Through Big Daddy’s
explosive outburst of truthfulness, Williams explores the depth of
human feeling and the melancholy and drama of a man who has to live
a life as the world dictates it. Williams explores the mendacity in
human behavior and questions institutions that are taken for
granted. For example, we are brought up with the firm belief that
our family must love us, and we must love our family. Through Big
Daddy, Williams shows that love sometimes doesn’t come between
family members. He wants to explore if it’s not so unnatural to
feel this way.
Williams is a master in presenting the dramatic “thwarted
effort to break through walls to each other”. This is illustrated
in Act II’s dialogue between Brick and Big Daddy, which slowly
builds up the dramatic tension as Big Daddy comes closer and closer
to the truth. Williams skillfully builds up the dramatic tension and
supplements his writing with “visual” effects to reflect in the
atmosphere the feelings within the characters e.g. as the tension
comes to a climax, the fireworks appear.
Through their marathon dialogue Big Daddy does manage
to penetrate to the truth. The violent confrontation with the truth
results in both father and son losing their “crutches”, the
safety device, which helped them avoid the truth. Brick feels guilty
for killing the false hope of life within his father, and tries to
excuse his truthfulness by saying: “being almost not alive makes
me sort of accidentally truthful”. A moral question is raised
here: should a man be told he’s dying? (given that it is implied
in the play that an “alive” man cannot be a “truthful” man).
Is the truth a helpful force in such cases? If the truth kills all
hope, should we accept it?
Tennessee Williams makes it clear that the main concern
and aim of the play is not to find clear answers for the characters.
It is irrelevant if Brick is gay or not and what becomes of him and
Maggie, and so a definite answer is not given. Williams is a
playwright to be respected for accepting that he too is human. He
doesn’t pretend to know all the answers to the infinite questions
of life and character, as no human being can find definite answers.
He clearly says: “The bird that I hope to catch in the net of this
play is not the solution of one man’s psychological problem”.
So Brick’s problems aren’t the most important thing
in the play, even though they are presented and analyzed fully.
Williams knows that we never really know who we are or who other
people are as the human soul has the depth of an abyss: “a great
deal of mystery is left in the revelation of character in life, even
in one’s own character to himself”. In not attempting to give
answers, Williams succeeds in being truthful and believable in his
representation of human feeling and experience.
The story of the characters in the play is just the
means through which Williams gives his messages and captures the
explosive depth of feeling experienced by a group of people at a
time of crisis. He clearly defines his purpose in writing: “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”.