Archetypes of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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Richey 1

Katelynn Richey
Mr Ricketts
AP English Literature and Composition
08 December 2011
Term Paper

Carl Jung, an analytical psychologist, stated that “archetypes are a tendency or instinctive trend in the human unconscious to express certain motifs or themes” (“Dreams, Health, Yoga, Mind & Spirit”). In the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams, Williams uses many archetypal images and personas, such as the tragic hero or the stern father figure, to convey the overall complexity of the plays many themes and characters as a way for the audience to connect with and recognize the familiar structures and personas seen in everyday society and family. An archetype, or “an original model or pattern from which other later copies are made, especially a character, an action, or situation that seems to represent common patterns of human life” (“Literary Terms and Definitions”), can be used to relate any and all people, ideas, and beliefs. The founder of analytical Psychology, Carl Jung, “theorized that the archetype originates in…the shared experiences of a race or culture, such as birth, death, love, family life, and struggles to survive and grow up” (“Literary Terms and Conditions”), meaning that the archetypes commonly found in literature are often used to relate people to the characters, which can create a relationship and connection between the audience the characters in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick can be considered an archetypal tragic hero or, arguably, an unbalanced hero. Brick is a textbook tragic hero, according to Northrop Frye: “Tragic heroes are so much the highest points in their human landscape that they seem the inevitable conductors of the power about them, the greatest trees more likely to be struck by lightning than a clump of grass. Conductors may of course be instruments as well as victims of the divine lightning”. (“Memos for Developmental Writers”) Before Brick’s...
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