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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Henry Miller

Talk, real talk, it seems to me, is one of the most expressive manifestations of man's hunger for unlimited marriage. Sensitive people, people who feel, want to unite in some deeper, subtler, more durable fashion than is permitted by custom and convention. I mean in ways beyond the dreams of social and political Utopists. The brotherhood of man, should it ever come about, is only the kindergarten stage in the drama of human relationships. When man begins to permit himself full expression, when he can express himself without fear of ridicule, ostracism or persecution, the first thing he will do, will be to pour out his love. Henry Miller Sexus (1949)

These words from a novel by Henry Miller are the first thing which come to the mind after reading the first act of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It appears to be that both Miller and Williams, as contemporary writers, shared the same concerns. They complement each other: the former outlines his ideal world, while the latter describes his actual world. In Williams play, the characters are far from being able to permit themselves full expression: social conventions are corsets which severely constraint their personalities, and the possibility to honestly show their feelings and emotions to others and even to themselves. In fact, they all pay a high price to keep up appearances: that price is unhappiness. On the one hand, there is Brick, locked up in a failed marriage, being forced to hide his homosexuality; drinking, perhaps, is the only outlet for his built up anger and frustration. But, despite his alcoholism and violence, he seems to be the most sensitive character in the play, the only one who is able to display any emotions, and whose inner motivations have to do more with affection than with his concern for money. In contrast, all the other characters are motivated by some other interests: Gooper and his wife crave for the inheritance, Old Daddy wants to keep his power, Big Mamma aspires to remain blind to her husbands mistreatment and dislike. Margaret deserves a separate paragraph. Although she seems to be cool and manipulative, she is the only one who speaks the truth; she is the one who dares to face Brick with the reality of his relationship with Skipper, with his fathers condition, with his brothers actual intentions. And honesty, in this context, is a tremendous asset, as long as it is hiding the truth what brings misery to the family members. What would Williams have written if he had been born fifty years later? Today, his characters, perhaps, would be as tortured as those in the play, but, at least, they would be able to find some relief by enjoying a glimpse of freedom the one Miller used to dream of-- from time to time.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Henry Miller