Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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Big Daddy Character Analysis

Big Daddy is Brick’s father. He’s aggressive, rich, and can be brutally mean, admitting that he’s never cared for anyone in his life except for Brick. He never much cared for Big Mama, and would prefer to chase women. He regrets that money can buy anything, except more life. He believes the health report that says he’s going to live, until Brick reveals the secret that he has cancer.

Big Daddy Quotes in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof quotes below are all either spoken by Big Daddy or refer to Big Daddy. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Lies Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New Directions edition of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof published in 2004.
Act 1 Quotes

Hell, do they ever know it? Nobody says, "You're dying." You have to fool them. They have to fool themselves.

Related Characters: Margaret (speaker), Big Daddy
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

As Maggie attempts to engage her husband Brick in conversation, she reveals that Brick's father, Big Daddy, is going to die from cancer, even though he thinks himself to be healthy. When Brick seems dismayed, Maggie expresses her viewpoint that this type of lying is simply the way of the world. In fact, she believes that the healthy must "fool" the dying in order to be kind and merciful. 

This exchange reveals an important fact about Maggie: she believes that, at times, lying is justified. Despite thinking herself an honest person, she condones the family's decision to fool Big Daddy about his health, since in her view, this is a normal and kind thing to do.

This attitude of Maggie's puts her in direct conflict with Brick, who claims to hate all kinds of lying, no matter what the cause. As the play continues, however, the lines between honesty and dishonesty continue to blur, and the two characters reveal that they have each at times acted against their supposed values. 

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Born poor, raised poor, expect to die poor unless I manage to get us something out of what Big Daddy leaves when he dies of cancer!

Related Characters: Margaret (speaker), Brick, Big Daddy
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

As Maggie furiously attempts to make her husband Brick care about his inheritance--which he may lose, due to his alcoholism--she recalls her childhood spent in poverty. As she does, another important facet of Maggie's character becomes clear: her overriding, but understandable, obsession with money.

Although a glamorous woman now used to high society, Maggie grew up with nothing, and with an alcoholic father. By marrying Brick, she has become a part of the moneyed elite, and will do almost anything to ensure that she stays there. Although Brick views Maggie's desperate need to be wealthy with contempt, it is easy for readers and audience members to understand its cause. Unlike Brick, privileged since birth, Maggie understands what it's like to not have enough, and to fight for what you want and need. 

Act 2 Quotes

Jumping the hurdles, Big Daddy, runnin' and jumpin' the hurdles, but those high hurdles have gotten too high for me, now.

Related Characters: Brick (speaker), Big Daddy
Related Symbols: Brick’s Crutch
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

Demanding and dictatorial, Big Daddy interrupts his own birthday celebration to interrogate Brick, asking his son how he broke his leg. Brick replies that he was attempting to jump the hurdles, as he used to do in high school, but that he's no longer able to.

Throughout Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, characters often wish for past happiness that they have now lost, and this is clearly true in Brick's case. By pretending to be a high schooler again, Brick is reliving when he was in peak physical condition...and returning to a time before he lost his best friend, Skipper. 

Although he seems apathetic and detached, it's clear from Brick's actions that he still deeply longs for a time in his life that has long since past. His inertia stems from his disgust and disappointment with the present, and his desperate desire to return to the happier past. 

And I did, I did so much, I did love you!—I even loved your hate and your hardness, Big Daddy!

[…]

Wouldn't it be funny if that was true…

Related Characters: Big Mama (speaker), Big Daddy (speaker)
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

After her husband ridicules and insults her repeatedly, Big Mama breaks down. She denies his accusation that she never loved him, instead asserting that she "even loved [his] hate and...hardness." Big Daddy, however, still does not believe her, instead bitterly retorting that her statement would "be funny if that was true."

Although Maggie and Brick may be the most obviously broken couple in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, they are certainly not the only one. The partnership of Big Mama and Big Daddy has clearly soured, with Big Daddy outright declaring his hatred for his wife in front of their entire family.

Just like Brick and Maggie, the two are unable to communicate. Big Mama does not understand the source of her husband's loathing for her, while Big Daddy laughs at the idea that his wife loves him. Their awful marriage makes clear the many ways that human relationships can go wrong, and contributes to a feeling of pessimism about love, sex, and marriage that pervades the play. 

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….

Related Characters: Big Daddy (speaker)
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

After his close brush with mortality, Big Daddy believes himself to be something of an expert on life and death. Looking around at his expensive, opulent possessions, he reflects that rich men buy as much as they can because they hope that, some day, they will be able to purchase "life everlasting," although their wish will never come true. 

Like Maggie, Big Daddy grew up poor, and has dedicated his life to amassing wealth for himself and his children. In his old age, though, he seems to look back on this desire with regret. Although he can buy anything he wants, he will never be able to regain his health, or his youth. 

This insight is even more poignant considering what the audience/readers know (and Big Daddy does not): he has cancer, and will die very soon. However much characters like Maggie and Mae hunger after money, it cannot provide a remedy to Big Daddy's fatal illness. 

Why are you so anxious to shut me up?

Well, sir, every so often you say to me, Brick, I want to have a talk with you, but when we talk, it never materializes. Nothing is said. […] Communication is—awful hard between people an'—somehow between you and me, it just don't—

Related Characters: Brick (speaker), Big Daddy (speaker)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

As Big Daddy attempts to bond with his son, Brick urges him to be silent instead, explaining that the two of them never actually communicate; they simply talk around each other. Brick finds this process too painful, preferring instead to remain silent.

Repeatedly within the play, Brick displays a distrust in communication, and a desire to push the people around him away. Having lost all faith in his ability to connect with his wife, his family, or his dead friend, he now believes that true communication is no longer possible, and so prefers simply to avoid any attempts at it it. 

Communication is especially hard for two characters like Brick and Big Daddy, who share many of the same fears and beliefs, yet are also worlds away from each other. Big Daddy likes to get things out in the open, while Brick attempts to keep his secrets and traumas hidden. Yet both men, at heart, are pessimistic about other people, and are terrified of the unsaid truths that may overturn their worlds. Given these facts, it is all the more painful when they attempt and yet are unable to communicate. 

I'll smother her in—minks! Ha Ha! I'll strip her naked and smother her in minks and choke her with diamonds and smother her with minks and hump her from hell to breakfast.

Related Characters: Big Daddy (speaker)
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

Attempting to confide in his son, Big Daddy addresses how alive he feels, since he has been (dishonestly) told that he does not have cancer. To Big Daddy, life and sexuality are always intertwined. As he contemplates his future life, he resolves to take a mistress, and to give her opulent gifts such as "minks" and "diamonds."

This quote gives us a great deal of insight into the character of Big Daddy. A vulgar yet vivid speaker, he narrates how he intends to "smother" and "choke" his mistress with all the gifts he will give her. For Big Daddy, money and affection are one and the same--to give someone expensive presents is, essentially, to show one's love for them.

At the same time, there is a disquieting sense of violence in Big Daddy's words. A man with a great deal of anger and regret, Big Daddy seems to be unknowingly taking out this aggression on his future mistress.

Think of all the lies I got to put up with! Ain't that mendacity? Having to pretend stuff you don't think or feel or have any idea of? Having for instance to act like I care for Big Mama!—I haven't been able to stand the sight, sound, or smell of that woman for forty years now!—even when I laid her!

Related Characters: Big Daddy (speaker), Big Mama
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

Engaged in a tortuous conversation with his son, Big Daddy learns that Brick has been drinking because of "mendacity," which he defines as "lies and liars." While Brick believes that the mendacity around him has made the world intolerable, Big Daddy has a far different view. He acknowledges that dishonesty is everywhere (pointing to his own marriage as an example), but asserts that one must learn to live with and accept mendacity rather than retreating from life, as Brick has done.

Although Brick and Big Daddy have huge differences between them, this conversation makes clear their similarities. Like Brick, Big Daddy believes himself to be surrounded by dishonesty. Also like Brick, Big Daddy views his marriage as a sham, and feels nothing but hatred and disgust for the woman whom he married. The two characters differ, therefore, not in their belief that dishonesty and deception are all around them, but in their response to that belief. 

Maybe that's why you put Maggie and me in this room that was Jack Straw's and Peter Ochello's, in which that pair of old sisters slept in a double bed where both of 'em died!

Related Characters: Brick (speaker), Margaret, Big Daddy
Related Symbols: The Bed
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

Furious after Big Daddy suggests that Brick and Skipper may have been gay, Brick references Jack Straw and Peter Ochello, the (semi-openly gay) couple who owned the plantation before Big Daddy did. He seems to view the two with contempt, and accuses Big Daddy of putting him and Maggie in that room in order to imply that Brick himself is gay. 

Although Jack Straw and Peter Ochello seem to have been a committed and loving couple, whom Big Daddy remembers with fondness, Brick has nothing but disgust for the two men. This violent reaction can be read one of two ways: either Brick deeply resents that everyone around him thinks that he is gay, or he actually is gay and has reacted so dramatically out of repression and self-loathing. 

Brick's sexuality remains ambiguous throughout the play, but it is clear from passages like this one that he finds homosexuality deeply disturbing, and has none of the (surprising) tolerance that his father displays. 

You been passing the buck. This disgust with mendacity is disgust with yourself. You!—you dug the grave of your friend and kicked him in it!—before you'd face the truth with him!

Related Characters: Big Daddy (speaker), Brick
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

Brick explains to Big Daddy that he drinks because of his disgust with mendacity ("lies and liars"), and at last admits that he received a drunken confession of love from Skipper, and rebuffed it completely, hanging up on his friend's telephone call. Big Daddy seizes on this fact, asserting that Brick is in fact disgusted with his own mendacity, in refusing to entertain or address the truth that his friend told him. In fact, Big Daddy even goes so far as to assert that Brick's coldness and denial are the reasons for Skipper's death.

With this accusation, Big Daddy turns Brick's carefully constructed world upside down. He has lived in a bubble of denial, blaming Maggie for Skipper's death, and refusing to believe that he had any part of it. In fact, he even blames Maggie for Skipper's confession of love, which he views as dirty and shameful. Big Daddy, however, states that it was Brick's actions that were shameful, since he refused to "face the truth" behind Skipper's words.

This quote also shows the remarkably open nature of Big Daddy. During a period in which most people thought that homosexuality was immoral, and even a mental illness, Big Daddy seems at least willing to accept that his son's friend was in love with him (and even that Brick may have been in love with Skipper).

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Big Daddy Character Timeline in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The timeline below shows where the character Big Daddy appears in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Death Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
Margaret says that Mae and Gooper aim to cut Brick out of Big Daddy’s estate, now that they have a report confirming that Big Daddy is dying of cancer.... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
However, Margaret says that Brick still has one big advantage— Big Daddy dotes on him and dislikes Gooper and Mae. Margaret also suspects that Big Daddy has... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
...keep her voice down if he agrees to make this drink his last until after Big Daddy’s birthday party, which Brick has forgotten about. She tries to get Brick to sign a... (full context)
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
...as Margaret puts away the bow. Mae tells Brick about her children’s musical performance for Big Daddy after supper, and Margaret asks why Mae’s children all have dogs’ names—Dixie, Trixie, Buster, Sonny,... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Big Mama says she has wonderful news about Big Daddy . Margaret opens the door while Brick hobbles into the bathroom, but Big Mama meanwhile... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Big Mama yells for Brick again and then discloses that the results of Big Daddy’s health report were all negative—he’s in fine condition, save for a “spastic colon.” Big Mama... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
...he wouldn’t have a cent to pay for it except for what he gets from Big Daddy , who’s dying of cancer anyway. Brick looks surprised and says that Big Mama reported... (full context)
Act 2
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
A group enters, with Big Daddy in the lead, followed by Reverend Tooker and Gooper, who are discussing memorials. Big Daddy... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...Brick and flops down on the couch, pulling the reverend onto her as a joke. Big Daddy bellows at her to stop joking around, and Big Mama signals the cue for the... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
...about the wonderful results of the health report. Margaret interjects, asking Brick whether he’s given Big Daddy his birthday present yet. Gooper bets that Brick doesn’t know what the present is, while... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
As the atmosphere in the room grows uncomfortable, Big Daddy turns to Brick and asks what he was doing on the high school track field... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Big Daddy says that he’s tired of Big Mama trying to take over because she thought he... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
Big Daddy asks to speak to Brick, and Margaret delivers him, exiting onto the gallery with a... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Big Daddy hears a sound from the bedroom and asks who’s there. Mae appears by the gallery... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Big Daddy tells Brick that Mae and Gooper have reported that Brick won’t sleep with Margaret. He... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the clock chimes, and Brick remarks on how pleasant the chiming sound is. Big Daddy says that he and Big Mama bought the clock on their European tour. Big Daddy... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Brick pours himself another drink and informs Big Daddy that he’s talking a lot tonight. Brick says that he prefers "solid quiet" and asks... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Big Daddy announces to Brick that he’s contemplating "pleasure with women." He says that he slept with... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
As Big Daddy goes back to contemplating pleasure with women, talking about how he plans to use his... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Big Daddy yells at him to stay, and Big Mama rushes in to see what all the... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
The children start chanting that they want Big Daddy , and Gooper appears in the gallery door to ask him to come and see... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
Big Daddy informs Brick that that’s not living. He says that he couldn’t decide who to make... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Big Daddy suggests that Brick goes back to sports announcing, but Brick responds that he hates to... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Brick yells at Big Daddy for accusing him, his son, of being a queer. As Big Daddy denies this, Reverend... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
...asks why true friendship between two men can’t be respected as something pure and decent. Big Daddy once again says that it’s hard to talk, but instead of letting it go, he... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Big Daddy continues to press Brick, believing that he purposefully left something out of the story. Finally,... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Brick says that no one— Big Daddy included—can face the truth. Brick blurts out that everyone but Big Daddy knows the truth... (full context)
Act 3
Lies Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Everyone but Brick trickles back into the room, calling for Big Daddy . Big Mama says that she believes Big Daddy has left because he was just... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...he tells Margaret to sit with her instead. Gooper and Mae reveal the news that Big Daddy actually does have cancer. In hysterics, Big Mama calls for Brick, her “only son.” This... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
...in avarice and greed. Gooper, furious, admits that he does, in fact, resent Brick and Big Daddy’s favoritism, but he knows enough to protect his own interests. Mae and Gooper grow increasingly... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
...just like he did when he was a little boy. Big Mama tells Brick that Big Daddy’s fondest dream would be to have a grandson from Brick. Mae responds that it’s too... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Big Mama rushes out to tell Big Daddy the news, while Mae screams that Margaret is lying about her pregnancy. Mae says that... (full context)