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Big Daddy and the American Dream in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Big Daddy and the American Dream in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tennessee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a thought-provoking play that explores human relationships of all kinds. The character of Brick is forced to examine the relationship with his friend, Skipper, his wife, his family, and himself. Other characters, Gooper, Mae, and Big Mama, demonstrate stifling marriage relationships. Big Daddy, though, is one of the most interesting characters in that he illustrates the strange relationship one can have with one’s possessions.

Watt and Richardson, the editors, state that the play is about “acquisitiveness.” That is, the acquiring of material possessions is central to the play, and this family. The Pollitts own a plantation home on the Mississippi Delta. Their house is a key figure in the work as much as any of the characters are in that it encapsulates the family’s legacy of secrecy.

To begin with, there is the central staging area of Brick and Maggie’s bedroom. This room was once shared by the former owners, two men, a fact that seems to haunt Brick. Williams describes the decor of the room in some detail. He is most occupied with the “console combination of radio-phonograph, TV set and liquor cabinet.” He seems incredulous at the size and symbolism in this possession. He writes, “This piece of furniture (?!), this monument, is a very completer and compact little shrine to virtually all the comforts and illusions behind which we hide from such things as the characters in the play are faced with . . .” (Williams 660).

He is quite right. Not only does Brick hide behind the liquor in the cabinet, his true crutch, but the furniture does exemplify all the modern conveniences that many p…

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…system that he speaks of is more than the lying and liars that immediately surround him; it is not just his family. The system that he lives in is materialism. He has bought into the American dream, in effect capitalism, and has at last found it lacking. Yet it is doubtful that this revelation will truly change Big Daddy in the way he lives his last days. For Williams’ words concerning Brick ring true for Daddy as well. He writes, “I don’t believe a conversation, however relevatory, ever effects so immediate a change in the heart or even conduct of a person” (706 act 3). Big Daddy is trapped in his American dream even as it has become his nightmare.

Work Cited

Williams, Tennessee. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. In Stages of Drama: Classical to Contemporary Theater. Ed. Carl H. Klaus, Miriam Gilvert, and Bradford S. Field, Jr., 4th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin¹s, 1999.

Comparing Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night and After a Time

Comparing Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night and After a Time

Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” and Catherine Davis’ “After a Time” demand comparison: Davis’ poem was written in deliberate response to Thomas’. Davis assumes the reader’s familiarity with “Do Not Go Gentle,” which she uses to articulate her contrasting ideas. “After a Time,” although it is a literary work in its own right, might even be thought of as serious parody–perhaps the greatest compliment one writer can pay another.

“Do Not Go Gentle in That Good Night” was written by a young man of thirty-eight who addresses it to his old and ailing father. It is interesting to note that the author himself had very little of his own self-destructive life left as he was composing this piece. Perhaps that is why he seems to have more insight into the subject of death than most people of his age. He advocates raging and fighting against it, not giving in and accepting it. “After a Time” was written by a woman of about the same age and is addressed to no one in particular. Davis has a different philosophy about death. She “answers” Thomas’s poem and presents her differing views using the same poetic form–a villanelle. Evidently, she felt it necessary to present a contrasting point of view eight years after Thomas’s death.

While “Do Not Go Gentle” protests and rages against death, Davis’s poem suggests a quiet resignation and acquiescence. She seems to feel that raging against death is useless and profitless. She argues that we will eventually become tame, anyway, after the raging is done. At the risk of sounding sexist, I think it interesting that the man rages and the woman submits, as if the traditi…

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…much sensory suggestiveness. She gives us “things lot,’ a “reassuring ruse,” and “all losses are the same.” Her most powerful image–“And we go striped at last the way we came”==makes its point with none of the excitement of Thomas’s rage. And yet, I prefer the quiet intelligence of Davis to the high energy of Thomas.

“And we go stripped at last the way we came” can give strange comfort and solace to those of us who always envied those in high places. Death is a great leveler. People are not all created equal at birth, not by a long shot. But we will bloody well all be equal when we make our final exit. Kings, pope, and heads of state will go just as “stripped” as the rest of us. They won’t get to take anything with them. All wealth, power, and trappings will b left behind. We will all finally and ultimately be equal. So why rage? It won’t do us any good.

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