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.
Lies Theme Icon

During Brick and Big Daddy’s major confrontation in Act II, Brick confesses that he drinks out of disgust with society’s pervasive “mendacity,” which he describes as the system in which people live. The system of lies he is referring to pertains to the way society represses and lies about “inadmissible things.” In the world of the play, there are two inadmissible things: homosexuality and death, and the action of the play resolves around the repression of Brick’s terror about and repression of his possibly homosexual feelings shared with Skipper and Big Daddy’s desire to escape death and the family’s lie about his health report.

These are not the only lies in the play, either. Mae and Gooper’s behavior during the negotiations also reveals holes in their relationship, despite their desperate façade to appear as a loving, functional unit. Big Mama lies to herself about Brick’s likelihood of transforming into a stable family man once he has a child. Finally, the entire play concludes with Margaret’s final lie when she claims that she is pregnant with Brick’s child. Even after telling this lie, however, Margaret remains in one sense the most honest character in the play, as she’s determined to make this her lie true.

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Lies ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Lies 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:
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Lies 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 Lies.
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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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. 

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

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. 

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. 

No!—It was too rare to be normal, any true thing between two people is too rare to be normal.

Related Characters: Brick (speaker)
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

When Big Daddy raises the issue of Skipper, Brick immediately grows angry, convinced that his father is implying that there was something dirty or wrong about his friendship. Big Daddy counters that two men loving each other as friends is "normal." Brick, however, rejects this interpretation as well, asserting that anything that is "true...between two people is too rare to be normal."

This quote reveals the extent to which Brick has placed Skipper on a pedestal, and his pessimism about human relationships. Although Brick may be in denial, it is undoubtedly true that is friend was in love with him--a far cry from the pure, platonic relationship that Brick insists existed between them. 

At the same time, Brick has become convinced that no relationship in his life will ever equal what he had with Skipper. To him, all other human bonds--including those with his wife and his father--are false and deceitful, based on base desires and manipulation rather than true love and respect. 

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).

Maybe it's being alive that makes them lie, and being almost not alive makes me sort of accidentally truthful…

Related Characters: Brick (speaker)
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

Furious past endurance, Brick blurts out the truth to Big Daddy: his father has terminal cancer, and is going to die soon. Almost immediately, he regrets his decision, telling Big Daddy that only those who are alive can lie. Since Brick himself exists within an in-between place, he sometimes finds himself being "accidentally truthful."

Although drunk and regretful, Brick has uttered a crucial statement: that "being alive" has something to do with lying. Brick--who no longer wants to be alive--and the dying Big Daddy have just concluded one of the most honest exchanges in the play. Their bluntness contrasts with the subtle and sometimes dishonest Maggie, who may sometimes lie, but is uniquely and utterly alive. 

To Brick, lying is an unavoidable symptom of being alive. Whether or not lying to Big Daddy was the kind thing to do, Brick has found himself unable to sustain it, due to his own desire for both honesty and, ultimately, death. 

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
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.