Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
by Tennessee Williams
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Visions of America 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.
Oh, Big Daddy, the field hands are singin' fo' you! II.127.1425
Williams evokes a vision of the Old South, a time of slavery and agricultural wealth, on stage in this powerful family drama. The field hands and maids are African-American and, while characters Souky and Lacey have actual names, all others do not. These characters have only a few cursory lines, and stage notes indicate they are often singing or laughing, evoking racist and derogatory images of African Americans that are deeply entrenched in the history and mechanism of slavery and in the African-American experience. By intentionally making these characters one-dimensional, Williams comments on the mendacious, racist, corrupt, and rotten core of the Old South. With the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum in the year preceding Cat's premiere and with the South largely losing its agricultural power, the 1952 audience would have been keenly aware of the implications of the racist stereotypes represented in the play.
My family freed their slaves ten years before abolition, my great-great grandfather gave his slaves their freedom five years before the war between the States started!
Oh, for God's sakes! Maggie's climbed back up in her family tree! (III.130.17-23)
Maggie points to specific moments in the Old South's past, and reveals that her family was part of the mechanism of slavery, but also saw fit to defect from this mechanism before the Civil War and its aftermath would force others more corrupt and unenlightened to do so. In this way, Maggie differs from the Pollitt family, whose wealth is built upon the horrors of slavery.
BIG MAMA [overlapping Margaret]
Yais, he simply adores it! An' candied yams? That man put away enough food at that table to stuff a ______ field hand! (III.130.40-41)
Again, we see the persistence of racist ideology and racist language in a family of the mid-20th century. Williams shows us how racism continues to infect society. The Pollitt family is literally cancerous and is falling apart. Williams draws connections between this destruction of family and the rotten human corruption upon which it has been built.