How does Williams portray Maggie in Act One of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?

Tennesse Williams

Tennessee Williams’ play ‘cat on the hot tin roof’ presents the characters of Maggie and Brick, a couple undergoing a great amount of strain within their relationship, through the infidelity and lack of love. Their relationship presents dimensions of a troubling nature, from obstacles of love and marriage to social pressures and constraints with family expectations. Williams presents Maggie as the character that vocalizes her troubling feelings the most, showcasing all tension, and displaying these complexities to the audience. Maggie is shown to be a persistent character that possesses elements of self-doubt and a longing of a relationship with skipper, which is something that Harding highlights through her affair with skipper and her own vanity.

The most significant way Williams presents Maggie is through her relationship with Brick. Brick is shown to have a resentment towards Maggie, this is shown through the long monologues that Maggie does compared to the short and blunt sentences that Brick comes out with, in addition to Brick barely paying attention when he says; ‘did you say something’. The way Maggie extends one point for a long period of time suggests her want for that connection with Brick, finding excuses to talk about things like being the ‘perfect candidate for Rainbow Hill’ and raging about the ‘no neck monsters’. This evident separation and the futility of Bricks mental absence in the room can lead the audience onto feel sympathy for Maggie, because with Bricks mental absence Maggie vocalizes how ‘living with someone you love can be lonelier than living entirely alone’ The contradictory nature of this quote, highlights the way Maggie has reached the pinnacle of her desperation. In addition to the verbal desperation shown through Maggie’s monologues, her physical stage presence is shown to be another way Williams demonstrates her seeking validation from Brick. Maggie is walking around half naked ‘in a slip of ivory satin and lace ‘She is trying to attract Brick in a physical way, showcasing her vanity as ‘she giggles with a hand fluttering at her throat and her breast’ This element of promiscuity that Maggie possesses is another way Maggie tries to reiterate her need for Bricks attention.

Furthermore, another focal aspect of Williams’ representation of Maggie, are the complications presented with her affair with Skipper. The prominent factor that can be presented to the audience is the way that Maggie talks a lot about the situation with Skipper, despite Bricks attempts to make her stop talking about it. This persistence that Maggie acquires could signify to be the reason as to why Maggie and Bricks relationship is in such a fragile state. Maggie explain how sleeping with Skipper was a way for both of them to feel a little bit closer to Brick, further reflecting their relationship with Brick, portraying Brick to be an inaccessible character if they both had to resort to infidelity. Maggie’s desperation is further shown through her affair with Skipper as it highlights her love for Brick and Bricks detachment from her. In addition to that Williams creates parallels between Brick and Skipper through how ‘skipper began hittin’ the bottle’ This correlation between Skipper and Brick that binds in with Maggie, displays Maggie’s efforts in trying to fix something that is not broken or cannot be fixed. It brings up this idea of mendacity, and what lies behind Maggie’s perception of Brick and Skipper’s relationship. Maggie tries confront skipper, to tell the truth about his feelings towards Brick;’  I destroyed [Skipper], by telling him the truth that he and his world which he was born and raised in, yours and his world, had told him could not be told?’ It ties with the idea of Maggie’s persistence, despite her knowing what is actually happening within her relationships.

Maggie’s nature is clearly amplified through her interaction with other characters, especially Brick. William’s does this to showcase her almost self-conscious nature and her care for staying within the social conventions. This links in with the pressures that Maggie is faced with through her interactions with Mae, as well as her stage presence. Williams creates an ironic parallel between Mae and Gooper and Brick and Maggie. Mae’s fertility is something that very much defines her in the play, and it is used as a direct contrast to Maggie who can’t have children due to her unstable relationship with Brick. Mae uses this as a way to get to Maggie; ‘honey if you had children of your own you’d know how funny that is’ this further reinforces Maggie’s underlying pressure that she may be feeling to meet the social expectations. In addition to Maggie’s lack of children, Mae and Gooper demonstrate affection towards each other with serves as another parallel to Maggie and Brick’s relationship. Mae is shown to be everything that Maggie is not, further emphasising this social detachment that Maggie plays, that could possibly create more sympathy from the audience. Williams creates this pressure through Maggie’s character to highlight inward self-deprecation that Maggie plays towards herself, she is ‘completely alone, and she feels it’ she is the ‘cat on the hot tin roof’ as her unfortunate circumstances within her relationship presents the hardships and pressures that she not only puts upon herself but receives from others.

To conclude, Williams portrays Maggie as a ‘cat on a hot tin roof’ a phrase that encompasses her lack of love and stability within her relationship, alongside her social strains put upon herself.  Her determined and persistent attitude draws out her true emotions alongside the stage directions that reflect her inner feelings when no one is around. Maggie is a character that yearns for the attention from Brick, and she gives herself away physically to gain this, reinforcing this idea of her want to make things right and her need for love.

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