"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," written by Tennessee Williams is a brilliant play about a dysfunctional family that is forces to deal with hidden deceptions and hypocrisy. The issues that this play revolves around transcend time and region. By 1955 Tennessee Williams was already a well known and respected playwright. Theatergoers, as well as critics, had enthusiastically anticipated the arrival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Many loved the play, but they had difficulty with the play's resolution. (Winchell, 711) ...critics and ordinary theatre-goers have not always known what to make of the play. Both the original and the Broadway versions of the third act leave questions unanswered and an uneasy sense that the answers suggested are willed and artificial. (Winchell, 711)
The plot in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" centers on a Southern family, who gather together to celebrate the patriarch Big Daddy's sixty-fifth birthday. They have found out that he is dying of cancer and they quarrel and finally deal with many of the lies and hypocrisy in their lives. Aristotle maintained that conflict is paramount to a good play, and this plot is brimming with controversy. For example, the sisters-in-law quarrel over their husband's right to inherit Big Daddy's fortune, and Big Daddy forces his son Brick to deal with his old feelings for his deceased friend Skipper.
The characters in Williams’ play are not caricatures or stereotypes; they are based on aspects of Williams’ personality and people that he knew in his past. The thought or theme in this play deals with mendacity, and Williams continually strips away the falsehoods. Most of the characters are hiding their true intentions. The tone in this play also reflects the tension between the characters.
The diction or language in this play is powerful in itself. Williams’ prose is colorful and imaginative. For example, Maggie tells her husband Brick in Act One, "I'm not living with you. We share the same cage." (Williams, 28)
Furthermore, music often plays an important role in a good drama. In "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" there is a reference to music being heard in Act One after Maggie tells Brick "you have that rare sort of charm that usually only happens in very old or helplessly sick people, the charm of the defeated-you look so cool...." (Williams, 24) In Act Two Maggie turns on the console and a symphony or opera blasts into the air. Big Daddy angrily turns off the music and his action makes a statement about the importance of the characters truly hearing each other and not being distracted by anything.
Williams’ use of spectacle in this play is compelling. The lighting is bright to add to the tension that the characters feel as well as the intensity of the conflict throughout the play. The drama occurs in one room without walls, since the characters can no longer hide from the truth. Yet, Williams’ prose creates the greatest sense of spectacle, since the words bring the...