Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 737
Margaret (Maggie) Pollitt
Margaret (Maggie) Pollitt, a young woman from a poor background married into a wealthy Southern family. Maggie’s hard life has given her the strength and determination to do whatever she must to survive. When she felt threatened by the closeness between her husband, Brick, and his friend...
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Margaret (Maggie) Pollitt
Margaret (Maggie) Pollitt, a young woman from a poor background married into a wealthy Southern family. Maggie’s hard life has given her the strength and determination to do whatever she must to survive. When she felt threatened by the closeness between her husband, Brick, and his friend Skipper, she accused Skipper of being in love with Brick, then tried to seduce Skipper, leading to Skipper’s suicide and Maggie’s estrangement from Brick. Because of Brick’s alcoholism and irresponsibility, as well as the fact that they have no children, Maggie fears that the Pollitt estate will go to Brick’s brother Gooper and his wife Mae, leaving Maggie and Brick at the financial mercy of their relatives. To prevent this, Maggie announces that she is pregnant, then blackmails Brick into sleeping with her by withholding liquor from him.
Brick Pollitt, a young alcoholic former football player. Brick is tormented by guilt over the death of his former teammate and best friend, Skipper. Brick and Skipper shared an intimate and ambiguous relationship. When an emotionally distraught Skipper called Brick to confess his love for him, Brick hung up on Skipper, precipitating his suicide. Brick hates Maggie because she tried to seduce Skipper in an effort to come between the men. Brick is disgusted with the hypocrisy, lies, secrecy, and plotting he sees going on around him in the family. Having lost all ambition, he longs only for the blissful oblivion that sufficient amounts of alcohol can provide. Brick is the only member of the family who does not care about inheriting control of the Pollitt empire. Everyone around him plots and schemes for it, with Brick at the center of their manipulations.
Big Daddy Pollitt
Big Daddy Pollitt, the wealthy and socially prominent patriarch of the Pollitt family. Big Daddy is a tough, vulgar, outspoken man who has always maintained firm control over his twenty-eight-thousand-acre plantation as well as his family. Big Daddy derives his power as much from the raw force of his personality as from his accumulated wealth and influence. At the age of sixty-five, he views himself as beyond social norms, finally able to live the way he wants, regardless of family or social pressures. He reveals his renewed sexual fantasies, as well as his disgust with Big Mama, Gooper, Mae, and all the church and social groups he has participated in throughout his life. He feels affection for Brick and tries to discover the cause of Brick’s decline. When Big Daddy is diagnosed with terminal cancer, no one wants to tell him, but Brick accidentally reveals the truth in a moment of anger. Being deceived by his family confirms Big Daddy’s belief that the world is full of hypocrisy and liars, and the shock of his impending death horrifies and enrages him.
Ida Pollitt, called Big Mama, Big Daddy’s wife. Big Mama lives in the shadow of her husband, wanting only to please him and keep the family happy. She endures his harshness and insults because of her love for him, though his verbal cruelty and emotional indifference hurt her deeply. Though essentially a meek person, Big Mama summons the strength of will to resist Gooper and Mae’s attempts to take over control of the plantation, choosing instead to place her trust in Brick.
Gooper Pollitt, called Brother Man, Brick’s older brother. A lawyer in Memphis, Gooper has helped with running the plantation and considers himself the responsible son, the one most capable and deserving of taking over when Big Daddy dies. To further solidify his position, Gooper has fathered five children in a failed effort to please Big Daddy. Gooper is disgusted by Brick’s lifestyle and feels superior to both him and Maggie, whom he considers a scheming interloper.
Mae Pollitt, called Sister Woman, Gooper’s wife. A former cotton carnival queen, Mae is loud and obnoxious. Having given birth to five children and now pregnant with a sixth, Mae has devoted most of her married life to producing grandchildren for Big Daddy in an effort to ingratiate herself with him and to help Gooper acquire control of the estate. Mae, who realizes that Brick and Maggie have not been sleeping together, is furious when Maggie claims to be pregnant, but she is powerless to expose the lie or change Big Mama’s mind.