Cat on a Hot Tin Roof


Tennessee Williams

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Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Analysis

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.
Unrequited Love and Sexuality Theme Icon

The unrequited love in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof centers on the male characters, especially Brick and Big Daddy. Brick is the object of unrequited love for his wife Margaret, his friend Skipper, and his parents Big Daddy and Big Mama. Their energies—sometimes sexual, sometimes protective—propel most of the confrontations in the play, as they bounce off the cold, distant character of Brick. There are other instances of unrequited love as well, such as Big Mama’s love for Big Daddy, and the tension between Mae and Gooper, which hints at possible marital strife beneath their façade. This is summed up in the repeated line at the end of the play, the parallel between Big Daddy and Brick when their women—cats on a hot tin roof, desperate to be understood and to have their love returned—tell Big Daddy and Brick that they love them. Both men, untouchable, respond under their breath to themselves, say, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that were true?” Neither of them men can conceive of their wives loving them.

Sex and sexuality also play a big role in the play, as Brick struggles with both his own possible homosexuality and his real homophobia, believing that accusations of homosexuality tainted the purity of his friendship with Skipper. Brick’s alcoholism arises from an inner struggle with his own sexual feelings for Skipper, guilt at his role in Skipper’s death by ignoring Skipper’s feelings for him, or both, but Williams allows this to remain ambiguous. In any case, it’s clear that Brick’s views reflect those of a homophobic culture and that he can’t stomach homosexual feelings in either himself or his best friend Skipper, calling it an "inadmissible thing". Big Daddy also discusses sex in the play, saying that what he most wants to do is experience "pleasure with women". He doesn't want love, doesn't even seem to believe in love. He wants only pleasure. Finally, Margaret, the play’s self-proclaimed cat on a hot tin roof, desires Brick and grows desperate for his attention, which turns her catty and aggressive. Despite this aggression, her sheer desperation and will to achieve what she wants make her an alluring yet heartbreaking protagonist of the play, as she finally stoops to threatening Brick and bartering alcohol for sex.

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Unrequited Love and Sexuality ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Unrequited Love and Sexuality appears in each act of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Unrequited Love and Sexuality 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 Unrequited Love and Sexuality.
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:

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:

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:

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:

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

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

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:

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:

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:

Why, at Ole Miss when it was discovered a pledge to our fraternity, Skipper's and mine, did a, attempted to do a, unnatural thing with—We not only dropped him like a hot rock—We told him to git off the campus, and he did, he got!—

Related Characters: Brick (speaker)
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

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:
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:

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: