Cat On A Hot Tin Roof: Novel Summary: Act 2 Part 2

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Summary

Big Daddy calls Brick in. They are alone together. Big Daddy comments that both Mae and Maggie have the same sort of look on their faces. Brick says it is because they are both competing to see who can get the bigger portion of land when he lets it go. Big Daddy says that will be a long time yet before he gives anything up.
They chat for a moment before Big Daddy realizes that someone is listening to their conversation. He discovers that it is Mae. Big Daddy tells her he wants some privacy. He also says he is going to move Mae and Gooper out of the room next to Brick and Maggie, since they listen at night to what goes on in the adjoining room and then report it to Big Mama.
Big Daddy then asks Brick if it is true that he does not sleep with Maggie. He also asks if Brick has a drinking problem, and whether that is why he quit sports-announcing. Brick admits that it is, and his father responds by telling him he is throwing his life away. He asks him how it happened, and Brick says he doesn't know.
Since they are finding it hard to talk to each other, Big Daddy starts reminiscing about his trip to Europe with Big Mama. He grumbles about how much everything cost, and how much useless stuff his wife bought. He says he is lucky he is a rich man. In addition to the land, he is worth ten million dollars in cash as well as some blue-chip stocks. But a man cannot buy his life with it, he adds.
He remembers one more thing about his trip to Europe-the begging children in Barcelona, Spain, who presented such a contrast with the fat priests. He threw a lot of money to the children so he could get rid of them long enough to get in the car and drive away. In Morocco, an Arab woman sent her naked little girl to him to offer him sex for money. He went straight back to the hotel and left the country immediately.
Brick says he want his crutch so he can go to the cabinet for another drink. His father hands him his crutch, and goes on talking. He is talking a lot because a load has been taken off his mind by the news that he does not have cancer.
Brick asks him whether he's finished talking to him. He says that whenever they talk, nothing is really said. There is no communication between them. Big Daddy admits that he thought he had cancer, but he managed to keep quiet about it. He wonders if he can risk taking a drink, and he pours himself one. He tells Brick that at the age of sixty-five he still has a desire for women, and he is going to put his scruples aside and "have me a -ball!" He admits that in all the years he slept with his wife, he never even liked her.
The phone is ringing down the hall. Big Mama enters, wondering why the men never seem to hear the phone. Big Daddy makes a cruel joke at her expense, and after she exits, her voice can be heard talking on the phone to Miss Sally. When she returns, Big Daddy holds the door half-closed so she cannot come in. As she asks him whether he meant all the cruel things he said to her, he shuts the door. She retreats, sobbing.
Big Daddy says to Brick that all he asks of his wife is that she should leave him alone, but she cannot admit that she makes him sick. He talks again about how he is going to find another woman for sex. He says he is happy, and asks Brick why he is so restless. Brick says he has to drink until he hears that click in his head that makes him feel at peace. Big Daddy tells him he is an alcoholic, and Brick admits as much. Big Daddy says he had no idea that Brick was turning into a drunkard.
Brick again wants to end the conversation, but Big Daddy takes his crutch and tosses it across the room. He says he is going to straighten his son out. He tells Brick how relieved he was to hear he only had a spastic colon.
A child comes in the room with a sparkler and there is the sound of laughter outside. Brick hops across the room and gets his crutch, but his father orders him to stay. Brick complains that their conversation goes round in circles. They start to quarrel and Big Daddy raises his voice. Big Mama rushes in, wondering what is going on. Big Daddy tells her to leave, and she exits, sobbing.
Analysis
Lying behind this conversation between father and son are the two unmentionable topics: Big Daddy's impending death and the homosexuality that destroyed Brick's friendship with Skipper.
There is dramatic irony in the situation because Brick and the audience know that Big Daddy is dying, but he does not. On the contrary, he thinks he has been spared. He needs to confess to someone that he thought he was dying, and to express his relief that he is not. His recent scare has forced him to think about mortality and even to question some of his values. He is a man who has accumulated great wealth, but he now realizes that "a man can't buy his life with it when his life has been spent" (p. 89). Nor can money do much to alleviate human suffering, because humans are selfish. The fact that Big Daddy chooses to say these things to Brick, but not to his wife or his other son, shows his affection for Brick. It is to Brick that he reveals his true feelings about his wife and about Mae and Gooper ("them two-drips. . . .").
It is Big Daddy's affection for Brick, and his desire to help him, that makes him so persistent in probing his son. The dramatic tension arises from that fact that Brick is continually evasive. He does not want to talk, and he tries to justify his reluctance by claiming that their father-son discussions never amount to anything. But Big Daddy's persistence will eventually break through Brick's emotional reserve and uncover the truth.

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