Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 591
Brother Rat, also known as Blake, who is in conflict between his need to protect his sister and his love for Rosemary. He believes that he and Sister Rat are damned unless Rosemary saves them. A light black man with a human body but the head and the...
(The entire section contains 591 words.)
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- Critical Essays
Brother Rat, also known as Blake, who is in conflict between his need to protect his sister and his love for Rosemary. He believes that he and Sister Rat are damned unless Rosemary saves them. A light black man with a human body but the head and the tail of a rat, Blake wants to return to the innocent time before, at Rosemary’s urging, he copulated with his sister on the playground slide to prove his love for Rosemary. His sister’s dead child and her return from a mental institution, as well as the secrecy that both have promised on Rosemary’s Holy Communion prayer book and their own father’s Bible, culminate in synaesthetic imagery of attic worms, gnawing attic rats, Nazis, and communion wine of all sisters’ blood. Blake recognizes that his obsession for Rosemary betrays both him and his sister. Brother Rat believes that he and his sister will be murdered but hopes that new life can come after the battle.
Sister Rat, also known as Kay, Blake’s sister. On her first day home from the mental institution, she believes that she has been betrayed by her mother, God, and Blake. A light black woman with the head of a human but the stomach and the tail of a rat, she cries constantly and wants Blake to protect her from herself as well as the gnawing rats, the Nazis, and the Procession but does not trust that he will. Desperately lighting candles with her brother against the invading battle sounds, she remembers their adoration of Rosemary’s Italian ancestry and her Catholic practices. Kay longs for the return of the holy time, before she was sent to Georgia to bear her brother’s baby. Kay is on constant guard against others who may be eavesdropping. She wants to forget but knows that neither she nor her brother ever will. Sister Rat also believes that she and Brother Rat will be murdered.
Rosemary, the most beautiful child in school, jealous of Brother Rat and Sister Rat’s family bond. A proud Italian Catholic who wears a white First Communion dress and who attends catechism classes, Rosemary “has worms in her hair.” She wishes to destroy Brother Rat and Sister Rat’s allegiance to each other. Rosemary entices Blake into initiating sexual intercourse with his sister and then watches. She forces them to swear an oath of secrecy. Later, Rosemary denies Blake’s plea to save them and suggests instead that he shoot himself in the head with his father’s shotgun. While Sister Rat prays, Rosemary asks Blake to come with her, but Blake refuses because he realizes that he cannot recover the innocence of spring with Rosemary. Rosemary, too, hears the Nazis, but she interprets their approach as her wedding to Blake, a wedding that climaxes in the shotgun murder of both Brother Rat and Sister Rat.
The Procession, made up of Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Two Wise Men, and a Shepherd. The Procession serves as the connection between past and present. Watching and marching with malignant potential, the characters in the Procession represent the approaching Nazis. Aware of the Procession’s malevolent power, Kay and Blake threaten to hang its characters to gain their own freedom. The Procession believes the time to have been Easter. With no place in a resurrection scenario, they exit, only to return with shotguns. The Procession does not allow Brother Rat and Sister Rat to escape; its members shoot until both are dead.