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The notion of a race between "the stork and the grim reaper" is a theme that can be found throughout the work of playright Tennessee Williams. Its' role in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is particularly profound, as Big Daddy's terminal illness runs concurrently with his strong wish for Brick to climb out of the doldrums in which the son has descended and to father a child with Brick's wife, Maggie. Big Daddy's disdain for his other son, Gooper, and Gooper's family, and his deep love for Brick form the basis of the dying old man's frustration with Brick's situation. Big Daddy desperately wants Brick to the heir to his legacy, but that can't occur until Brick and Maggie conceive a child. The Reverand Tooker's use of the phrase "the stork and the reaper are running neck and neck" clarifies the emotional turmoil eating away at Big Daddy's soul.
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