

During the bedroom scene, the only conversation piece to make Brick bristle seems to be mention of his deceased friend, Skipper. It is implied that Skipper was more than just a dear friend to Brick. If Brick did in fact have romantic feelings for Skipper, it could potentially help make sense of the reason(s) behind his lack of interest in Maggie (and it could explain why Maggie described his style of love-making as ‘indifferent’).

I would like to see what else we find out as the play goes on. I wonder why Maggie is so stuck on Brick, especially if she suspects he had feelings for his male friend, and since he has rejected her so often. She is anything but oblivious, so I would like to find out what is making her cling to their rather lifeless relationship/marriage.

One more thought I have is: what is influencing her to want children so badly? Is it just because it would essentially make Brick sleep with her, so she would finally feeling like she won? Or is it because she wants to show up Mae as the better mother (since Maggie believes Mae lets her children run rampant)? Or is there another reason behind it?

EDIT: After re-reading this post, another questions popped into my head… why does Big Mama seem to think it’s fair to blame Maggie for the childless marriage? Obviously, Maggie would be the one to get pregnant, but I think it is wildly unfair for a mother-in-law to put so much pressure on the wife, especially since sex and conception of a baby takes two people. She should be confronting her son, as well.

From what I’ve read, I think this play ties very well into the class theme; it connects love, citizenship, and belonging quite well. The element of love could be discussed through the various relationships and marriages, and the feeling specific characters have/had for one another (i.e. Brick and Skipper, Maggie and Brick). Citizenship could be explored through their influence as an affluent, important plantation family for their region, Belonging could be touched upon in many ways, but especially within the context of societal expectations in marriage, parenting, and family dynamics.