Page fifteen opens with ‘pipe music’, this gives the audience a sense of what the story of Der Rattenfanger is about even if they fail to understand the German title. Pipe music is usually associated with the story of the Pied Piper, which is what we later discover Der Rattenfanger expresses.
As Faith reads the title of Der Rattenfanger Eva asks her ‘Mutti’ the question of what an abyss is, this is significant in regards to describing the character of The Ratcatcher, an abyss is usually associated with separation and loss, both of which The Ratcatcher personifies. That he is mentioned with association to an abyss foreshadows what is to happen with Eva and the relationship that she currently shares with her ‘Mutti’.
Page sixteen is the Ratcatcher’s first appearance in the play, he materialises from Faith and the audiences imagination and his first lines are rhetorical questions “Who is not counting? ”, “Who has forgotten their blessings? ” . The rhetorical questions are intended to influence the audiences’ opinion rather than requiring an answer to the questions posed. The cross-dialogue between Helga and The Ratcatcher ensures that all of The Ratcatcher’s lines are declaratives “I will find you”, “I will search you out whoever wherever you are”.
This enforces the idea of The Ratcatcher being a dominant character, The simile “eyes as sharp as razors” creates the impression that The Ratcacther is a being who inspires fear and gives the idea of an entity that haunts one’s nightmares. The dynamic verbs that are used when describing The Ratcatcher’s speech are all associated with antagonists, “It hissed”, “It spat”, referring to The Ratcatcher as an ‘It’ rather than a he dehumanises the character and adds to the antagonist or even entity feel. “A train whistle blows.
Sounds of busy railway station” the whistle of the train can be interpreted as symbolic of the Der Ratenfanger, the pied piper of Hamlen lured the children away from the town of Hamlen with his music when they refused to pay him for using the same method to rid them of their rat infestation, like the Ratcatcher the Kindertransport is taking the children away from their families and what they know into the unknown, it could also be a metaphor for Hitler, it was a direct result of his actions that led to the children being forced from their home country, rats is an nti-Semitic term for being Jewish, Goebbels wrote: “It is true that the Jew is a human being, but so is a Rat a living being – one that is none too pleasant . . . our duty towards both ourselves and our Conscience is to render it harmless. It is the same with the Jews”. The rats in the pied piper story could be interpreted as a metaphor for the children that would become victims of Nazi persecution.
I will take the heart of your happiness away” I interpret the heart of you happiness as being a metaphor for the loss of the children in the town of Hamelyn. The Ratcatcher is omnipresent throughout the play, he embodies all of the male antagonists, the guard, the Nazi, the border guard, and the station guard, the organiser and the postman are all derived from him, each character appears and creates tension for the audience, they all inspire fear in Eva and are the embodiment of loss and separation for both Eva and Evelyn, e. . , the loss of Eva’s money to the officer who searches her on the kindertransport, in contrast to this the postman actually delivers a parcel to Eva, which we discover is a letter from her mother along with a Jewish prayer book and her story book Der Rattenfanger. It seems that even when Eva attempts to run from her past der rattenfanger is always there on the edge of her mind and steadily creeping closer.
The Ratcatcher is the origin for provoking the characters and the audience into thinking about family and identity, he also forces the characters to contemplate how the present is affected by the past, and learning how to come to terms with our insecurities and fears, for instance at the end of Act one, Scene two where the “pipe music” and “shadow of the ratcatcher looms”, The Ratcatcher, who has already been established as an antagonist and representing fear and punishment foreshadows what is to come.
By the end of this scene we begin to realize the depth that Eva’s insecurities and fear of The Ratcatcher run, the cross-dialogue of Eva speaking with her future self-Evelyn gives the audience the impression that Eva/Evelyn may suffer from a duel personality or in the very least a severe mental condition, Eva being the naive and frightened voice here whilst Evelyn is the mature and dependable voice. Evelyn’s closing line for this scene “He won’t take you anywhere ever again”.
The he she refers to being the Ratcatcher, further enforces the idea that The Ratcatcher is the embodiment of loss and separation for Eva/Evelyn, the fact that Evelyn confronts the personification of her fear in this scene gives the audience the impression that Evelyn is beginning to come to terms with her past, although The Ratcatcher is still presented as a dark and brooding presence that Evelyn attempts to suppress and bury in the recess of her mind.
Courtney from Study Moose
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