Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
by Tennessee Williams
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Page.Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue. We used the New Directions edition of the play, published in 1971.
NOTES FOR THE DESIGNER
It hasn't changed much since it was occupied by the original owners of the place, Jack Straw and Peter Ochello, a pair of old bachelors who shared this room all their lives together. In other words, the room must evoke some ghosts. (I.15.11-17)
Cat is as much about Straw and Ochello as it is about the Pollitt family. The Pollitts refer to Straw and Ochello almost as though they were ancestors, and the two ghosts haunt the family throughout. They are the proverbial pink elephants in the room in every moment of the play. Williams includes the detail that the house has not changed much over the years. In this way, the memory of the past is alive, vivid, and unavoidable. While the console with its television, radio, and liquor cabinet herald the modern age, this modernity is overpowered by the memory of the past.
NOTES FOR THE DESIGNER
This may be irrelevant or unnecessary, but I once saw a reproduction of a faded photograph of the verandah of Robert Louis Stevenson's home on that Samoan Island where he spent his last years, and there was a quality of tender light on weathered wood, such as porch furniture made of bamboo and wicker, exposed to tropical suns and tropical rains […} (NOTES.15.17-23)
Here we see the many layers and frames of memory. Williams' inspiration for the set of Cat is based on a reproductionof a "faded" photograph of Robert Louis Stevenson's home on a Samoan Island. He is several times removed from the point of inspiration, and we can only assume that he added to, embellished, and recreated his memory of this reproduction as time went on. It is the emotion around "the light on weathered wood" that he remembers and that has stayed with him.
When something is festering in your memory or your imagination, laws of silence don't work, it's just like shutting a door and locking it on a house on fire in hope of forgetting that the house is still burning. But not facing a fire doesn't put it out. Silence about a thing just magnifies it. It grows and festers in silence, becomes malignant. (I.31.376-381)
While the act of remembering and retelling memories can be dangerous for the details that are edited or lost, Maggie reminds us how equally dangerous it is not to articulate memories, especially considering there is so much emotion around them. Here also she draws a direct connection between the memory of Skipper that haunts Brick and the cancer that infects Big Daddy.