Cat On A Hot Tin Roof: Novel Summary: Act 1 Part 3
As Brick goes out into the long gallery, Maggie tells him that she is fond of Big Daddy in spite of his coarseness. He is a self-made man, having started in a humble position but going on to develop the property into the biggest plantation in the Delta.
Maggie says she needs money to look after a drinker-her husband-and she intends to get it. She is determined to defeat the plans of Mae and Gooper to freeze them out of the estate. She gives a long speech about how she has always been poor. She has had to suck up to relatives she hated just because they had money. She wore hand-me-down clothes; her wedding dress was her grandmother's wedding gown. She does not want to grow old and still be without money.
She says the mistake she made was in telling Brick the truth about "that thing" with his friend Skipper (she does not explain for the audience what it was). Brick tells her to stop talking about Skipper, but she continues. The three of them were friends, and on one occasion, Maggie and Skipper made love. When they did this, they were both pretending that their partner was Brick. In other words, Skipper, Brick's friend, was sexually attracted to him.
To stop the conversation, Brick calls down to the children to tell everyone to come upstairs. But Maggie insists that the story be fully told. She says that the relationship between Brick and Skipper was a beautiful thing, but it could never be carried through to anything satisfying, or even be talked about. As Brick tries to stop her talking about it, she says she understands all about it. She thinks it was noble. She remembers back in college, when they double-dated; it was more like a date between Brick and Skipper, with the two women just tagging along.
Brick insists that his friendship with Skipper was a great thing; he resents her naming it "dirty." Maggie replies that he has not been listening to what she has been saying. She knows it was only Skipper who had the desire for something beyond normal friendship with Brick. She recalls how she and Brick were happy in the early years of their marriage; their sexual relationship was great. But Brick and Skipper turned down job offers into order to continue being pro-football heroes, and that was when things went wrong. Skipper started to drink, and Brick got a spinal injury. One night they were all drinking together and Maggie told Skipper to stop loving her husband or tell him he must let him, Skipper, admit it to him. Skipper slapped her and walked out. She went to his room that night, and he tried to make love to her, wanting to prove that he was not homosexual.
After Maggie says this, Brick strikes at her with his crutch, shattering the lamp on the table.
Maggie goes on to say that she thinks she destroyed Skipper by telling him the truth. After that, Skipper took to drink and drugs.
Brick strikes at her and misses.
Maggie demands that at least he give her credit for being honest. She also points out that Skipper is now dead but she is alive.
Brick hops forward and again strikes at her with his crutch, falling to the floor as he does so. One of the children, Dixie, bursts into the room, and Maggie chides her for not knocking. Dixie fires her cap pistol at Maggie, and Maggie seizes it and throws it through the gallery doors. Dixie says cruelly that Maggie is just jealous because she cannot have babies.
After Dixie exits, Maggie tells Brick she has been to a gynecologist in Memphis who told her there was no reason she could not have a child. She tells him that this is the right time of the month for her to become pregnant. Brick responds by asking how she is going to have a child by a man that can't stand her. She replies that that's a problem she will have to work out.
Voice are heard as everyone starts to come up to Brick's room.
When the play was written, in 1955, attitudes to homosexuality were different than they are today. Today's society is more open, but in the 1950s, homosexuality was not something that was openly discussed. It was widely considered to be a shameful thing. And yet Williams made it a key element of the play.
Some critics argue that Brick's sexuality is ambivalent, that he is repressing homosexual desires. It is equally possible to argue from the evidence of the play that the homosexuality was confined to Skipper (and even then, it is possible that Maggie was mistaken in her belief that Skipper was homsexual, even though she caused him to believe that he was). As far as Brick was concerned, his friendship with Skipper was true and pure; it did not have any physical or sexual elements, and he and Maggie were happy with their own sex life.
It is Maggie's determination to discuss the subject that Brick insists is forbidden that starts to unearth the causes of Brick's decline into alcoholism. In a relationship such as theirs, where one person is passive and determined not to react or engage the other person, the other person must try to force his or her partner to react. This is what Maggie does, and she succeeds. Brick is forced to drop his mask of indifference and detachment and engage with her. Maggie's account of what happened to Skipper may explain why Brick is punishing her by withholding his affection. He may blame her for the death of his friend. But he is still refusing to face the full truth about what happened between him and Skipper, which will only emerge in the next act.