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Analyzing A Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3464 words Published: 21st Apr 2017

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The objective of this extended essay is to analyze the character Brick of the book Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, written by Tennessee Williams in order to find the factors that take the protagonist to a possible identity crisis as we recognize how they affect him.

In this book the author uses the characters in order to display the prejudices in the book, like when he uses Brick with the objective to develop the problem of the book through him and what prejudices can cause in a person.

Analyzing the book through the character Brick how he lie in the house which creates an atmosphere of lies mistrust between them and with the society also , one of the major events and issues occurring at work.

It has been chosen to work the book the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, written by Tennessee Williams in 1955 where we will analyze the topic of this extended essay .

This book was written in 1955 for this purpose it has been taken for this work is the time around this year so you can also see the repercussion of the historic context in the characters.

In the following work I will analyze Brick and as he tries to take a rebellious attitude, cold and calculating with the motive of creating a male vision, when in fact the interior is quite the opposite, which means it is a true love.

The extended essay will be divided in two parts. In the first part I will give the factors that take him to a possible identity crisis .And in the second part I will show the repercussion of this factors to Brick.

We could generally get to realize that Brick has an identity crisis because he never fell the real love of a person, he thinks that all the people fells for him a material love, only his friend Skipper is the only one that gives him a true love.

Chapter 1

1.1 Literary context: Realism

1.1.1 Realism in theater

The first ideas of bring art and life to the theater by Marcel Duchamp were innovating , so then the Black Mountain College , with director Josef Albers adopt that idea , but the college was close because in that period the Nazism was installed and they didn’t want to an artist express his own ideas.

Then there appear two more artist that made a revolution in theater , John Cage that was a musician and Merce Cunningham that was a dancer , this two artists made an event that mixed art sound and silence randomly , it plays with the audience because creates a sense of suspense in them.

The other revolutionary thing that happened is the creation of the “happening event” which is an improvised or spontaneous display or performance consisting of bizarre and haphazard events, it makes a cancellation of the division that is always in the scenery that is between the stage and viewer , there now the audience can participate actively in the play , they wanted to view the emotional and intellectual audience reaction. [1] 

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The first was when Allan Kaprow made eighteen events in one performance and simultaneously and without connection or with a topic in general. So with that presentation the phenomenon went out and hybridized in each performance around the world that cause a change of ideas and point of view of the theater in general , the public no longer saw the theater as a place where you only see the play , now you can also be part of it from your seat.

1.1.2 Realism in U.S.A: social and cultural historical context (1955)

Julian Beck was an artist who collaborated with the artists that we see in the first topic that was Cage and Cunningham [2] ; Beck joined with his Judith Malina and create a new type of theatre with her, that was called the Living Theater, that consist in the collective creation , improvisation and physical participation of the viewer, they were economically dependent on the solidarity of friends who where famous to perform his play along Europe [3] . First they have to call the attention of the society, appealing through dialogue and good improvisation that they create. An example is the play ” The Connection” that is supposedly about real junkies waiting for their dealer but in this moment a jazz band start playing music with create an unpredictable improvisation. After this period of the Living Theater , they abandoned this position of improvisation and start acting of topics of deception and aggression as a total way of exorcising real violence which cause an impact in the audience to view the society with which is involve and reconsider the violence that surrounds them , this foundation wanted to make them think about the society problems .An example of this new era of the Living Theater is the play “The Brig” , that showed a day in a military prison it was based on learning manual of the Marines , in order to produce in the cast aberrant relationships between guards and prisoners , here we can see how the author wanted to show the audience the abuse that is exerted in the barracks .

In 50s there is the consecration of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams on Broadway, spearheads authentic realism, that consist in show a true and exact reproduction of reality talking about problems of human existence , analyzing and critiquing the ills of their society using the description as a resource to show accurate profiles of the themes , characters , situations and even locations .

1.2 Tennessee Williams and Literature

The playwright Tennessee Williams along his career try to presents the readers the dark world showing topics like the exploitation , violation of moral code of conduct , corruption and dehumanized making us realize the world that we live in , showing the homosexuality , depression , unhappy madness, mendacity and another topics that we see in all his career. He shows this topics for his failure of adjustment to the world, because in his life he presents to much problems like his homosexuality that didn’t allow him to join the military service in USA. He also uses his books to express the tenderness and fortitude of this characters trapped in their own predicament. [4] 

Tennessee Williams had a problem, when he was a child could not get attached to his father , and he found his mother as a convincing attraction. He starts to present his homosexual tendencies when he was in New Orleans having a Bohemian lifestyle. But for this tendency that he had, the society start repressing him and for this starts explore the world of gaiety and frivolity, expressing many books with these issues as contrasted, this repression by the world in general unconsciously affected him and he found expression in his writings, who are his escape from the real world, in their books he create characters with his own characteristics and problems in order to criticize the society he live in.

This form of writing by Tennessee Williams with that extrasensory perception and heightened emotionalism writings have inspired numerous interpretations over the years , his plays exude extreme impulsive feelings concern and criticism there are number of topics that we have to explore more than usual because it has a higher level of understanding what he is trying to express and resolve that unanswered questions .The form of his plays is deviated from conventional standards authors as well as seemingly secret yearnings shame the society , yet his plays are still held to be more successful due to their inner probing of a lost person in the corrupt and materialistic world of the twentieth century. [5] 

Tennessee Williams in his plays present characters with the gift of an aura of illusions in order to either forget the unpleasant reality of human existence or to avoid certain experience in the past ,like in the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof , Brick uses the alcohol as a shelter of the world and the problems that are on it, it is like illusions serve as an escape for them and also enable them to remain disguised in an ideal world. Sometimes they are also fed up with this material life and the worldly-wise people that inhabit it, an example of that is Mae that wants the death of Big Daddy in order to keep the fortune. [6] 

Chapter 2

2.1 Factors that cause the possible identity crisis

2.1.1 Prejudices

As to have seen in Chapter 1 the author in the book criticize the society that we live , showing the character of Brick and giving him many characteristics that produce a possible crisis of identity .He along the play show how the prejudices can destroy the integrity of a person hiding the truth and showing an appearance that he doesn’t have, but is the only way to success in the world.

When he was young, the society around him loved him only by his physical appearance and that was also an athlete, but when the time pass and he can not play football anymore for an insurance that he had, these prejudices are adopted and carried the emotional crisis.

Looks like the latter is affected by the prejudices of society, so that at all times try to hide the truth, so that cannot be judged and adapt to society.

If the act as it really is, would not remain in a social circle base, in other words the scheme would break the layout of the American man who plays football, which has the most beautiful woman, which is cold. All that is a simple mask to have a means of adaptation and continue the routine of life that is tired.

The above can be associated with the life of Tennessee Williams, since being homosexual United States did not allow his return, simply because of their sexual decision.

So as we can see the prejudices lead a person to the person to have psychological problems and a possible identity crisis that subsequently affirmed if it is true.

2.1.2 Mendacity

Mendacity is another factor affecting Brick throughout his life, since it is surrounded of it. At home his family are shown as mendacious people, nobody cares to tell the truth, they prefer to tell lies so they can benefit like Mae and Gooper, or otherwise as in the Brick case to hide their sexual decision and his possible homosexuality. He has to carry with a truth that can change a lot of things in his personal life, he doesn’t accept his homosexuality, he lies the society but also himself because along the play he says that is not homosexual and that his relationship with is Skipper is only a true friendship.

This mendacity environment produces in Brick some emotional issues because when someone doesn’t know what he is and have clearly his sexual decision is not going to have a normal live.

So mendacity is another factor because made Brick hide his truth to the world and also does not permit the acceptance of it, that cause the possible crisis of identity that we will analyze in the next.

2.2 How these factors are reflected in Brick

2.2.1 Brick’s homosexuality

Brick in the play presents a crisis of identity; the protagonist does not know how to face the world due to a lack of communication by the father or a lack of love from society at large, the only thing that really came to love his friend Skipper, and after his friend death. Brick crumbles entirely with aging and not having a sense his life so he resorts to drinking

As many of William’s books, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof concerns itself with the elaboration of a certain fantasy of broken manliness, in this case a manliness left crippled by the homosexual desire it must keep in abeyance.

Brick is the favorite son of Big Daddy always , he has the love of all the family , also is with one of the most beautiful and attractive girl , in the book also the author is trying to express Brick as the character that has the charm and the that is really cold to present an indifference to the world ,with all this details we can see that Brick has the archetypal of masculinity .Brick is an alcoholic who cannot avow the desire in his relationship with his Skipper ,for that he has depressively distanced himself from the world with a shelter in alcohol that will be express with more details next.

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He cannot avow that desire of his friend Skipper as Maggie notes, their love is a love that can’t be mention in the society also that could not be discussed or satisfied by the prejudices that surround this character . In one scene Big Daddy try to confront this love that can’t be mention , assuming like a judge position and when he approaches what has been repressed that is the love between this two friend, Brick starts to talk about his feelings , this is the only talk that both characters express their most sincerely feelings without prejudices , mendacity o materialize.

The book presents a Brick who for many years been hiding a secret that could convict for life, his homosexuality, and secret friendship with Skipper with false attitudes this means that he wants an image that is not so in this chapter thoroughly analyze this attitude that takes the protagonist in the play.

Brick’s identity, that of an ‘accused’ homosexual and a that of a football player, will be examined and explained as a concept that Williams used to create a contrast within Brick’s identity.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Brick is insecure about his manhood and especially about how others perceive his manhood. At one point in the play Brick’s father, insinuates that there was something, from his point of view, unnatural between Brick and his late best friend Skipper , that is an interpretation that is normal but it starts the problem when we start analyzing Brick’s reaction because it provides insight into his insecurities. Brick think that Big Daddy is calling him homosexual and he starts to refuse it in bad way .Another important point is that then Brick also call homosexuals in a bad way that are feminine ,for this we can realize that he is trying to protect his manhood.

A ritual of American masculinity is that the men that have the best manhood play football at collage and Brick used to play it attempt to demonstrate by their practice that he is a man.

For that we realize that the concept of football in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof should be viewed as a contrast to the concept of homosexuality. For that when Brick that was one of the football team is accused of being homosexual, his reaction becomes understandable for the fact that with the practice of that sport he was trying to persuade everyone that he has the enough manhood and can’t be homosexual, also in his mind he will have proven himself a man already.

Brick besides, who feels the need to adapt to the world around him using the mendacity with the aim of concealing the truth, that truth that has come dragging for a long time is his secret romance with his friend Skipper and homosexuality could not be displayed in a world full of prejudices and therefore has to resort to drinking in order to avoid all the problems surrounding it. Brick mourns his love for Skipper, an imagined love almost mythical dimension. For Brick, is the only true and good in life . His grief is made more difficult by the desire that cannot recognize that homosexuality chased it to over the years. Theirs is a love that dare not speak its name, a love that cannot be met or discussed. So, Grandpa, who took office as a judge, force Brick to deal with this love. Brick Attempts to avoid such comments are crucial to the way that manhood is seen in the work. When Grandpa comes to what has been repressed dimly, Brick empty words of all meaning.

Ultimately, the revelation of desire in his friendship with Skipper fresh cracks Brick, his distaste for the bad language from him, only points to a fear that may be true.

2.2.2 Brick false appearance

Brick has the charm of those who have given up and assumed a posture of indifference to the world. Brick embodies an archetype of masculinity almost owns itself, untouchable, and the figure intact man. Like in the next text, Margaret express what she think of Brick ‘s attitude of being very cold.

Margaret: “Did anyone tell you that you’re an ass-aching Puritan, Brick?” [7] 

In the note that we see is very clear how Margaret express how is Brick behavior in one word ass-aching or maybe what he is trying to show other people. In the play Brick don’t show their true feelings for the fear of what can happen next.

Faced with this indifference, the characters are in the throes of desire on the part of Maggie and her mother or the state of aggression by the Grandfather, but all that is what appears to be, a being cold, calculating and rebellious, but in truth is a genuine person that we only care about good feelings, materialism does not mind the people, is what makes the difference in an materialistic family, on only cares about being at peace.Like in the next note where Brick again is trying to show how cold is he.

Brick:” I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. You keep forgetting the conditions on which I agreed to stay on living with you” [8] 

The note that we can see show their feelings about not only for Margaret also for life because here he express that he do all that he want and nothing else , he is like a rebel without a cause , trying to call attention because he never fell real love , only with his true friend Skipper.

2.2.3 Brick shelter in the alcohol

Alcohol is also the way that Brick escape from reality, is the only time when you feel alone, do not remember their problems, especially the affair with Skipper and his lack of communication with his father, who Brick made to believe that his father never really wanted and that the only thing that mattered to Big Daddy was the economic but not the love he gave to their children.


In conclusion what the author, Tennessee Williams, wants to show is that we are living in a materialistic society that only cares about appearances such as Brick does not have the courage to admit what he really is, only by the prejudices and mendacity that he can begin to submit. Brick along the play is presented as a person who is not able to identify sexually due to their psychological problems suffered when he was younger. That friendship with Skipper university has a great influence on Brick because it is there when the begins to doubt his sexuality because of those brushes he had with his friend so you should avoid this problem with alcohol that is the only method that keeps him away from Brick mendacity. Also Brick to maintain some masculinity is displayed along the work as being cold when a person is truly authentic.

This can see along the work as the prejudices take Brick to this suppose homosexuality that he doesn’t want to say by the society pressure, he knows that if he says his homosexuality all the world will give the back to him.

Also these prejudices give Brick a false appearance, he wants to show a cold person that doesn’t care about love , buy all of that is false because as we see for Brick the most important thing is a true friendship and true love.

The prejudices and mendacity take Brick a shelter in alcohol because he wants to evade the truth that he is carrying for a long time ago, so the only way to get away troubles is the death or the alcohol, and he took his choice by drinking.

After performing the work and discuss other books in class, we have noticed the influence of Tennessee Williams in the present, as seen in many Latin American books where they also make a critique of society in his books, like him.


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