OF THE BABY NAME MAGGIE
Margaret Pollitt (aka Maggie the Cat) is a major character in Tennessee Williams’ 1955 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, made into a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor in 1958. Hers is the face (and slip-clad body) we see when we think of Maggie. She is the sexually frustrated wife of Brick Pollitt, an ex-football star who spends more time drinking and mourning the suicide of his friend Skipper than engaging in marital relations with her. In addition to ignoring her, Brick is also jeopardizing the inheritance due him from “Big Daddy” in favor of his brother, a fact perhaps even more unsettling to Maggie the Cat. Coming from a deprived background, Maggie has made something of herself, having gone to college and married into wealth, and she is not about to hand it all over to a brother-in-law named Gooper and his baby-machine wife (who produces “no-neck monsters”, according to the as-yet-childless Maggie). She is in full bloom and knows it and flaunts it, and the fact that Brick is indifferent to her is a stab to the heart of her ego. But Maggie is a survivor, and at the play’s end we have the feeling she means business as she locks away the liquor and tells Brick that there will, indeed, be a baby. We have no doubt that Maggie will manage to produce it out of her fierce and abiding love for Brick – and for herself.
Maggie is the young protagonist of George Eliot’s (Mary Ann Evans) “The Mill on the Floss”, published in 1860. She is an appealing child and young woman, who strives for goodness and purity of spirit, but mainly for unconditional love, especially from her brother, Tom. Although he does, indeed, love his sister, Tom’s nature is more prosaic and practical, which makes him often unsympathetic to her passionate pursuits of one ideal after another. In her relationship with the sensitive hunchback, Philip Wakem, Maggie is presented with the opportunity of being taken seriously as an intellectual and serious young woman, but her loyalty to Tom leads her to eschew his attentions in favor of Tom’s approval. When Maggie meets the romantic Stephen Guest, yet another of her senses is awakened, and she is tempted to run away with him, as unsuitable as the match may be, but ultimately decides in favor of her duty to Tom. Fate, always a major player in 19th century literature, intervenes in one fell swoop and with dire consequences, and Maggie is allowed to prove her abiding love for Tom, and he for her, in the most redemptive fashion possible, that is to say, death.