Please explain Brick's and Maggie's relationship in the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Maggie and Brick have a strained relationship at best, and it’s important to understand that Maggie admits to being the “cat on a hot tin roof” from the outset. Why? She is “catty” in that she is “consumed with envy and eaten up with longing.” These ideas override their entire relationship.

One person in particular has come between Maggie and Brick: Skipper. Skipper was a football teammate of Brick’s, and the two have a questionable relationship in the form of a very intimate friendship. Maggie, being Brick’s wife, has always been threatened by Skipper. In one of her worst “catty” moves, Maggie first tries to seduce Skipper and then convinces Skipper that he is gay. Skipper then calls Brick in order to profess his love for him. When Brick refuses to accept Skipper’s forced realization, Skipper kills himself. This suicide, of course, can be indirectly blamed on Maggie. From this point on, Brick despises Maggie. He punishes her by refusing to have sex and by drinking as a form of escape.  In regards to drinking, Brick says the following:

It's like a switch, clickin' off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on, and all of a sudden there's peace.

There is something else really important that comes between Maggie and Brick: money. Although Maggie is, of course, interested in her husband’s affections, she constantly chooses to woo her husband’s estate over his love. There is a grand Pollitt estate for which all of the family members are vying. Some of Maggie’s desire for money can be blamed on her upbringing in poverty. She truly married “up” into a wealthy Southern family. Further, two of Brick’s other siblings have many children and are in the running for the largest portion of the estate. To counteract this, Maggie tries to at least have sex with her husband by withholding booze until he does so.

In conclusion, the reader can see that both money and Skipper have come between Maggie and Brick to form quite a strained relationship. It is obvious throughout the play that, even if the marital relationship wasn’t strained, Maggie still prefers the money over anything else.  This sad truth is reflected here:

What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?—I wish I knew... Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can.

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