Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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Margaret Character Analysis

Maggie is the self-proclaimed cat on a hot tin roof of the play’s title. She’s attractive, ambitious, and desperate to regain her husband Brick’s attention, which she lost after interfering in his friendship with Skipper (ultimately leading to Skipper’s death). She’s worked hard to earn her status in life, and she spends the play trying to find a way to stay at the top of the ladder by inheriting Big Daddy’s estate, even as Brick drinks away their chances. She’s desperate to have a child with Brick, and her desperation makes her shrill and catty—but she’s not the only one. Although Maggie’s the only self-proclaimed cat in the play, all the characters have desires and regrets that make them jump and just trying to hold on.

Margaret Quotes in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof quotes below are all either spoken by Margaret or refer to Margaret. 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

When something is festering in your memory or your imagination, laws of silence don't work, it's just like shutting a door and locking it on a house on fire in hope of forgetting that the house is still burning. But not facing a fire doesn't put it out. Silence about a thing just magnifies it. It grows and festers in silence, becomes malignant.

Related Characters: Margaret (speaker)
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Alone with her husband Brick in their bedroom, Maggie attempts repeatedly to engage him in conversation, especially as regards their broken marriage. Although Brick continually refuses to speak to her, Maggie insists that "laws of silence don't work," because they in fact make underlying issues worse. 

This quote increases our understanding of Maggie's moral philosophy, especially as it relates to the truth. Although she supports the decision to lie to Big Daddy about his health, when it comes to her husband and her marriage, she refuses to engage in lying or feigned ignorance. Brick has made communication nearly impossible--and disbelieves everything that she says--yet Maggie still insists on talking, believing any kind of communication to be better than "silence." 

It is also important to understand that the sorry state of Brick and Maggie's marriage is "fester[ing]" in her mind as much as it is in his. In truth Maggie, still deeply in love with Brick, will do whatever it takes to make him notice her, even if this means inciting him to rage and violence. 

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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. 

Yes, I made my mistake when I told you the truth about that thing with Skipper. Never should have confessed it, a fatal error, tellin' you about that thing with Skipper.

Related Characters: Margaret (speaker), Brick
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Attempting to understand why her husband barely speaks to her and will no longer sleep with her, Maggie brings up what she believes is the cause: his close relationship with his best friend Skipper, whom Maggie believes was in love with Brick, as well as her own affair with Skipper. The fact that Skipper died soon after makes the topic even more fraught. As she speaks, Maggie's relationship to the truth grows increasingly complex. Although she told her husband the truth about her role in Skipper's ruin, Maggie now regrets doing so, believing that everything would have been fine if she simply had not confessed. 

Once again, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof reveals the gap between actions and admitting to those actions. At least on the surface, Maggie does not regret the decisions she made that may have led to Skipper's death; rather, she only regrets making Brick aware of her behavior. Maggie's morality is a complex and sometimes contradictory system, as this quote makes clear. 

One man has one great good true thing in his life. One great good thing which is true!—I had a friendship with Skipper.—You are naming it dirty!

Related Characters: Brick (speaker), Margaret
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Enraged that Maggie has brought up his dead best friend Skipper, Brick alternately begs and orders her to stop. She continues, however, implying that Skipper had sexual feelings for Brick. Furious, Brick asserts that his friendship with Skipper was the "one great good true thing" that he ever experienced, and that she is calling the relationship "dirty." 

Although the play does not make it clear whether or not Brick and Skipper had a sexual relationship--or whether Brick is a closeted gay man--it is clear that he has a complex and ambivalent attitude towards sex. In calling his bond with Skipper anything other than platonic, Brick believes that Maggie is demeaning and insulting it. To him, any mention of sex or sexuality automatically makes a topic or relationship dirty and contemptible. 

By this point, it is clear that Maggie and Brick have lost all ability to communicate. No matter how much Maggie protests that she does not mean to insult Skipper or his memory, Brick does not believe her. To him, everything his wife does is malicious and damaging, and everything she says is hurtful and intentionally cruel. 

In this way I destroyed him, by telling him truth that he and his world which he was born and raised in, yours and his world, had told him could not be told.

Related Characters: Margaret (speaker)
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Maggie begins to reminisce, narrating the incident in which she confronted Brick's best friend, Skipper, about what she saw as his sexual desire and romantic love for her husband. Maggie acknowledges that telling this to Skipper--who died soon after of alcoholism and drug abuse--"destroyed him." because she told him a "truth" that "could not be told." In other words, by revealing to Skipper that he was gay, Maggie brought about his death. It is for this reason, she believes, that her beloved husband Brick now despises her. 

In this moment, Maggie illustrates what she views as the terrible power of truth. By bringing Skipper's feelings for Brick out into the open, she assumes that she ruined his life forever. This is a consistent pattern in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: as disastrous as facts like unrequited homosexual love in the 1950s or a cancer diagnosis may be, the true disaster comes when these truths are brought into the light. 

But Brick?!—Skipper is dead! I'm alive!

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

Pushing her husband to the limit, Maggie demands that he return to her. Rather than mourning the memory of his dead friend, and trying to kill himself by drinking, Maggie believes that Brick should instead focus on her, and begin to live again. 

Although Maggie is a complex character with sometimes impure motivations and a tenuous relationship to the truth, she does unambiguously represent the idea of life within the play. A talkative, dynamic, and unashamedly sexual woman, she enlivens any scene in which she participates, in contrast to her quiet and practically catatonic husband. 

Maggie has also revealed an important truth, one that will be expanded up on as the play continues: in withdrawing from his family, his work, and his wife, Brick has essentially given up on being alive. Maggie is determined to combat this death wish of her husband's and, as we will see over the course of the play, is prepared to use any means necessary to do so. 

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

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. 

Act 3 Quotes

Brick, I used to think that you were stronger than me and I didn’t want to be overpowered by you. But now, since you’ve taken to liquor—you know what? –I guess it’s bad, but now I’m stronger than you and I can love you more truly!

Related Characters: Margaret (speaker), Brick
Related Symbols: The Console/Liquor Cabinet/Hi-Fi
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

Alone with Brick, Maggie reveals that she's found an upside to his drinking: she is now "stronger" than him, and, because of that, can "love you more truly." 

With one quote, Maggie reveals both the darkness and the light within her character. On one hand, she feels that she can love Brick more "truly" now that he is weak and and drunk--a disturbing insight into her need for control, and her manipulation of Brick. On the other hand, this quote also speaks to Maggie's eternal optimism. Although her husband is nearly incoherently drunk at this point, she remains devoted to him, and finds things to love about him. 

Also on display here is Maggie's faithful, relentless love. Throughout the entire play she has remained laser-focused on Brick, at every moment calculating how she can get through to her husband, and this passage is no different. 

And so tonight we're going to make the lie true, and when that's done, I'll bring the liquor back here and we'll get drunk together, here, tonight, in this place that death has come into….

Related Characters: Margaret (speaker), Brick
Related Symbols: The Bed, The Console/Liquor Cabinet/Hi-Fi
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

Having announced to the family that she is pregnant, Maggie now admits to Brick that she has lied. Still, she asserts, they can "make the lie true" by sleeping together; and to sweeten the deal, she promises to bring him more alcohol afterwards. 

Once again, both the best and the worst parts of Maggie's character come through in this moment. She intends to sleep with her deeply intoxicated husband, and is using his alcoholism to make her offer more appealing. Furthermore, she has lied to a dying man, with absolutely no assurance that her lie (her pregnancy) will come true.

At the same time, it is difficult not to admire Maggie in this moment. Although she has lied, her lie has helped to drive "death" out of the house, replacing it with at least a semblance of joy and life. She also truly believes that resuming their sex life, and conceiving a child, will help to redeem her depressed husband--a belief that may be deluded, but is also deeply understandable. 

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Margaret Character Timeline in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The timeline below shows where the character Margaret appears in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Margaret marches into the bedroom, undressing, while Brick showers in the connecting bathroom. She complains that... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
Margaret says that Mae and Gooper aim to cut Brick out of Big Daddy’s estate, now... (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... (full context)
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
As Margaret continues to make fun of Mae’s title as a former cotton carnival queen, she suddenly... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
When Margaret recovers and gets Brick’s attention again, she tells him that she gets lonely. Brick tells... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
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Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Margaret replies that it’s impossible to tell he hasn’t been working out—in fact, she thinks he... (full context)
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Margaret again asks what Brick was thinking of when he was looking at her. She asks... (full context)
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Margaret tells Brick that they mustn’t shout because the walls have ears—but she believes that a... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
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Brick asks Margaret for a favor and tells her to keep her voice down. Margaret whispers that she’ll... (full context)
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Brick says that they decided on certain conditions when Brick agreed to continue living with Margaret, but Margaret retorts that they aren’t living together—just occupying the same cage. She interrupts their... (full context)
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
...carrying the bow of an archery set. She asks whether it belongs to Brick, and Margaret responds that the bow is her Diana Trophy, won at an intercollegiate archery contest. Mae... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Brick tells Margaret that being catty doesn’t help matters, and Margaret says she knows that—but she’s eaten up... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Margaret locks the door, and Brick tells her not to make a fool of herself. He... (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 has entered... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
...on the phone, and Big Mama shouts into the phone before passing it on to Margaret to deliver the news about Big Daddy’s health report. (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
...she jerks her finger towards the liquor cabinet to ask whether Brick’s been drinking, and Margaret pretends not to understand. Big Mama rushes back and tells her to stop playing dumb.... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Margaret straightens when Brick exits the bathroom. She announces that she believes their sex life will... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
Brick tells Margaret that she could leave him, but she refuses and adds that he wouldn’t have a... (full context)
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
Margaret says that she’ll defeat Gooper and Mae though. She launches into a rant about having... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Margaret gets visibly upset again, moving restlessly about the room as she says that she made... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
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Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Margaret remembers a double date they had in school, during which it seemed more like Skipper... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
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Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Brick continues to try to attack Margaret with his crutch as she tells this story. She says that she knows what she... (full context)
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Ignoring Margaret, Dixie asks Brick why he’s on the floor. Brick responds that he tried to kill... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Margaret tells Dixie to go away, and Dixie points the cap pistol at Margaret, who loses... (full context)
Act 2
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
...Reverend Tooker laughs awkwardly, as Mae and Doctor Baugh appear, talking about the children’s immunizations. Margaret tells Brick to turn on the Hi-Fi. When he ignores her, she turns it on... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
...Big Mama again launches into a speech 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... (full context)
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
...and Big Daddy continues to interrogate him, asking whether he was drunk. Big Mama and Margaret try to change the subject, drawing attention back to the cake, but Big Daddy bellows... (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 kiss, which Brick wipes off. At this... (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 asks whether this is true and tells Brick to get rid of Margaret if... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
...and starts telling Big Daddy his version of what happened with Skipper. He says that Margaret was jealous of their friendship and started planting in Skipper the idea that he was... (full context)
Act 3
Lies Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
...left because he was just worn out, but was really very happy to see family. Margaret goes to the gallery to fetch Brick, while Big Mama starts to get nervous that... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Margaret tells Brick to sit with Big Mama as they deliver the news, but he tells... (full context)
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Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
Big Mama tells Margaret that she’s got to help get Brick sober again so that he can take hold... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
...dream would be to have a grandson from Brick. Mae responds that it’s too bad Margaret and Brick can’t oblige. In response, Margaret grows determined and says she has an announcement... (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 she and Gooper can hear Maggie and... (full context)
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
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Margaret thanks Brick for not exposing her. Meanwhile, Brick continues to drink and finally obtains his... (full context)