Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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Themes and Colors
Lies Theme Icon
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Difficulty of Communication Theme Icon
Memory, Nostalgia, Regret Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Death Theme Icon

Homosexuality is one of the two things that Brick calls an "inadmissible thing". The other is death, and it is explored primarily through the character of Big Daddy. Big Daddy believes that men, particularly wealthy men, have a single overriding goal, which is to not die. He believes that every purchase wealthy men make as being a sort of hopeful but doomed-to-fail effort to buy more life. After getting the positive health report, he seems determined to live to his definition of the fullest: one again ruling his plantation and family as he sees fit and chasing women and sexual pleasure. But when he learns that he does in fact have cancer, all of his assurance, strength, and power disappear. He rushes off in grief and impotent rage, and is not seen again in the play. Only his howls of anguish are heard. For all his wealth and former power, Big Daddy can't face death.

Big Mama seems to believe that Big Daddy will find some solace in the news that Maggie is pregnant, that Big Daddy will find a sense of immortality in the son of his own favored son. It is implied that Big Daddy's howls of rage and sorrow are in response to Big Mama's "happy" news, suggesting that Big Daddy sees only one sort of immortality as worthwhile: his own. He doesn't want to live on through others. He wants to live. And neither he, nor anyone else, can.

Death ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Death appears in each act of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
How often theme appears:
Act length:
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Death Quotes in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Below you will find the important quotes in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof related to the theme of Death.
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

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)

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

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)
Act 2 Quotes

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)

Why is it so damn hard for people to talk?

Related Characters: Big Daddy (speaker)

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)

We talk, you talk, in—circles! We get nowhere, nowhere! It's always the same, you say you want to talk to me and don't have a ruttin' thing to say to me!

Related Characters: Brick (speaker), Big Daddy
Act 3 Quotes

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