By the Bog of Cats

Figures of Authority in By the Bog of Cats College

Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats, contained in three acts and set in the bogs of Midland Ireland, follows the tragic story of Hester Swane as she experiences abandonment, betrayal, and prejudice from the Bog’s other inhabitants. Here, authority presents itself not in any single form, but as many facets of an umbrella force that is both natural and supernatural. The three most prominent facets of that force are father figures, religious figures, and the community as a whole, but these are further entwined by logic and the binary definitions of masculinity and femininity as well. Moreover, Carr’s characters only demonstrate any meaningful resistance toward the father figures and the community; religious figures, on the other hand, are made complicated and stripped of their authority.

Dealing first with father figures, three relationships are of interest: Xavier Cassidy/Hester Swane, Xavier Cassidy/Caroline Cassidy, and Carthage Kilbride/Josie Kilbride. Xavier Cassidy, a wealthy farmer, can be considered as a surrogate parental figure for Hester. He tells Hester that he would occasionally leave food and money for her and her mother at their caravan, and when that was not sufficient, he would bring Hester home for his own mother to...

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