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The Repression Of Sexuality Within Tennessee William's "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" And Katherine Mansfield's "Bliss"

1937 words - 8 pages

The Repression of Sexuality within "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Bliss"Modern western culture prides itself on progress and tolerance, and the sexual revolution is a clear and unavoidable reminder of this. In the media and in our lives, sexual expression, that a few decades ago would have been condemned, is becoming more mainstream. One cannot help but be bombarded by images of half-naked women and sexually provocative messages, yet homosexuality is still an uneasy topic for most. Issues such as gay marriages and gay rights occupy an uncomfortable spot in society today. Although the acceptance of homosexuality has increased over the decades, some problems that were present a century ago still exist today. Therefore it is important that literature written decades ago about such sexual and social issues be discussed in the present. The nature and the effects of pressure put on individuals to suppress homosexuality by society can be seen in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and Katherine Mansfield's "Bliss"."For Tennessee Williams, homosexuality was the site of manifold contradiction...his own identity was articulated in the tension between secrecy and disclosure contradictions" (Savran). Such is the case of his creation Brick, the protagonist of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", whose sexual identity is not clearly defined within the text. His actions, however, indicate a suppressed homoerotic love for his college friend Skipper. One of the main indications of this is his treatment of his wife. Brick seems uninterested in Margaret, his wife, who is described as "beautiful" (615) and the lust of "other men"(630). He is constantly talking to her "without interest"(616), "absently" (619) and "indifferently" (621). He is even "indifferent to" (621) sex with his wife, which is normally a passionate act. Furthermore, his wife is constantly complaining of his lack of "longing for her" (621), and Brick, instead of giving her attention, repeatedly suggests that she "take a lover" (625). He is also disgusted by kisses from his wife which he "wipes off immediately with the back of his hand" (644). Brick's lack of intimacy, which occurred "long before the natural time for it to" (630), leads to the questioning of the basis of his marriage to Margaret. Like many homosexuals in his time, Brick is "marrying [and] masquerading as a heterosexual" (Savran).His true love is Skipper, his closest friend and the only person in the play that ignites any emotion in Brick. Margaret enviously describes them as "dat[ing]" (634) and extremely close. She even implies that they had a homosexual bond by saying that they "had something that had to be kept on ice" (634). Yet Brick is unable to accept the truth because of his homophobia. Like his name suggests, Brick's identity centers around the idea of stereotypical masculine man. He played football, joined a fraternity, and has a beautiful wife. So Brick refuses to admit to being something he deems "sissy", fairy", and "queer"...

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