Piers Plowman


William Langland

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Cat Symbol Icon

The neighborhood cat that torments the rats represents a tyrannical ruler and the danger of unbridled power. The cat’s behavior means that the rats live in perpetual fear, mirroring the impact of a tyrannical ruler on his powerless subjects. Although the rats want to reclaim some of their independence by tying a bell to the cat’s neck—so that they can avoid the cat when they hear it approaching—none of the rats are brave enough to be the one to fasten the bell to the cat’s collar. This echoes the way that oppressive rulers breed feelings of helplessness and cowardliness among their subjects, forcing them to stick to the status quo.

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Cat Symbol Timeline in Piers Plowman

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cat appears in Piers Plowman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Corruption Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
...few mice holding a “council for their common profit.” The rats complain about the neighborhood cat, who torments them endlessly for its own amusement. The cat’s behavior makes all of the... (full context)
Corruption Theme Icon
Social Hierarchy, Community, and Selfishness Theme Icon
...the rats that even if they managed to go so far as to kill the cat, it wouldn’t be long until there was another cat in the neighborhood to torment them.... (full context)