Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

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To what extent are the female characters in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof tied to "biological destiny"?

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We see many clues that the concept of biological destiny is central to a reading of this play by Tennessee Williams. The playwright was very interested in gender roles and the social expectations of men and women, partly because of his own tumultuous personal life and his southern heritage, which influenced how he felt about these matters. In the play we see that traditional gender roles are emphasized among the family members. For example, we hardly ever hear the names of Big Daddy and Big Mama, as they are identified merely by the roles biology intended for them to play.

Most of the female characters in particular fulfill traditional roles of motherhood, and so the central conflict of the play is connected to Maggie's childlessness and Brick's sexual rejection of her (possibly due to his latent homosexuality). Freud once said "biology is destiny" and his writings had become popular in the United States just before this play was written. Big Mama chastises Maggie for being without children and asks if she makes Brick "happy in bed." Maggie responds by asking why Big Mama doesn't ask whether Brick makes her (Maggie) happy in bed. Big Mama scoffs at this question, assuming the problem could not possibly lie with her son, and Maggie counters with "It works both ways." We see that Big Mama is of a generation that assumes women are subservient to men's needs and men are all virile.

At one point early in the play, Maggie jokingly tells Brick she has even seen her father-in-law Big Daddy looking at her with lust in his expression, and Brick responds by saying, "That kind of talk is disgusting." Since the climax of the play is a scene where Maggie confronts Brick about a possible (although probably...

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