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Homosexuality in 1950s America in Reference to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

By adamgreen16 Mar 23, 2011 587 Words
Homosexuality in 1950 America in reference to ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ The following views during this research topic are in reference to that of an article written by Dean Shackelford, titled “The Truth That Must Be Told; Gay Subjectivity, Homophobia and Social History in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Shackelford believes that it is because of Tennessee Williams and writers similar to himself that homophobia has decreased over the years. Williams received accusations from many critics that he always avoided his sexuality when writing his plays, and wrote around this. These accusations were made by people such as John Clum and Nicholas de Jongh. Shackelford suggests that these critics didn’t take into account that writers and their work would have been rejected or censored. (Shackelford; 1998). Gay men and women were subject of Senator McCarty’s ‘witch’ hunts during the 50s, they were considered by the government as security risks. The government accused homosexuals as potential acting as spies who would betray them as this type of lifestyle was un-American. (Shackelford; 1998). Homosexuals were also seen as communists, and during the witch hunt in the 1950s they were prosecuted, even without proof. Government officials were fired from their jobs. This was known as McCarthyism. (Shackelford; 1998). “Inspired by McCarthyism, a legislative committee sought to rid Florida of any perceived homosexual, for being gay was not only perversion of the highest magnitude but, more importantly, also tantamount to being a traitor” (Shackelford; 1998). During the time that Williams wrote ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ being gay was one of the worst crimes that someone could commit. Homosexuality was also considered as a mental illness, which meant that anyone who was open about their gay lifestyle was immediately seen as ‘abnormal.’ This meant that the medical procedure known as a Lobotomy could be performed in order to cure homosexuality. These procedures went ahead despite Sigmund Frued’s claims that homosexuality was ‘neither an asset nor a liability.’ (Shackelford; 1998). In ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ it is clear that Skipper was a gay man. He drank himself to death after admitting his love for Brick, and failing to prove that he wasn’t when sleeping with Maggie. “Alcohol becomes the means by which both the gay or quasi-gay male characters, Skipper and Brick, run from their inner selves. Skipper is portrayed as a disturbed but clearly homosexual man whose love and admiration for Brick are such that he cannot face the truth Maggie helps reveal to him.” (Shackelford; 1998). Skipper is a key role in this play, despite being dead before it begins. He is clearly central to the entire story, but his suicide is justification of what gay men faced; punishment by the government, being labelled as communists and even being paralysed for life by the lobotomy procedure. “Bricks rejection plays a large role in Skipper’s death, and even though Skipper may find the truth of his own homosexuality difficult to face, the play suggests that social rejection is the root of his downfall – not homosexuality. If Brick had not hung up on Skipper, perhaps he would still be alive, and if Brick had not rejected his friend, he would not be drinking himself to death.” (Shackelford; 1998). Williams has written Bricks character as a traditional male but has placed homosexual desire and ‘the possibility of Brick’s being an unresolved gay man.’ (Shackelford; 1998). Brick is the complete opposite to what people stereotypically think about gay men.

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