“Rupert's extremely radical. Do you know that he selects his books on the assumption that people not only can read but actually can think?”
Brandon says this to the group assembled for the dinner, and in so doing reveals his cynically witty outlook on the world. In his estimation, Cadell can both consume information and analyze it adequately, unlike most people. The quotation reveals two things about Brandon's character: that he is a witty conversationalist, reveling in ironic commentary, and also that he has a cynical outlook on most things. He does not hold out much hope that people will be able to analyze the information that they are given. This cynicism shows that Brandon thinks most people are inferior to himself and to Cadell. Brandon's comment is a response to Janet’s statement that the books Cadell prefers—philosophical books—do not sell. Rather than agree with Janet that Cadell is in a niche literary bracket, he puts the general readership down by satirizing the idea that a general readership would be able to "actually think."
“I never strangled a chicken in my life!”
This exclamation of Phillip’s is one of the first clues that Cadell picks up indicating that all is not as it should be. Phillip, clearly unable to handle the tension of the dinner party as well as Brandon can, lies about having never strangled a chicken. Phillip's denial of his strangling chickens reveals that he has an acutely paranoid belief that any act of violence with which he is associated will lead to his implication in David’s absence. In contrast to Brandon's cool demeanor, Phillip acts guilty and agitated, denying and worrying. This quote reveals Phillip's inability to handle the pressure of the implications of his murderous act.
Brandon: “Mrs. Wilson, champagne!”
Kenneth: “Oh, it isn't someone's birthday is it?”
Brandon: “Don't look so worried, Kenneth. It's, uh, really almost the opposite.”
This exchange further illustrates the stark contrast between Phillip and Brandon's response to the murder. While Phillip sinks deeper into anxiety and paranoia, Brandon seems determined to gloat about the murder, obliquely referencing it in conversation, treating it as an accomplishment rather than a crime. By dropping subtle hints like this one, Brandon exhibits his own egotistical gall. Kenneth has no idea what Brandon means by suggesting that the dinner party is the opposite of a birthday, but the audience understands the nefarious subtext of the comment. At this stage in the movie, Brandon toys with his dinner guests to prove to himself his superiority over them.
“Cat and mouse, cat and mouse! But who is the cat and who is the mouse?”
Arguably the most famous line of the film, Phillip exclaims this when he can no longer bear the strain of his and Brandon's potential discovery by Cadell, after he returns to the apartment. Although Brandon smugly “plays around” with the guests throughout the evening, much like a cat playing with its prey, Cadell slowly turns the tables on the murderers, making them feel that they are the hunted, rather than the hunter. Here Phillip becomes exasperated with the dynamic of oblique accusation. Intoxicated and anxious, he almost invites the explication of their crime by becoming so visibly upset.
“Did you think you were God, Brandon?”
Even though it was Cadell who taught Philip and Brandon about the Nietzschean notion of the superior man, their devilish act disturbs him and leads him to scold the boys about their murder of David. Having discovered the body in the chest, Cadell is horrified and questions them excitedly. With this statement, Cadell challenges the notion that any man is superior enough to decide the fate of another. Cadell is incredibly upset and calls Brandon on the root cause of his crime—the confused notion of his own superiority and his belief in himself as a kind of all-powerful, God-like figure. Brandon and Phillip's deed leads Cadell to the realization that no man is entitled to feel superiority over or decide the fate of another man. Doing so, he suggests, is an act of hubris because it is a false presumption of omnipotence.
“It's not what I'm going to do, Brandon. It's what society is going to do. I don't know what that will be, but I can guess, and I can help. You're going to die, Brandon. Both of you. You are going to die.”
This quote comes at the same moment in the film as the previous quote, in which Cadell is scolding the two murderers for their horrible crime and their presumption of superiority. Angry and upset, Cadell assures the men that they will be punished for their crime, that society will wield its dominance over them and bring them to justice, most likely via the death penalty. While Brandon had been so egotistical and foolish to believe that he could get away with the "perfect murder," Cadell assures him that there are severe and dire consequences for their actions.
Janet: "Well, now, you don't really approve of murder, Rupert? If I may?"
Rupert Cadell: "You may... and I do. Think of the problems it would solve: unemployment, poverty, standing in line for theatre tickets..."
Before he realizes the boys' crime, Rupert Cadell plays a strange philosophical role in their plot. At dinner, he discusses the notion of the Nietzschean superman, the idea that if certain "superior" men were entitled to murder those who they deemed inferior, then the world would be a better place. He outlines what such a social system would solve. In his estimation, it would fix unemployment and poverty. In a rather cavalier moment, he adds that it would improve waiting in line for theatre tickets, which seems to delight the other guests. In this moment it is revealed that Cadell's philosophy is not so far removed from Brandon's.
"Nothing matters... except that Mr. Brandon liked the party. Mr. Brandon gave the party. Mr. Brandon had a delightful evening. Well, I had a rotten evening!"
After the party guests leave, Brandon confronts Phillip about the fact that he lied about wringing the necks of chickens at the farm, and wants to know why he would be so paranoid. Phillip is very drunk and becomes angry at Brandon, railing against the fact that Brandon is so controlling and dominant in their relationship, and that even if Brandon had a good time that evening, he did not. In this quote, Phillip finally stands up to Brandon, after feeling manipulated and taken advantage of by him for so long. While the two men have been so entangled in one another's affairs, after the murder and the anxiety-filled dinner party, Phillip seeks to differentiate his identity from that of Brandon's. Phillip accuses Brandon of only thinking of himself.
"I've always wished for more artistic talent. Well, murder can be an art, too. The power to kill can be just as satisfying as the power to create."
Brandon says this line early in the film, before any of the dinner guests have arrived. The quote gives us a clue as to why he feels justified in having killed David, and why it gave him such a thrill. Brandon is not someone who ever appears particularly insecure, but here he confesses to Phillip that he has always wished for artistic talent. In the absence of actual artistic gifts, he believes that he can make his life artful by murdering David Kentley, a man he deems inferior. This quote shows just how twisted Brandon's logic is; he believes that killing someone can give someone the same feeling as creating something.
"It's only a piece of rope Phillip, an ordinary household article. Why hide it?"
Before the guests arrive, Phillip becomes upset when he notices the piece of rope they used to strangle David Kentley hanging out of the chest in which they are stowing the body. He wants to dispose of the rope to eliminate all evidence against them, but Brandon is determined to keep the rope around. Part of Brandon's egotism is his belief that he can get away with anything, even flaunting incriminating evidence in front of his unknowing party guests. Brandon sees nothing wrong with keeping the murder weapon around, because his guests will see the object not as a murder weapon, but as a simple piece of rope. Brandon's insistence that they keep the weapon is part of his perverse grandiosity.
Rope Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Rope is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.