PATTERN OF TRANSPORT: NOTES ON CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF BY RICHARD BROOKS

This entry was posted on January 21st, 2019

by Claudia Siefen-Leitich

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Richard Brooks (like his 1955 Tennessee Williams play) is gracious with its main characters. And this grace is shown first of all in the stamina that Williams had already bestowed on them in his stage version.

Margaret needs stamina. This is a big country. Margaret picks up Big Daddy. She will drive the “big car” to bring him home, a terminally ill man. Maggie is all light, cream on top of cream. Her husband doesn’t care, and we know why: because Tennessee Williams is Maggie.

The car will steer her elegantly, the wind in her dark hair and the light, the heat. If only it weren’t so hot…

But the roads are good, the Federal Highway Act of 1944 had approved the spending of $1.5 billion. The road network is suitably made and also improved. This wonderful system of multi-lane roads for toll-free access is for everyone, yes, really  for everyone, but only if you have a car! The cost of building the highways skyrocketed, but in the end, the network was finally expanded.

Without a car you would be in exile, wouldn’t you? Ah, the big Midwest. With Williams so many things are “big”, even the small boards that can mean a world. Nationwide mobility. And narrowness in the head. 

I don’t want to lean on your shoulder and we mustn’t scream to each other. The walls in this house have ears. But I’m just so happy, Big Daddy, I have to cry or something. The fact that I want you to observe what I do for your possible pleasure and to give you knowledge of things that I feel I may know better than you, because my world is different from yours…

The pattern of transport, the woman at the wheel! Commuting is a way of life for millions of Americans. And the individualistic effort to be able to meet the new demands. The car seems to be the obvious practical answer to everything, and soon there will be at least one registered car within 15% of families, yes, two or even more cars. A figure that will have risen to 28% a decade later. But do women drive differently from men, do both sexes have separate goals? Maggie will pick up Big Daddy, she doesn’t have to drive to work.

The men who drive to work. Or speed their cars as a escape from their families. Big Daddy is rich and doesn’t have to drive to work anymore because he lets people do his work. And Brick is too drunk to drive. Maggie is sober. Always. And it’s beautiful how she looks into the distance, the wheel in her hand. Women don’t have to be socially isolated and frustrated, but Maggie is. She doesn’t go shopping either, but who needs to when you have servants like Lacey and Sookey? She doesn’t take children to school either, because she doesn’t have any. But there’s the sister-in-law, she has children. And can’t drive. The descendants of the parents, born during the war or immediately afterwards, forge their own lifestyle.

Well, I have come back from further away than that, I have just now returned from the other side of the moon, death’s country, son, and I’m not easy to shock by anything here.