Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Exam Question

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A Broadway director criticised Tennessee Williams’ original Act Three on three counts. He claimed that Big Daddy should not be absent from the Act; that there should be perceptible change in Brick’s character after his interview with Big Daddy; and that the character of Maggie should be more sympathetic. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the director?

When the play was staged on Broadway in New York in 1955 Elia Kazan, a friend of Williams who has directed many of his other plays on Broadway including ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, directed it. Kazan had reservations about the original Act Three and asked Williams to rewrite it. He felt that Big Daddy should not disappear after Act Two, that the impact of the conversation between Big Daddy and Brick in Act Two should have a change on Bricks character in the following act; and that Maggie should be made a clearly more sympathetic character. Williams rewrote the act to incorporate Kazan’s suggestions but in his note of explanation for the rewrite he explains that he did not feel that all the changes were necessary. It was only the third of the suggestions that he was keen on as although he explains that he sympathised with her and “liked her myself” he could see that she may need to be more clearly sympathetic to the audience.

In the Broadway version of Act Three Big Daddy reappears to tell a bawdy story about an elephant’s state of sexual arousal. Although the story comes abruptly it fits with the play due to the great deal of animal and circus imagery. The purpose of telling the story is an ironic commentary on the childless Maggie and Brick and to warn Brick not to fuss about having children and to simply get on with it. The crude language used in the story is like that used in Act Two where he claims he wanted women to “hump”; it shows that while he is dying he has a lot of vitality. It is this story that provokes Maggie into making the false claim that she is pregnant directly to Big Daddy. Big...
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