By the Bog of Cats

By the Bog of Cats Summary and Analysis of Part 5


Hester speaks ill of Carthage, trying to dissuade Josie from going with him on his honeymoon with Caroline. As Josie covers her ears, Hester tells her that Carthage promised to marry her after they had a child, but he never did. "All me life people have walked away without a word of explanation. Well, I want to tall you somethin', Josie, if you lave me, ya'll die."

Hester explains that she is transferring the curse that she received to her daughter, but Josie insists that she will choose to live with Hester no matter what. Hester immediately apologizes to her daughter and tells her she will reverse the curse. They begin to waltz together to song, "By the Bog of Cats." Hester then tells Josie she can go to the wedding for half an hour.

Josie runs off to the wedding, leaving Hester to eat some wedding cake. Xavier enters with a gun and expresses his rage that Hester has burned down the house. When Hester makes reference to Xavier's late son, Xavier becomes very angry, and insists that he died in a tragic accident. Hester attests that Xavier, upset with the fact that his son was not tougher, poisoned his beloved dog with strychnine, which in turn killed his son. Xavier insults Hester's mother, calling her a "five-shillin' hoor," but this does little to offend Hester. Suddenly, he grabs her and uses the gun to look down her dress, but she manages to get away.

He tells her she has to leave, but Hester puts her mouth over the barrel of the gun and tells him to shoot her. Carthage runs onstage, shocked that everything is on fire. He tells Hester that he is going to take Josie away from her and have her put away for what she did to her brother. "Tell them!" Hester fires back, "And tell them your own part in it too while you're at it!"

Xavier tries to get involved, but Carthage sends him away, telling him not to meddle. They get in a fight in which Carthage says that he does not need Xavier's land, as "there's other things besides land." Xavier counters, "There's nothin' besides land, boy, nothin!" and leaves. When they are left alone, Hester asks Carthage to let her live in the caravan with Josie, but he refuses. Hester then brings up the fact that he was part of killing her brother, but that she would never tell anyone about it.

When Carthage refuses to admit his part in the murder of her brother, Hester insists, "Ya helped me tie a stone around his waist!" She tells him that she wanted to kill her brother because he represented the fact that her mother had a whole other family. She then tells him that Joseph's ghost visited her earlier, and suggests that he cannot get rid of the past by getting rid of her.

Caroline enters with a bottle of wine and gives it to Hester. Before she leaves, Caroline tells Hester that she will be good to Josie whenever she stays with them and keep an eye on her always. She talks about how she and her late mother used to always talk about how nice her wedding day would be. Hester identifies with Caroline's longing for her mother, and Caroline promises to not let Carthage take Josie away from Hester. When she exits, Hester goes into the caravan and gets a fishing knife and teases it across her throat, about to slit it.

Suddenly, Josie runs in and interrupts, telling her mother she's going to leave with Carthage and Caroline soon. Hester tells Josie that she's going away too. Josie asks Hester to take her with her, and Hester tells her to close her eyes. When Josie does, Hester cuts her daughter's throat. "It's because ya wanted to come, Josie," Hester says, before letting out "a terrible animal heat wail." The Catwoman comes in and sees what's happening before calling to everyone.

Hester says to everyone, "...she's mine and I wouldn't have her waste her life dreamin' about me and yees thwartin' her with black stories against me." The Ghost Fancier enters and takes Hester away in a death dance with the fishing knife, which ends up in Hester's heart.


Josie, Hester's daughter, is the only person Hester has left, but towards the end of the play, Hester realizes that she may just lose her too. Carthage and Caroline have invited Josie on their honeymoon, and she is excited to go with them. Hester knows that Carthage intends to separate her from her daughter, and she can already see the ways that Josie has been taken in by their offerings and wealth. Just when Hester has lost everything, she runs the risk of losing the one person she can count on, her daughter who has her mother's name.

In her desperation not to lose her daughter, Hester transfers the curse she received from the Catwoman and her mother onto Josie. She says that if Josie goes off and leaves her forever, Josie will die, cursing her own child to the fate that she has had to endure. Once again, Hester chooses to transfer the pain that was passed to her by her abusive mother onto her child, which reveals the ways that intergenerational trauma is inherited and repurposed throughout time.

In this final section of the play, we see that the class distinctions between characters, which has had such concrete effects on their lives, have little to do with the characters' moral characters. Xavier, who is of a higher economic class than Hester and regularly calls her a tinker, uses his gun to look down her dress in a violent way and threatens to rape her. We also learn from Hester that he is responsible for the death of his own son. In this moment, no character is protected by their class or their rank. Rather, all are exposed as unethical and malevolent in their own ways. As Hester tells Xavier, " I can tell the darkness in you, ya know how? Because it mirrors me own."

The stakes of the play are quite high, and none of the characters are without moral blemishes. Indeed, the protagonist, Hester Swane, is a menacing and impulsive woman capable of great evil. She is a female anti-hero, a violent, vengeful, and stubborn woman who has murdered and is incapable of moving on from the past. Indeed, many of the characters have been touched by death, often of their own making. Marina Carr's play presents epic stakes that take their lead from ancient Greek tragedy, and Carr suggested that the plot of the play was in part inspired by the myth of Medea, and the play, Medea, written by Euripides.

Ultimately, the play is about motherhood, and the deep bond between a mother and daughter. Hester has been traumatized by the loss of her mother, waiting anxiously for her return, and fears losing her daughter Josie to Carthage and his new wife, Caroline. The one way in which Caroline and Hester can relate to one another is in their longing for their mothers. Both women long to connect with their late mothers, and are heartbroken about the ways that society has torn them away from them. The play then transgresses taboo to show a maniacal and demented motherhood, when Hester kills Josie in order to be with her always.