By the Bog of Cats

By the Bog of Cats Summary and Analysis of Part 2


Josie and Mrs. Kilbride play a game called Snap, and Mrs. Kilbride belittles Josie for not winning any games. She also uses this as an opportunity to belittle Hester. Josie rebels by calling Mrs. Kilbride "Granny," but she insists on being called "Grandmother." When Josie spells her own name, Mrs. Kilbride snaps at her that she's not a "Kilbride" but a "Swane." "You're Hester Swane's bastard," she snarls.

Mrs. Kilbride goes on a tangent about how Hester comes from the "tinker class," then brags that she has saved 3,000 pounds, while Hester has nothing. Carthage comes in and tells Mrs. Kilbride to leave Josie alone. When Mrs. Kilbride leaves, Josie tells Carthage that Hester plans to prevent the wedding from happening.

Scene 5. Caroline Cassidy, 20, comes to Hester's house in her wedding dress. She tells Hester that Hester is not entitled to the house anymore as she signed it away. Hester tells Caroline that she's the one that helped Carthage, rather than the other way around, before saying, " frigid little Daddy's girl is goin' to take him from me."

Caroline threatens to have her father chase Hester off the property with a shotgun, but Hester isn't scared. Then Caroline offers to pay her money to leave—all of the 19,000 pounds that her parents gave her on her wedding day—but Hester does not want it. Hester reminds Caroline that she has been with Carthage since they were 16. She also reminds her that she used to babysit Caroline, and that Caroline used to love spending time with Hester after her mother had died and her father began gambling and drinking. Hester tells Caroline, "...there's two Hester Swanes, one that is decent and very fond of ya despite your callow treatment of me. And the other Hester, well, she could slide a knife down your face, carve ya up and not bat an eyelid." Caroline leaves, insisting that Hester will be sorry for her stubbornness.

Scene 6. Hester lights a cigar, as Josie enters with a shawl on her head, pretending to be Mrs. Kilbride. Josie brags about all the money she has saved, and Hester tells Josie to go and wash her teeth, as Carthage comes in in his wedding suit. Hester scolds Carthage for wiping out 14 years of their relationship. She begs him to stay, telling him she hasn't had a drink since he left. When she alludes to the traumatic reason she started drinking in the first place, he tells her not to talk about it.

Carthage tells her that Caroline's father signed his farm over to him that evening, but Hester suggests that everyone is calling him "a jumped-up land-hungry mongrel." When she tells him that if he marries Caroline she will keep Josie away from him, he insists that he will bring it to court and get custody of Josie. "I only have to mention your drinkin' or your night roamin' or the way ya sleep in that dirty auld caravan and lave Josie alone in the house."

Carthage takes out an envelope that contains what he calls her "blood money" and tells her to leave the land by dusk, or he will try and take Josie from her, but Hester refuses to take it. After throwing the envelope in the snow, Carthage leaves. Josie rushes back in. Soon after, Caroline and her father Xavier enter in wedding clothes. Hester pulls out a bottle of whiskey and drinks, insisting that she's staying. She then gives Caroline and Xavier the envelope of blood money that Carthage tried to give her, saying that she's buying back her property that she sold.


Hester is up against not only her family history, trauma, and the curse that was placed upon her as a child, but also the snobbery and classism that she faces from her community and her in-laws. We see this most explicitly in Mrs. Kilbride's relationship to Josie and Hester. Mrs. Kilbride, Josie's grandmother, thinks that Josie is inferior because of her mother's lower-class status, as she comes from the "tinker class." She does not hesitate to tell the girl so, saying that both she and her mother are "thick." Kilbride is exceedingly salty in her communication with her granddaughter, never mincing words and insisting that she can always do better.

In spite of her lower status, Hester is confident that she is the one to whom Carthage owes everything. She tells Caroline Cassidy, "It was me who tould him he could do better. It was my money that bought his first fine acres. It was in my bed he slowly turned from a slavish pup to a man and no frigid little Daddy's girl is goin' to take him from me." Here we see the extent to which Hester feels entitled to Carthage, her conviction that he is the one that depends on her rather than the other way around. For all her desperation and delusion, Hester certainly has a lot of confidence.

As Hester says herself, when she is intimidating Caroline, there are two sides to her character. One side is kind and loving and the other is ruthless and stubborn. We see both of these sides in the play. She is angry and aggressive with Caroline, spitting venom at her, while also remembering a time when Caroline needed her. Then, in the next scene, she is affectionate and loving with her daughter, Josie. Hester has many different moods and sides, at times vengeful and violent, and at others warm and loving. In this way, she is antiheroic, someone with whom the audience sympathizes but who also has very human flaws and pain.

In her interaction with Carthage, we see yet another side of Hester, a vulnerable and frightened side. She begs him to return to her, and tries to get him to see that all of the respectability he is chasing after is futile, but he is intent on his new life. The bluster and confidence that Hester has exhibited hitherto become much softer when she is faced with actually losing Carthage, who it appears is the love of her life. Mixed in with her desperate desire for her former lover is her desire to stay in the Bog of Cats, where she was born and where she's always intended to stay. Her single-mindedness and sharp stubbornness obscure a deep insecurity and inner terror.

The play follows a rather straightforward and repetitive dramatic structure, in which the other characters are constantly trying to get Hester to go along with their plans, but she resists, insisting that she is entitled to stay on the land where she was born. No matter the bribes, pleading, or force that others try to use to convince Hester, she remains tied to the bog, convinced that she is entitled to it and that she is being cheated of her birthright. While different characters have different reasons for wanting her to yield—Monica thinks she'd be better off leaving, Catwoman invokes a prophecy and suggests she will die if she remains, and Carthage and Caroline simply want her gone—they each must contend with her force of will, her refusal to budge.