I’m currently working on my series of Tennessee Williams alternative book covers. As I was plotting out the imagery for the cover of ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’, I’ve ended up putting Paul Newman, my favourite and a classic Brick, front and centre. As I sat there looking at my scanned drawing it occurred to me that normally it’s Elizabeth Taylor, or Maggie, that’s front stage on the book cover. (I’d argue that this is partly because she’s a woman, and her partly dressed body sells theatre & film tickets, and books.) Also, we assume Maggie is the cat- she herself says she feels like a cat on a hot tin roof, and her victory is staying on as long as she can.
Sitting looking at Brick in the middle of my book cover made me think that, actually, Brick is the cat on the hot tin roof. The way I see the story is that it’s Brick that’s trapped between a rock and a hard place; he loves both Skipper and Maggie, but can’t have both. More troublesome is he and Skippers reluctance to name the feelings between them. The plot is centered around the aftermath of Maggie and Skipper meeting and trying to seduce each other to discredit each other. Skipper kills himself after Brick can’t find the words to save him, and Maggie is untrustworthy for her part.
I read Brick as bisexual; in a culture that often doesn’t recognize bisexuality and the ability to love more than once person at a time. The reason Brick is a drunk is because he hates mendacity; lies and liars. Oscar Wilde once said ‘I drink because my body and soul are part.’ Brick is unable to recognise or act on his feelings for Skipper, and he’s unable to love Maggie after Skippers suicide. Is this the mendacity that’s troubling him?
Interestingly, Paul Newman was bisexual. I wonder how he viewed his role as Brick?