Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
by Tennessee Williams
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Mortality 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.
It took the shadow of death to make me see it. Now that shadow's lifted, I'm going to cut loose and have, what is it they call it, have me a—ball! (II.93)
Death holds a power over characters in the play, forcing them to come to terms with certain truths in their lives. Big Daddy perhaps does not want to confront these truths. The first time he thinks he is going to die, he is so distraught that, when alone with Brick after being told he's going to live, Big Daddy tells him all the truths that his flirtation with death had dredged up: the corruption he saw when traveling through Europe, his experimentation with other men, and his only two loves: Brick and the plantation.
Maybe that's why you put Maggie and me in this room that was Jack Straw's and Peter Ochello's, in which that pair of old sisters slept in a double bed where both of 'em died! (II.115.1164-1166)
Here we see just how much death reigns in the Pollitt household, such that Maggie and Brick are staying in the very room where the plantation's ancestors died. The bedroom is therefore the fulcrum of the plantation and the tomb that encloses two dying men. Death permeates everyone and everything throughout the play.
Well, I have come back from further away than that, I have just now returned from the other side of the moon, death's country, son, and I'm not easy to shock by anything here. (II.120.1250-1252)
This is the first time we ever hear Big Daddy, or anyone for that matter, discuss the afterlife or what happens after death. That Big Daddy locates death's country on "the other side of the moon" becomes significant when we remember that Brick often sings to the moon throughout the play. We don't know about you, but the moon doesn't seem like such a deathly place. However, at the time of the play's publication, a human would not walk on the moon for another ten years. The moon, therefore, is unknown, foreign, and scary. However, it is also a real place, and not a fantastical or biblical imagining of what death would look like. This perhaps reflects the interest of Americans at the time on science and on space exploration.