Cat on a Hot Tin Roof — Drippings of Morality

This was a paper I did for an English class in response to Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (the film adaptation with Elizabeth Taylor is incredible too, by the way). The prompt was quite liberal and I chose to do it from the perspective of the character Skipper writing to Brick as a “suicide letter” of sorts. Since it’s set in the mid-20th century, i tried to infuse it with a sense of older language and references.

Brick I’d like to say this will be something done in haste; this act I’m about to perform. That it is something I’ll do in the blinding eye of delirium. When the police study this case they’ll decide that I was just another in a line of whack-jobs. No, Brick, I’m not about to do this because there is something wrong with me. I have all my faculties about me. I’m doing this because there is something wrong with society. I’m already dead Brick. Society killed me a long time ago. It’ll get you too Brick. Society is the Machine that gets fed the scum of society. The Ones in charge scrape our carcasses off the ground so the rest of the population doesn’t get their saddle shoes soiled. Or worse yet, the Ones in charge will cram the scum into cages and put us on display as a warning to the population that if they abandon the safety of their white picket fences they too can become like scum.

Don’t you get it, Brick? Guys like you and me are the worst. We’re biting the ankle of society asking to be fed decency, respect and kindness, but all we get in return is scorn. Scorn because of who we are and what we want to be. They say America is the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Then why are these chains so heavy? And why am I writing to a goddamn coward? The Machine took something from you Brick, something you can never get back: it took your courage to love. It stole your ability to believe in what was real and honest. I’ve felt reality and played with fantasy.

After Maggie and I had sex, I realized that she wasn’t what I wanted. She wasn’t what I needed. So I made a phone call to you, Brick. I confessed. I came to terms with what I always knew to be true in my heart and soul: I loved you. And you know what you said after I admitted the hardest reality? Nothing. Silence. You might as well have stomped on my heart right there and shoved me over the precipice into Death’s abyss. I hope for as long as you live your miserable and cowardly life you remember one sound: the click. That was the sound of me hanging up on you; hanging up on life.

The Machine says our love is wrong, that it isn’t normal. There is truth in that. Our love wasn’t normal. Love can’t be normal, Brick, because it is the most extraordinary and unique anomaly to juxtapose the ugly of human depravity. Our love was beautiful, Brick, but because the Machine said it wasn’t, you believed it. You went crawling back to Maggie and pretended that everything was okay. “Skipper was just an old friend.” A friend? You can shelter your true feelings from the view of the world and Maggie (she isn’t dumb, she suspects), but not me.

When you sacrifice yourself for the so-called “greater good” of the Machine a piece of humanity goes with it and we inch closer and closer to the jungle. We point to the Machine and say, “Look at what we have accomplished: prosperity through technological and medical advancements and a better awareness of morality. We are civilized.” Balderdash. You’ve done it though, Brick. You went headfirst into the Machine and negated love for acceptance. You may be a coward, but I’m not going to hold a grudge. The iron of the Machine can be hot on one’s back and the temptation to mask oneself is ever present.

Brick do you remember that hit song in 1950 by Percy Mayfield called Please Bring Me Someone to Love? Percy wrote in the song, “Show all the world how to get along, peace will enter when hate is gone, but if it’s not asking too much, please send me someone to love.” I pray that one day the Machine runs on peace and love rather than hatred and prejudice. I especially pray that Heaven will indeed send me someone to love. Someone that isn’t afraid to love back. Until then, I suppose I am a martyr for my love.

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