Study Guide

Big Daddy Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

By Tennessee Williams

Big Daddy Pollitt

Big Daddy's Underbelly

Big Daddy is the patriarch of the Pollitt family. He reminds us of a mix between Cher's father in Clueless and Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean. He's the Godfather, the king, the creator, the pirate. He represents a version of the American Dream, the rags to riches tale of a penniless young man who wanders around the country until he is hired as a field hand at a cotton plantation. He rises to become an overseer on the plantation. He then becomes co-owner of the plantation. Finally, he becomes sole owner and manager of a huge piece of rich farmland.

Big Daddy is a lecherous, misogynistic man who objectifies women and talks violently about his intention to find a woman he can choke with diamonds, smother with minks, and sleep with "from hell to high breakfast." (Seriously, would we make this up?) However, he also confides to Brick that he has experimented with other men in his lifetime. In this way, Big Daddy, the fulcrum of sexual energy and perpetuity, has a vulnerable underbelly as well.

From his conversation with Brick, we learn that Big Daddy has lived a life of lies, but that he has come to expect that lies are just a fact of life. He definitely can't stand his wife, he loathes his grandchildren, he hates church, and he abhors the clubs to which he belongs, clubs that indicate and solidify his place in society. But at the same time, he loves his place in society, right? He loves being the all-powerful ruler lording over his treasures. He loves the fact that he has control over the riches that his heirs are scrambling to attain. So what the do we make of the moment in the father-son conversation when he tells Brick that the only thing that he cares about is his farmland and Brick? Can we believe him?