Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Portrayals of Sexuality in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire College

After seeing a play such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or A Streetcar Named Desire, a viewer may be hard pressed to remember that there was once a time in Western culture when the revealing of a woman’s bare foot proved entirely scandalous. What was considered the dramatization of sexuality in the eighteenth century is entirely tame and bland in comparison to what occurs in the plays of the mid-twentieth century. Among the era's pioneering playwrights was Tennessee Williams, whose works include modern classics of American theater. Two of his most recognizable works, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire are known for their cinematic adaptations and, more importantly, for the clear and constant presence of sexuality on both stage and screen. While sexuality is the less prominent subject in one than in the other, both dramas show a change in the portrayals of usually muted kinds of sexual behavior, with carnal desire, homosexuality, and sadomasochism at the forefront.

Both plays feature a definitive opening scene that readies the audience for the sexual subjects about to be conveyed onstage. In Cat, Maggie is shown within the first moments slipping out of her dress and speaking normally, as though the audience is...

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