George W. Crandell in his essay entitled “echo spring”: Reflecting the gaze of Narcissus in Tennessee William’s ‘Cat on a hot tin roof’ claims that Bricks problem is psychological, whereas Charles E. May in his essay entitled “Brick Pollit as Homo Ludens: ‘Three players of a summers game’ and ‘Cat on a hot tin roof’ affirms that his problem is not psychological but metaphysical. After careful consideration of these two viewpoints (A04) consider what you believe to be Bricks essential problem and discuss whether or not Tennessee Williams allows him to resolve it.
In your answer consider the methods Williams uses to present Brick’s dilemma (A03) and examine the contemporary influences working upon him (A05i).
George W Crandells mentions the idea that T.W draws upon mythological analogues to highlight his characters .He goes on to compare Bricks problem to be similar to that of mythological character Narcissus, who was so good-looking that he fell in love with his own reflection and who’s name now denotes a psychological disorder and believes that his problem is psychological and can be cured.
This would have been particularly appealing to Tennessee Williams as his plays have often been commended for their psychological realism.
The similarities between Brick and Narcissus are suggested mainly by Bricks favourite alcoholic beverage (Echo spring) and by Bricks consistent self destructive behaviour. Also just like Narcissus Brick is considered to be a very handsome and beautiful individual who captures the hearts of ‘boys and girls’ alike.
Yet Brick spurns the love of others only to fall in love with his favourite drink, seeing in this an escape route into the way he used to be. And Brick like Narcissus pines away from unrequited love, seeming prefer death than to live life without the object of his affection. And while in the end death claims Narcissus, Ovid offers us the theory that Narcissus has been dramatically transformed into a beautiful flower. And at the end of scene three in the Broadway version Williams shows the possibility of Brick also having undergone a ‘miraculous metamorphosis’ giving the ending a lot more optimism for the future.
Brick: I admire you Maggie
Rather than in the original version where there is a more pessimistic ending where most of the matter remains unresolved, and leaving the audience with much more to think about.
Maggie: ‘I do love you Brick, I do’
Brick: ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if that was true?’
As well as bearing an uncanny resemblance to Narcissus he also shows an alarming number of traits linking to the psychological personality disorder known as Narcissism.
Crandell goes on to say that the key to understanding Bricks disorder and behaviour one must first understand Bricks condition not as a physical or existential condition but an understandable and therefore treatable disorder. And once this is understood we can recognise Brick as the central character whom all the main drama revolves around. In this stage direction we see Bricks importance not only as an isolated individual but in relation to others, all of whom ‘endure a common crisis’
‘The bird that I hope to catch in the net of this play is not the solution of one man’s psychological problem. I’m trying to catch the true quality of experience in a group of people, that cloudy flickering, evanescent- fiercely charged!- interplay of live human beings in the thundercloud of a common crisis.’
This ‘common crisis’ and is greater than ‘one man’s psychological problem’ encircles the majority of the Pollit family in which Brick commands the centre of attention. This (Bricks Narcissism) for Williams is a microcosm of American culture in this post war era and of how it will become should society continue to be ruled the way it is by ‘self interested individuals’ such as Brick. Crandell then explains what Williams does here is try to realistically compare Brick’s Narcissistic personality to that of an emerging society.
Who a vast majority of the time have no regard for the past, future or the feelings of other .This can only be the actions of an individual intent upon self destruction. And this is still reminiscent of society today and has been for thousands of years. Some people feel that society no longer does anything for the common good any more .But now only to things to gain self satisfaction and importance. This as mentioned has been the downfall of society for thousands of years for example the Greek and Roman empires who upon conquering most of the known world began to disintegrate after becoming mainly a pleasure seeking society full of mendacity and corruption, thus securing its own destruction.
And Thus providing us with a perfect example for the future of American society. He goes on to say that Bricks narcissism in the play acts as a metaphor in a series of symptoms evident in society which often threatens the health and well being of the American people. For example Brick’s alcoholism an underlying symptom of his disorder which Maggie seems to recognise as implies that he needs treatment and threatens to send him to ‘rainbow hill’ a rehabilitation clinic ‘a place famous for treating alcoholics an dope fiends’. But Brick protests that treatment is the last thing he needs and says that alcohol is the only therapy he needs and gives us the impression that it gives him the strength to continue his existence in a society with such high expectations and to deal with the disappointments of his everyday life. On he goes on to describe to Maggie the ‘click’ that he experiences when he feels most at peace with himself.