Brick: Brick Pollitt is the twenty-seven-year-old son of Big Daddy, and husband of Margaret (Maggie). He is a former star athlete who played professional football. A spinal injury ended his career, and he then became a sports announcer. His best friend was also a pro football player, named Skipper. Skipper was sexually attracted to Brick but when he confessed this to Brick on the telephone, Brick hung up the phone without a word. Brick claims not to be homosexual, and he believes that his friendship with Skipper was abnormal only in the sense that it was pure and true-qualities that he does not find anywhere else in life. Shortly after making that phone call, Skipper, rejected by his best friend, died of alcohol and drug abuse. Brick, possibly feeling guilty about Skipper’s death, began to drink heavily. He also withdrew affection from his wife, refusing to sleep with her. This is the situation when the play begins. Maggie, who loves Brick, pleads with him to change his ways. But Brick’s manner is detached as if he is indifferent to life. He hides behind a wall of emotional reserve. During the play he makes countless trips to the liquor cabinet. He says he has to drink until he gets a “click” in his head that makes him peaceful. He hobbles around on a crutch because he broke his ankle trying to jump hurdles on the high school athletic field the night before. He was drunk at the time. Brick is the favorite son of Big Daddy, despite the fact that he is eight years younger than Gooper. But Big Daddy is concerned about his son’s drinking and tries to get Brick to talk about the cause of it. Although the truth does comes out, it does not seem to help Brick move beyond what Tennessee Williams described as his state of “moral paralysis.”
Doctor Baugh: Doctor Baugh is the Pollitt family doctor. He observed the examination of Big Daddy at the Ochsner Clinic and is involved in the plan to keep the truth from Big Daddy about his cancer. In Act 3, he informs Big Mama of the diagnosis. He is pleasant to her but cold towards Gooper.
Big Daddy: Big Daddy is the husband of Big Mama and the father of Gooper and Brick. He is “a tall man with a fierce, anxious look” (p. 65). Big Daddy is a self-made man and proud of it. He left school at the age of ten, and worked in the fields. Then he rose to be overseer of the Straw and Ochello cotton plantation; on the death of Straw he became a partner. He built the plantation up until it occupied twenty-eight thousand acres of the finest land in the Delta.
Big Daddy has been married for over forty years to Big Mama, but he cannot stand the sight of her, even though she is devoted to him. Nor does he care for Gooper and Mae and their children, although he pretends to. He says he is sick of all the lies and hypocrisy he has had to out up with all those years. He seems to believe that because he has not being truthful about his real feelings, the other members of his family have not been either. His favorite son is Brick, whom he genuinely loves. He wants to help Brick stop drinking.
Big Daddy is suffering from terminal cancer, but the truth is being kept from him by the family. He has been told that all he suffers from is a “spastic colon.” Big Daddy finds out the truth from Brick, and he is angry at the lie he has been told by the rest of the family. His tragedy is that he must die surrounded by a family that would not be honest with him.
Dixie: Dixie is one of Mae and Gooper’s five children. She appears late in Act 1, when she bursts in on Maggie and Brick, firing her cap pistol at Maggie. She shows that she listens to her parents’ conversation because she taunts Maggie for being childless.
Gooper: Gooper is Big Daddy’s eldest son, and Mae’s husband. He is a corporate lawyer in Memphis, and he is plotting to ensure that he and Mae inherit the plantation. He has already drawn up a plan for trusteeship, with him in control, which he wants Big Mama to sign. Big Daddy dislikes Gooper, however, and although Gooper claims to love Big Daddy in a quiet way, he later admits he has always resented the fact that Big Daddy prefers Brick. He tries to undermine Brick whenever he can, bringing attention to his drinking, for example. Gooper claims that he has helped a lot in running the plantation but Big Mama says that all he did was take care of a few business details.
Lacey: Lacey is a black servant of the Pollitt family.
Mae: Mae is married to Gooper. She has five children and is pregnant with a sixth. Maggie calls her a “monster of fertility” (p. 22). Mae was once the “cotton carnival queen,” but her family is not as well-to-do as Gooper thinks they are. Mae is determined to ensure that she and Gooper inherit the Pollitt property, and she is in a fierce contest with Maggie over this issue. She listens at night to what goes on between Brick and Maggie in the adjoining room so she can report it back to Big Mama and so undermine Brick’s position. Mae is also a snob who is unhappy about her failure to get accepted by the smartest young married set in Memphis, a failure that she attributes to Big Mama’s vulgar behavior.
Big Mama: Big Mama is the wife of Big Daddy. She is a short, overweight, vulgar but sincere woman who wears expensive, flashy gems. She talks a lot and laughs a lot, mainly at herself. Much of this is an attempt to cover up the hurt she feels at her rejection by Big Daddy, who often makes cruel jokes at her expense. She loves her husband in spite of his cold attitude to her. Big Mama is initially told, as is Big Daddy, that he is suffering from no more than a “spastic colon,” which she is only too ready to believe. Even when the family tells her the truth, in Act 3, she finds it difficult to accept. Her favorite son is Brick; she is aware that Gooper does not like his father, and she refuses to sign the papers he has prepared that would hand control of the plantation over to him and his wife. In spite of the adversity she faces, Big Mama tries to hold her family together. She pleads in Act 3, “Oh, you know we just got to love each other an’ stay together, all of us, just as close as we can” (pp. 161-62).
Margaret: Margaret, known as Maggie, is Brick’s wife. She is an attractive, vivacious, and tenacious woman. She and Brick have been married since they graduated from college. At first they were happy, but then Brick’s friendship with Skipper came between them, or Maggie thought that it did. Maggie believed Skipper was a homosexual, and one day told him either to stop loving her husband or confess it to him. That night Skipper went to Maggie’s room and tried to make love to her to prove that what she said about him was not true, but when he failed, he assumed it was. He went into a speedy decline and died of drink and drugs. Maggie therefore bears some responsibility for the course of events, a responsibility she accepts. But Brick punishes her by refusing to sleep with her anymore. She does not accept the situation between them, which is causing her deep distress. She is determined to win back her husband’s affection. She is also determined that Brick will inherit the property on Big Daddy’s death. She grew up poor and does not want to grow old in the same condition. So Maggie, who is the “cat on a hot tin roof” of the title, struggles to get the upper hand over Mae and Gooper. She is in a difficult situation but she intends to fight as hard as she can to fulfil her dreams. She knows that if she and Brick could have a child, this would help their cause, and by end of the play she appears to have worn down her husband’s resistance.
Sookey: Sookey is one of the Pollitt family’s black servants. He helps to bring in Big Daddy’s birthday cake and champagne.
Reverend Tooker: Reverend Tooker is the local preacher who attends Big Daddy’s birthday party in Act 2 and the family gathering in Act 3. He is not an attractive character; his conversation consists mostly of dropping hints about how other local families have given generous endowments to churches when a family member died. He wants to ensure that his church receives a gift from the Pollitt estate when Big Daddy dies. Big Daddy has no time for him and insults him. In the stage directions, Reverend Tooker is described as “the living embodiment of the pious, conventional lie” (p. 118). His practiced smile is “as sincere as a bird call blown on a hunter’s whistle.”