The Rat Catcher Ending: Why Don’t the Rats Eat the Poisoned Oats?

‘The Rat Catcher’ is another quirky tale from the universe of Wes Anderson, with its roots in the eponymous short story by Roald Dahl. The titular protagonist enters the scene with the claim that he is a master rat catcher who “knows” anything and everything about the creature that lives in the sewers. The man, who is proud to be described as a rat, sets out to kill the rats that infested a hayrick. After delivering an elaborate speech about how to kill the rats using poisoned oats, the infamous rat catcher fails to put an end to the creatures’ lives. The narrator then wonders why the rats don’t touch the oats, making the viewers intrigued about the same. Well, here’s our take on it! SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Rat Catcher Ending: The Rats’ “Nutritious” Feast

When the rat catcher meets Claud, he claims to be a master rat killer. He dismisses Claud’s half-knowledge concerning the affair and teaches the shop owner how to effectively catch the rodents using oats. The rat catcher details that he would feed the rats fresh oats day after day so that the “suspicious” rats would start to trust the food. When the rats from the entire district eventually wait for the oats, the rat catcher plans to feed them poisoned oats and kill them for good. He puts his plan into motion but the rats don’t touch the poisoned oats kept by the rat catcher, making him look like a failure.

Claud then enquires why the rats don’t eat the poisoned oats, only for the rat catcher to say that someone must be feeding the rats enough food to fill their tummies. As far as the rat catcher is concerned, only the well-fed rats would stay away from oats. Claud and the narrator then wonder how the rats are fed. The chances of someone intentionally feeding the rats regularly are little to none, especially when the whole region is suffering due to the unbearable presence of this creature. From the rat catcher’s words, it is clear that everybody in the region, irrespective of rich and poor, is seeking his service to kill the rats.

If that’s the case, the rats must have a mysterious food source, most likely hidden in the hayrick where rats are mostly seen. It won’t be a surprise if that food source is none other than the Ole Bill Jonesy. Bill is not a character that features in the short film. Still, he seems to be an integral part of the narrative of the same. Bill only appears in a poster pasted on the notice board of the “News of the Day Journal.” He is someone who has been missing for three weeks. The man must have vanished from the region because he, his dead body to be specific, ended up inside the hayrick.

Bill Jonesy must have died and his dead body somehow might have gotten trapped inside the hayrick. After a couple of weeks of decaying, the rats must have started to feast on the dead body of the missing man. If Bill was a healthy man, it is reasonable to conclude that his body must have been feeding a fairly large rat family for days if not for weeks. If that’s the case, Bill is the “nutritious” meal the narrator talks about in the closing scene of the short film. The rats can’t be blamed for choosing the same instead of a small pile of poisoned oats that are kept outside the hayrick as well.

Anderson places Bill’s existence extremely subtly in the narrative of ‘The Rat Catcher.’ Although he exists only in one of the several posters pasted on the board in a journal’s office, the poster is comparatively bigger and the portrait of the person attracts the viewers to the same. Since the poster appears in the center of the frame when the narrator and Claud wonder what’s hidden in the hayrick, it is safe to say that Bill being the nutritious meal is not a wild theory.

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