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.
Notes to the Designer
[…] a monumental monstrosity peculiar to our times, a huge console combination of radio-phonograph (hi-fi with three speakers) TV set and liquor cabinet, bearing and containing many glasses and bottles, all in one piece […] This piece of furniture (?!), this monument, is a very complete and compact little shrine to virtually all the comforts and illusions behind which we hide from such things as the characters in the play are faced with…. (Notes.16.36-47)
The console is a focal point of the set. Williams makes a point of drawing our attention to it so that we know exactly where it is and what it is. The console contrasts greatly with the history that surrounds it. In a house that is over 100 years old, the console represents modernity and all of the latest technology. It represents a "new" America that is in love with sensory-enticing technology and that is capable of producing multi-functional things. Each of the functions (the TV set, the radio-phonograph, and the alcohol) serves to both drown out reality and to connect the watcher, listener, and drinker to others. By making a point of describing this console, Williams shows us exactly what Americans were interested in during the 1950s.
A phone is ringing in hall. A Negro voice answers: "Mistuh Polly's res'dence." (I.45.653-654)
One of the few times we hear the voice of an African-American character, it seems important that the voice is detached from the actual speaker. As an audience, we hear the voice without seeing who speaks it. As a reader, we see the racist stereotype of the manner of speaking demonstrated, and we notice that the "Negro voice" does not belong to a character with a name. Here, this character is naming the owner of the house. In this way, we see the power structure between the Pollitt family and its maids more clearly.
Negroes in white jackets enter with an enormous birthday cake ablaze with candles and carrying buckets of champagne with satin ribbons about the bottle necks. (I.68.131-133)
Here we see further one-dimensional, derogatory depictions of African-Americans, and we also see the exorbitant wealth and luxury on which the Pollitt family live. This wealth, taken in conjunction with the fertility we see evidenced by the many children running and around and by the success of the Pollitt plantation, becomes bizarre when juxtaposed with the encroachment of death.