Tennessee Williams adopts some characteristics of the American Dream in the script of Cat on a
Hot Tin Roof, namely the all masculine characteristics of Big Daddy and his rise to wealth and
power. The adaptation of characters in the film further supports the American Dream through the
overall unity of the family unit and Maggie’s will to conceive and the powerful portrayal of men.
Few ideals characteristic to the American Dream are challenged, those of which are certainly
omitted from Brooks’ adaptation of the play.
The portrayal of Big Daddy as a ‘tall man’ with a ‘fierce, anxious look’ immediately depicts a
character who stands at the head of the household, as the bread-bearer and therefore a
stereotypical ideal of the American Dream. Williams originally paints a picture of Big Daddy as
being animalistic in nature ‘uttering a loud barking laugh’ and ‘grinning wolfishly’. These
descriptions depict a dominant male whose ‘rags to riches’ store and pride in economic standing
provides a point of aspiration and ambition for the audience. Similarly, Brooks presents Big Daddy
as authoritative, yet also having a softer side. This is evident, particularly in scene 2 where Big
Daddy connects with Maggie. This more compassionate, warmer Big Daddy conforms more to
the ideals of the American Dream, portraying a man who can be both commanding and gentle,
forceful yet empathetic. These ‘balanced’ qualities are missing from Big Daddy in the play, as Big
Daddy’s only ‘honest’ movement is during his conversation with Brick. This portrayal of Big Daddy
is largely synonymous with the ideals of the American Dream is heavily supported by the
symbolism and overall act of Big Daddy dying from cancer. As Freud notes, “the whole life of
instinct serves the one end of bringing about death”, ultimately noting that Big Daddy’s death in
no way devalues his prosperity, rather limning a complete and purposeful life.
The use of physical space in Brook’s adaptation of the play further contributes to the American
Dream by portraying a more unified and whole family unit. In juxtaposition to the film, the setting
of the play is confined to just one room, consequently causing characters to both physically and
mentally imprison each other. The close proximity of characters in the play and the nature of
confining an entire family to one room highlights the irreparable disfunction between characters
and “uncomfortable silence” which portrays Williams’ more pessimistic approach to the family
unit. This is most evident in scene 4 as cacophonous noise is created through chaotic noise and
constant hesitancy in mendacious conversation with each other. “The talk becomes so general
that the room sounds like a great aviary of chattering birds” further displaying how any dialogue of
conversation at all is used to protect the self from the “discreet pauses” and “awkward silence”
that reveals each characters greatest weakness - facing the moral dilemma of the ‘inadmissable
truth’. The overall...