Study Guide

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By Tennessee Williams

Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

[…] human interest story about a well-known former athlete stagin' a one-man track meet on the Glorious Hill High School athletic field last night, but was slightly out of condition and didn't clear the first hurdle! (I.22.125-128)

The fact that Brick's attempt on the track field was picked up by local newspapers reveals how much of a superstar Brick once was and confirms local society's deep fascination with and former love of him.

[…] she notices that he is not looking at her but into fading gold space with a troubled expression. (I.24.183-184)

Williams uses light on the stage to help set the emotional tone for the given moment. Maggie wants Brick to notice her more than almost anything, but he is always far, far away, concerned with the ghost that haunts him and with other, more indefinable things. The "fading gold space" at which Brick looks is ambiguous, but it evokes a fleeting light, and Brick relates to this fleeting light in a "troubled" way. It's as though Brick sees a likeness between the dying of the light and his own mortality and is disturbed by this. Perhaps death is not Brick's desire.

Why? Because human beings dream of life everlasting, that's the reason! But most of them want it on earth and not in heaven. (I.52.834-836)

Maggie is wise and knows what drives humans to want what they want. Because of this, she understands those around her well. This helps her get what she wants.

Jumping the hurdles, Big Daddy, runnin' and jumpin' the hurdles, but those high hurdles have gotten too high for me, now. (II.74.278-280)

Instead of running around a track or throwing footballs around on his high school football field, Brick chooses to jump hurdles. It seems strange that he would choose such a difficult task for his drunken self.

Life is important. There's nothing else to hold onto. A man that drinks is throwing his life away. Don't do it, hold onto your life. There's nothing else to hold onto…. (II.84.496-498)

Big Daddy tells this as a way of inspiring and motivating Brick, but he also says that life is constructed out of lies. Thus, according to Big Daddy, lies are the only things to hold onto.

I think the reason he buys everything he can buy is that in the back of his mind he has the crazy hopes that one of his purchases will be life everlasting!—Which it never can be…. (II.89.608-611)

Big Daddy echoes Maggie's observation about the human desire for life everlasting, something that he himself would kill to have. Unlike Brick, he wants to live and live, even in spite of hating so many elements within his life (Big Mama, his grandchildren, church, clubs, etc.).

- Something—hasn't—happened….
Yeah? What is that!
BRICK [sadly]
- the click…. (II.97.782-785)

As Brick flounders in a world stuck between life and death, he searches for a click that will drown out the feelings of guilt for having lived so long with mendacity. The funny thing is, though, that the longer he chases this click, the faster he expedites his own death. The click only arrives when he has enough alcohol in his blood. Instead of fighting to make his lies true, Brick is in a No Man's Land, numbing his guilt.

Sit in a glass box watching games I can't play? Describing what I can't do while players do it? Sweating out their disgust and confusion in contests I'm not fit for? Drinkin' a coke, half bourbon, so I can stand it? That's no goddamn good any more, no help… (II.113.1095-1099)

While Brick used to be the hero and athlete, his football injury forced him into the passive role of watching and commenting on others. He says that this new lifestyle is "no help," that it only reveals the lies that sustain him and that once sustained him. He becomes a commentator and thus becomes part of the "society" that once heralded him as a hero-athlete. This comment further reveals how much Brick's self-image is wrapped up in his former athleticism.

Oh, my, my! This is Big Daddy's dream, his dream come true!
I'm going to tell him right now before he— (III.158.637-638)

Big Daddy loves Brick and so, in this way, the news of Brick and Maggie's baby would make him happy. However, in his conversation with Brick, we learn that life everlasting is really what Big Daddy longs for. In this quote, we see Big Mama project a hope onto Big Daddy, shining big spotlights onto the web of lies that forms their relationship and their world. In this way, we see again how little Big Mama and Big Daddy know each other. Big Mama is happy in this moment because, in her eyes, Brick and Maggie are no longer an abnormal, childless couple, but have conformed to the lifestyle that society deems proper.

Oh, you weak people, you weak, beautiful people!—who give up.—What you want is someone to—[…]—take hold of you.—Gently, gently, with love! (III.165.776-779)

Again, we see Maggie's ability to understand people and to perceive their wants and dreams. She positions herself as a pillar of strength here, seeing those around her as weak and beautiful. She has much love for the weaknesses in others.