- Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Signet; Reissue edition (September 1, 1958)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0451171128
- ISBN-13: 978-0451171122
- Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.5 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 113 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,224,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 1958
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Play by Tennessee Williams, published and produced in 1955. It won a Pulitzer Prize. The play exposes the emotional lies governing relationships in the family of a wealthy Southern planter of humble origins. The patriarch, Big Daddy, is about to celebrate his 65th birthday. His two married sons, Gooper (Brother Man) and Brick, have returned for the occasion, the former with his pregnant wife and five children, the latter with his wife Margaret (Maggie). The interactions between Big Daddy, Brick, and Maggie form the substance of the play. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
About the Author
Tennessee Williams was born in 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi, where his grandfather was the episcopal clergyman. When his father, a travelling salesman, moved with his family to St Louis some years later, both he and his sister found it impossible to settle down to city life. He entered college during the Depression and left after a couple of years to take a clerical job in a shoe company. He stayed there for two years, spending the evening writing. He entered the University of Iowa in 1938 and completed his course, at the same time holding a large number of part-time jobs of great diversity. He received a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1940 for his play Battle of Angels, and he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 and 1955. Among his many other plays Penguin have published Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Baby Doll (1957), Orpheus Descending (1957), Something Unspoken (1958), Suddenly Last Summer (1958), Period of Adjustment (1960), The Night of the Iguana (1961), The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963), and Small Craft Warnings (1972). Tennessee Williams died in 1983.
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Williams originally wrote CAT with less sympathetic Maggie, and with Big Daddy appearing only in Act Two, and with a fairly dark conclusion. Director Elia Kazan agreed to direct the play for Broadway, but strongly urged Williams make several changes. These included making Maggie more sympathetic, extending the role of Big Daddy into Act Three. Williams did not like all of Kazan’s suggestions, but he followed them, and the result was the 1955 Broadway play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Circle Award. It is the version most commonly seen in revival and the one on which the 1958 film starring Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor was based. In 1974 Williams re-wrote the play, restoring much of what Kazan had asked him to remove. So far as I know, this particular variation is only available through Dramatist Play Service, which publishes an acting script and which holds the licensing rights to this (and all other variations) of the play.
When published for the general reading public, as in this edition, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF contains two versions of Act Three, the first as Williams originally wrote it, the second as Kazan asked, returning Big Daddy to the stage and including a somewhat softer conclusion. This edition also includes an introduction by Edward Albee, an essay by Brian Parker, and notes by Williams.
The play is famous. Big Daddy Pollock owns a large plantation in the Mississippi delta, where he lives with his wife, Big Mama. His oldest son Gooper, his very pregnant wife Mae, and their five children are frequent visitors; his younger son Brick and his very sexy wife Maggie have been permanent houseguests for some time. As the play progresses, we discover that Brick and Maggie have a deeply strained relationship and that Gooper and Mae plan to use their discord to take control of the estate when Big Daddy, who has terminal cancer, dies. Although the different third acts vary significantly, both hinge on Maggie’s determination to blackmail Brick into resuming physical intimacy in order to have a child, an event that will motivate Big Daddy to leave them the estate.
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is noted for the fact that the central characters—Brick and Maggie, Gooper and Mae, and Big Daddy and Big Mama—are extremely combative, not only with the other characters but with their own partners. Some people regard the play as a three-hour-long argument, and the extremes presented in the play would not be topped until Edward Albee’s WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF in 1962. The play is famous for the number of motifs and themes Williams presents, most particularly those of greed and deceit. At the time it debuted on Broadway, the play’s statements about homosexuality were considered scandalous, and they were so hot that the 1958 film version does completely changes the story line in order to avoid mention of it. The language of the play was also considered extreme, containing numerous profanities, vulgarities, and racial slurs.
CAT is a bitter but fascinating play with characters who are willing to go to almost any extreme to win what they want—and like A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE’s Blanche, Brick is a character who elects to live inside a fantasy that protects him from harsh realities, some of them of his own making. Uncomfortable, jittery, and explosive, it is a classic of 20th Century dramatic literature. Strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
The play is set in the largest mansion in the very heart of the rich farmland of the Mississippi delta, near Clarksville. There are three acts, but the time period is continuous. ‘Big Daddy’ is now 65, and owner of the plantation. He is still “rough-hewed,” having once been the overseer of the plantation that was owned by two “sisters” (gays), Jack Straw and Peter Ochello. Homosexuality, a “racy” topic in the 1950’s, is a theme throughout the play. ‘Big Daddy’s’ wife is, sure enough, ‘Big Mama.’ They have two sons, Brick and Gooper, who are each married, respectively, to Maggie and Mae. Each of the women have societal pretenses, one raised in Memphis, and the other Nashville. Gooper is the oldest, and with Mae has five “no-neck” children, with a sixth on the way. Brick and Mae are childless. He is also a serious alcoholic, morose over his lost college athletic “glory days,” and his relationship with his buddy, Skipper, now dead. The reason for Brick and Maggie’s childlessness – that he will not sleep with her – and his probable homosexual relationship with Skipper is developed as the play progresses. ‘Big Mama’ frankly criticizes Maggie for failing to perform her “bed duties,” and keep her son happy. They all live in the mansion house, and are jockeying for the inheritance. It is a “heady” mix.
Mendacity, greed, sexual longing are all themes woven throughout the play. About half this Kindle edition contains various essays of commentary, the most meaningful one from Tennessee Williams himself. The influence and relationship of Williams with the director Elia Kazan is described. I even learned that this play was the favorite of Fidel Castro, who greeted Williams on their first meeting with the exclamation: “Oh, that Cat!” The play’s evolution and various versions are discussed (perhaps more than most people need to know), and an entirely different third act is also included.
Reading, or watching a performance of Williams’ plays is an important part of the “curriculum” of any student of American drama – whatever the age of that student. 5-stars for “The Cat.”