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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof


by Tennessee Williams

Analysis: What’s Up With the Ending?

Cat ends with Maggie entrapping Brick in their bedroom and insinuating that it's baby-making time, or else no more Echo Spring. It's strangely akin to a black widow ensnaring prey in her web. The house is quiet (finally). There is an eerie calm now that we know Big Daddy, patriarch extraordinaire, has cancer.

Remember those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure children books you used to read when you were little? You know, in the days before the Internet, when your third grade teacher thought she could trick you into liking books by giving you "interactive" time travel adventure stories about Thomas Edison? Ah, good times.

And they're here to stay apparently, because Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has two prominent endings, and has had several revisions. When it was first produced in 1955 on Broadway, Cat was directed by a famous director named Elia Kazan. Kazan and Williams were longtime artistic collaborators. Kazan liked to help Williams "shape" his plays (i.e., change them). Kazan, who was also a giant in the movie business, had the job of staging Cat for a mainstream, Broadway audience. He felt William's play needed to be tweaked in three ways: Big Daddy needed to stick around in Act III, Brick needed to have a more pronounced transformation after all the mendacity talk, and Maggie needed to be more likeable.

Williams took some, but not all, of these suggestions to heart. As a result, there are two very distinct endings to this play. For Shmoop purposes, however, we've stuck with the original text. Williams seems to enjoy leaving us hanging on cliffs, with only the power of our imagination allowing us to wonder what happens to the Pollitt family. In any case, we leave Cat wondering how in the world we are ever going to approach Thanksgiving dinner in the same way again.

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