© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

by Tennessee Williams

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Act III Summary

  • We may have made a bee-line to the concession stand to find us some milk duds, and we may have knocked over a few folks on our way to beat the restroom line, and we may have moved into those three seats in the second row that have been empty throughout the first two acts, but for the Pollitt family, there has been no lapse in time as we begin Act III.
  • Mae and the Reverend enter. Oh, we're in the bedroom again.
  • Mae wonders where Big Daddy is.
  • Big Mama enters woozy from the firecracker smoke, asking for Big Daddy.
  • Big Mama reckons he went to bed.
  • Gooper enters, asking where Big Daddy is.
  • Big Mama re-reckons he went to bed.
  • Gooper says it's a mighty fine time to talk.
  • Big Mama wants to know what exactly needs to be talked about.
  • Maggie appears in the gallery talking to Doc Baugh.
  • We hear Maggie telling Doc Baugh that her ancestors had once had slaves and that they freed their slaves five years before the Civil War began.
  • Mae catches wind and exclaims that Maggie has climbed back into her family tree.
  • Maggie asks where Big Daddy has gone.
  • Mr. Williams interjects with a note to tell us that the actors' pace picks up here with "Great Southern animation."
  • Big Mama tells everyone that Big Daddy was just worked up tonight because he loves the family so much, and that he just needs his rest.
  • The Reverend thinks Big Daddy is remarkable.
  • Big Mama agrees, using his huge appetite as evidence.
  • Gooper hopes he doesn't regret it.
  • Maggie says they had a real country dinner, replete with hoppin' john.
  • (Interlude: We interrupt this program to inform you that Hoppin' John is indeed a famous Southern dish. Hoppin' John is a rice and beans concoction that is traditional throughout Caribbean culture. It consists of black-eyed peas, onions, bacon, and a dash of salt. It is said that by eating Hoppin' John on New Year's Day, one ushers in a year of great luck. If one eats Hoppin' John the day after New Year's Day, it is called Skippin' Jenny, and shows great frugality, thus granting even greater luck.)
  • Big Mama informs us that they also had candied yams.
  • Gooper hopes that Big Daddy's dinner doesn't come back to haunt him. He hopes this with "a grim relish."
  • Big Mama wants to know what Gooper said and what he meant by it.
  • Mae interprets for Gooper, telling Big Mama that he hopes Big Daddy doesn't suffer from his meal tonight.
  • Big Mama dismisses their worries, saying that Big Daddy is fit as a fiddle, especially without the burden of knowing he is going to die.
  • Maggie blesses his old sweet soul, "sadly and sweetly."
  • Big Mama wonders where Brick is.
  • Mae tells her he's outside.
  • Gooper adds that he's drinking. What a surprise.
  • Big Mama informs them that, contrary to popular opinion, she is not blind as a bat, and knows that Brick is drinking.
  • Maggie applauds Big Mama. Sarcastic, much?
  • Big Mama talks about how other people drink, have drunk, and will drink all their lives.
  • Maggie has never trusted a man who doesn't drink.
  • Mae informs her that Gooper never drinks.
  • Maggie acts surprised and tells Gooper that she wouldn't have made that comment had she known that he didn't drink…at least not in his presence.
  • Big Mama calls after Brick.
  • Maggie goes to get him from the Gallery so that they can all talk.
  • Big Mama wonders what this mysterious family conference is all about.
  • Awkward silence.
  • Big Mama belches and excuses herself.
  • Big Mama fans herself with the fan suspended around her neck.
  • Maggie calls after Brick.
  • Brick sings to the moon.
  • Big Mama asks Gooper to open the gallery door to let the air circulate.
  • Mae believes it would be best to keep the door shut until their family conference is over.
  • Big Mama asks the Reverend to open the door.
  • The Reverend certainly obliges.
  • Mae is concerned that Big Daddy will hear their conversation.
  • Big Mama swans, which means "to swear." (The verb "to swan" was originally American slang, meaning "to stay." The first time this verb appeared in the dictionary was in 1823.)
  • Big Mama swans that nothing will be said in her house that Big Daddy can't hear too.
  • Gooper starts to spill some beans.
  • Mae pokes him hard in an effort to shut his trap.
  • Gooper glares at Mae.
  • Mae circles him "like a burlesque ballerina," raising her arms and shaking her bracelets. Ah, an FBI agent and a burlesque dancer!
  • Mae exclaims, "A breeze! A breeze!"
  • Reverend believes the Pollitt house to be the coolest house in the Delta. He starts talking about some congregant who had an air conditioner installed in a neighboring church in memory of her husband. Subtle much?
  • Everybody starts talking away again, so that it sounds like a big bird-cage.
  • Gooper sympathizes with the Reverend's hot church and surmises that he sweats a lot in the pulpit.
  • Mae asks Doc Baugh about Vitamin B12 injections.
  • Doc Baugh says that if you are going to get poked with a needle, a needle full of Vitamin B12 is as good as anything else.
  • Big Mama asks Maggie if she's going to bring Brick in.
  • Mae announces that she has a strange and peculiar feeling.
  • Everyone is silent.
  • Big Mama wants to know what feeling that is.
  • Mae replies that she has a feeling Brick said something he shouldn't have said to Big Daddy.
  • Big Mama wants to know what Brick could have said that he shouldn't have said.
  • Gooper starts to tell Big Mama something.
  • Mae interrupts him.
  • Mae rushes up to Big Mama, hugs and kisses her.
  • Big Mama pushes her off.
  • The Reverend's voice is heard in the awkward silence talking about the gold in his chasuble (his priest's outfit) fading to purple.
  • We don't really know what that means.
  • Gooper surmises that the Reverend was preaching "hell's fire" last Sunday.
  • The Reverend is not amused.
  • Big Mama asks Doc Baugh about the Keeley cure and tablets called Annie Bust for heavy drinkers.
  • Brick appears in the doorway followed by Maggie.
  • Unaware that Brick is behind her, Big Mama continues to discuss how Brick is depressed about Skipper's death.
  • Big Mama tells us how Skipper died. This is her story:
  • Skipper is given a dose of sodium amytal at home one day. By whom, we don't know.
  • An ambulance is then called.
  • The doctors give him another dose of sodium amytal.
  • The mixture between the sodium amytal and the alcohol in his blood is too much for his heart.
  • Big Mama ends her story about Skipper's death and talks about her fear of needles.
  • Big Mama stops mid-sentence, then turns around to find Brick standing behind.
  • Ruh-roh.
  • She fawns over Brick and starts to cry.
  • Brick smiles and gestures gallantly for Maggie to pass before him into the room.
  • Brick goes to the bar to pour himself some Echo Spring.
  • Mr. Williams tells us that everyone watches him, "as everybody has always looked at Brick when he spoke or moved or appeared."
  • Brick drops ice cubes in his glass and offers a drink to others in the room.
  • Big Mama wishes he wouldn't drink.
  • Brick wishes he didn't have to, but tells her that he's waiting for the click in his head to smooth things out.
  • Big Mama tells him he breaks her heart.
  • Maggie tells Brick to go sit with Big Mama.
  • Big Mama sobs.
  • Gooper commences the family conferences once more.
  • Maggie tells Brick to go sit next to his mother and to hold her hand.
  • Brick tells Maggie to go sit next to Big Mama, tells her he is a restless cripple and has to stay on his crutch.
  • Brick hobbles to the gallery door and leans there like he's waiting for something.
  • Mae sits with Big Mama while Gooper sits on the edge of the sofa and takes center stage.
  • Doc Baugh lights a cigar.
  • Maggie turns away.
  • Big Mama wants to know why everyone is surrounding her and making signs at each other.
  • Mae tells Big Mama to calm herself.
  • Big Mama tells Mae to calm her own self, and asks her how she is supposed to be calm when everyone is looking at her like she has blood on her face. She wants to know what is going on.
  • Gooper coughs.
  • Gooper gives Doc Baugh a cue.
  • Mae gives Doc Baugh a cue.
  • Brick shushes everyone suddenly.
  • Brick laughs, shakes his head, and informs everyone that he thought he'd heard the click, but it was a false alarm. Faux clickage.
  • Gooper tells him to either shut up or stay on the gallery, because they have a serious matter to talk about with Big Mama and the report on Big Daddy's condition.
  • Doc Baugh begins to speak.
  • Big Mama rises from her chair, terrified, and wonders if there is something going on that she doesn't know about.
  • As she says those words, Mr. Williams informs us that Big Mama "reviews the history of her forty-five years with Big Daddy, her great, almost embarrassingly true-hearted and simple-minded devotion to Big Daddy, who must have had something Brick has."
  • Mr. Williams tells us that while Big Mama reviews the history of her marriage to Big Daddy in her head, she has a dignity about her and "she almost stops being fat."
  • Doc Baugh begins to speak again.
  • Big Mama interrupts, screaming that she wants to know the truth.
  • Big Mama thrusts her fist into her mouth.
  • Big Mama grabs the corsage pinned at her breast, throws it on the ground, and stomps on it. She exclaims that someone is lying to her.
  • Mae coaxes Big Mama to sit back down.
  • Maggie tells Brick to go sit with his mother.
  • Big Mama wants to know what is going on.
  • Doc Baugh informs everyone that he has never seen a more thorough examination given to a patient than the one given to Big Daddy.
  • Gooper says the clinic is one of the best in the country.
  • Mae corrects her husband and says it is THE best clinic in the country.
  • Mae pokes Gooper hard again.
  • Gooper slaps at her hand.
  • Doc Baugh says the doctors were ninety-nine and nine-tenths sure before they began their examination.
  • Big Mama wants to know of what they were sure.
  • Big Mama starts to sob again.
  • Mae kisses Big Mama.
  • Big Mama pushes her away, again.
  • Mae tells Big Mama to be brave.
  • Brick stands in the doorway and sings a song about the silvery light of the moon.
  • Gooper tells him to shut up.
  • Brick apologizes.
  • Brick walks out on the gallery.
  • Doc Baugh strikes up again and tells Big Mama that they cut a piece of Big Daddy's growth off.
  • Big Mama interrupts him and wants to know what growth he's referring to, since Big Daddy doesn't have cancer.
  • Big Mama starts sobbing again.
  • Doc Baugh tells her that they did tell Big Daddy his condition was just a spastic colon, but that when they tested the tissue from the growth, the doctors discovered that it was malignant.
  • Everyone pauses.
  • Big Mama says, "cancer?! Cancer?!"
  • Doc Baugh nods.
  • Big Mama cries.
  • Mae and Gooper try to calm her down.
  • Big Mama demands to know why they didn't cut the growth out of Big Daddy.
  • Doc Baugh says that too many organs would have been affected by that kind of treatment.
  • Gooper and Mae tell her the liver and kidneys have been affected.
  • Big Mama takes a breath that sounds like a dying gasp.
  • The Reverend makes a weird noise.
  • Doc Baugh says Big Daddy's condition is inoperable.
  • Mae explains that that's why Big Daddy has turned yellow.
  • Big Mama tells Mae to get away from her.
  • Big Mama rises and calls after Brick. She calls him her only son.
  • This ticks Mae and Gooper off.
  • Big Mama continues to call after Brick.
  • Maggie tells her Brick was so upset that he went back out to the gallery.
  • Everyone tries to comfort Big Mama.
  • Big Mama continues to call for Brick.
  • Gooper gets jealous.
  • Big Mama says that Gooper never liked Big Daddy.
  • Mae exclaims that that is not true.
  • The Reverend coughs, rises, and leaves.
  • Doc Baugh comments that the Reverend is lacking intact for talking about memorial windows and air conditioners at a time like this.
  • Big Mama describes this as one big bad dream.
  • Gooper tells everyone he thinks Big Daddy is in a lot of pain but just not telling anyone.
  • Doc Baugh confirms that a lot of patients go into denial at death's door.
  • Gooper thinks Big Daddy should be given morphine.
  • Big Mama says absolutely not.
  • Doc Baugh tells her the pain is going to get really intense.
  • Big Mama says no one will give Big Daddy morphine.
  • Mae tells her she doesn't want to see Big Daddy suffer.
  • Gooper pokes Mae this time.
  • Doc Baugh leaves a package on the table and tells everybody to use it in case there is a sudden attack of pain.
  • Mae tells everyone she knows how to give shots.
  • Gooper vouches that Mae took a course in nursing during the war.
  • Maggie says that somehow she doesn't think Big Daddy would want Mae to give him a shot. Agreed.
  • The doctor leaves, telling Big Mama to keep her chin up.
  • Gooper says she'll keep both chins up. Charming.
  • Gooper ushers the doctor out the door, thanking him, but the doctor doesn't acknowledge him.
  • Gooper gets his feelings hurt and wonders why the doctor can't act more human.
  • Big Mama sobs and says that the news she's just heard is not true.
  • Gooper tells her the medical tests are infallible.
  • Big Mama asks him why he's so intent to see his father dead. Oh snap.
  • Maggie says she knows what Big Mama means.
  • Mae turns on her and tells her that for a newcomer to the family, she sure does seem to know a lot about the Pollitt family.
  • Maggie says understanding is hard to come by in the family.
  • Mae supposes Maggie needed a lot of understanding in her family due to her father's alcoholism and now Brick's alcoholism.
  • Maggie tells her that Brick is devoted to Big Daddy.
  • Big Mama agrees that Brick is Big Daddy's boy, and that Maggie has to cooperate with the family in helping to straighten out Brick, in order that he might take over the plantation and the assets.
  • This sends Mae and Gooper spinning; they cannot believe what Big Mama has just said.
  • Big Mama says there's no need to discuss to whom the inheritance is going to go, because Big Daddy is not dying.
  • Gooper and Mae tell her that everyone has to be prepared for the eventuality of death.
  • Mae goes to get Gooper's briefcase.
  • Gooper saves face by saying he and Big Daddy have always loved each other in quiet ways, but that he has always had to be the responsible one.
  • Mae agrees and says he's always shouldered the responsibility, while Brick has just thrown footballs around.
  • Gooper starts to talk about how much work it takes to run a plantation.
  • Maggie goes out to the gallery and calls softly to Brick.
  • Big Mama tells Gooper and Mae that they don't know anything about running a plantation.
  • They continue to talk about what a help Gooper has been to Big Daddy in the past few years and about how Brick only threw footballs around.
  • Maggie comes back into the room and corrects them by saying that Brick is not a football player but one of the best sports announcers in the country.
  • Maggie wishes they would stop talking about her husband.
  • Gooper informs her he will talk about his brother and his family if he wants to. He tells her to go outside and drink with Brick.
  • Maggie says she's never seen such malice toward a brother before. She tells everyone she knows the reason why Gooper and Mae are vilifying Brick: "avarice, avarice, greed, greed!"
  • Big Mama tells everyone she will scream unless the fighting stops.
  • Gooper approaches Maggie with clenched fists, as though he is going to hit her.
  • Maggie tells everyone that she and Brick have no plans to take over the plantation, that they will leave as soon as Big Daddy has died.
  • Big Mama invites Maggie to come sit with her, and Maggie cuddles with Big Mama.
  • Gooper and Mae bring out the big guns in their jealous rage.
  • Mae informs Big Mama that the reason why Maggie is childless is that Brick won't sleep with her.
  • Gooper launches into a lecture about how he has resented Big Daddy for favoring Brick all these years, and he tells everyone that right now Big Daddy is sinking into uremia, which is the poisoning of the body when the kidneys can no longer get rid of poisons.
  • Maggie comments to herself how poisonous Gooper's words are.
  • Gooper continues, saying that he wants retribution for all those years of being mistreated by Big Daddy. He tells everyone he will hire a lawyer if he finds that anyone is plotting to take his entitlement from him.
  • Brick enters carrying an empty glass.
  • Gooper and Mae mock him, saying he looks like a failed football hero.
  • Big Mama tells them to shut up.
  • Gooper remarks on how a family crisis can bring out the best and worst of everyone involved.
  • Everyone agrees.
  • Mae gestures to Gooper's briefcase.
  • Brick sings while he prepares another drink.
  • Gooper tells Big Mama he has to go to work tomorrow, while Mae arranges documents from his briefcase on the bed.
  • Brick continues singing.
  • Gooper explains that he is bringing up the delicate topic of Big Daddy's estate so prematurely because he has to leave so soon.
  • Gooper proposes a trusteeship that he's been drawing up and planning.
  • Big Mama takes control of the conversation in a Big Daddy kind of a way and tells everyone there will not be anymore catty talk in her house. She tells Gooper to get rid of the documents in his hand. Then she searches for the word Big Daddy uses when he's disgusted.
  • Brick tells her the word is "Crap." A mighty fine word, we feel.
  • Big Mama goes "crap"-crazy.
  • Mae scolds her for swearing.
  • Gooper is offended.
  • Brick starts singing again.
  • Big Mama comments on how Brick looks like he used to look when he was a little boy.
  • Big Mama runs her hand through Brick's hair.
  • Brick pushes Big Mama's hand away and continues singing softly.
  • Big Mama talks about how the family needs to stay strong together and love each other.
  • Big Mama presses her head to Brick's shoulder.
  • Gooper returns his documents to his briefcase.
  • Big Mama continues to fawn over Brick, telling him how much Big Daddy loves him and exclaiming that Big Daddy's greatest wish is for Brick to have a baby boy.
  • Mae sarcastically comments how it's a pity that Brick and Maggie can't make that dream come true.
  • Maggie takes center stage and tells everyone she is going to have a baby.
  • Big Mama is happy.
  • Mae says it's too good to be true.
  • Big Mama grabs Brick's drink from him and tells him that having a baby will straighten him out.
  • Big Mama runs out of the room to go tell Big Daddy the news.
  • Brick drops ice cubes in his glass, and Maggie whispers something to him while she pours the liquor.
  • Mae pokes Gooper again and hisses.
  • Gooper pushes her away and asks Brick for some alcohol.
  • Brick obliges.
  • Mae starts to talk.
  • Gooper shuts her up.
  • Maggie, Gooper, and Mae proceed to bicker about whether or not Maggie is really going to have a baby.
  • Brick turns on the phonograph.
  • A long cry of agony is heard from the other end of the house and "rage fills the house."
  • Maggie turns the phonograph down.
  • Mae and Gooper go investigate the noise, but not before Mae turns to hiss at Maggie.
  • Brick and Maggie are left in the bedroom.
  • Maggie exhales and grabs hold of Brick's arm.
  • Brick informs her he hasn't felt the click.
  • Brick asks Maggie to hand him a pillow.
  • Maggie puts it on the bed.
  • Brick asks her to put it on the sofa, where he sleeps.
  • Maggie says he won't be sleeping on the sofa tonight.
  • Brick goes to the liquor cabinet and takes three shots.
  • Brick feels the click.
  • Brick goes out to the gallery and starts singing again.
  • Maggie puts the pillow on the bed.
  • Maggie grabs all of the bottles from the liquor cabinet and takes them out of the room.
  • Brick comes back into the bedroom and picks up the pillow from the bed.
  • Maggie comes back in and shuts the door.
  • She tells him she used to think he was stronger than her, but now that he's a drinker, she feels like the stronger of the two.
  • Maggie turns out all of the lamps, except for a single rose-silk-shaded lamp by the bed.
  • Maggie tells Brick she's been to a doctor and knows that this is her time of the month to conceive.
  • Brick asks her how she expects to conceive a child by a man in love with his liquor.
  • Maggie replies that she will do so by locking his liquor up.
  • Brick reaches for his crutch, but Maggie grabs it and hurls it over the gallery balcony.
  • Big Mama bursts into the room asking for the package of morphine Doc Baugh had left.
  • Maggie hands her the package.
  • Big Mama tries to embrace Brick.
  • Another cry of agony is heard from across the house.
  • Big Mama leaves.
  • Maggie tells Brick they are going to make their lie true, and that she will return him his alcohol once they are finished.
  • Brick has nothing to say.
  • Maggie turns out the final lamp.
  • The curtain begins to fall.
  • Maggie tells Brick she does love him.
  • Brick says, "wouldn't it be funny if that were true?" Déjà vu?
  • The End.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement