The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux

by

Kate DiCamillo

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The Tale of Despereaux: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Soon after, a new prisoner arrives in the dungeon. Roscuro and Botticelli watch him come in, and Roscuro vows to make this man suffer. However, as the door to the dungeon flies open and lets in bright afternoon sunlight, Botticelli covers his eyes, and Roscuro stares right into the light and gasps with wonder. The soldier at the top of the stairs tosses down the prisoner’s red cloth, which Gregory hands to the man. Once the door is closed again, Roscuro asks Botticelli if he saw “that.” Botticelli grouses that the light was inappropriate and ugly, but Roscuro sighs that it was beautiful. He must go upstairs and see more of it. At this, Botticelli reminds Roscuro that they’re rats: they love darkness and suffering.
At first, it seems like Botticelli is making headway in getting Roscuro to conform to standard rat behavior. But Roscuro can’t ignore his interest in light, bright, beautiful things—things that are the exact opposite of the dark dungeon, where nothing but suffering occurs. Note too that Roscuro is ready to leave the dungeon altogether at this point, if it means he can pursue his interests. Put another way, he might not be as connected to his fellow rats as one might expect, if he’s willing to leave them all behind.
Themes
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When Roscuro continues to argue, Botticelli reminds him that mice live upstairs. He pulls out his locket, the rope of which is made of mouse whiskers. Mice, Botticelli spits, are despicable, terrified, and live upstairs—and rats do not want to live in the mice’s world. Roscuro continues to stare at the sliver of light under the door as Botticelli tells him to torture the prisoner and take the man’s red cloth. As Botticelli swings his locket, he makes Roscuro repeat that he’s a rat. Roscuro closes his eyes. In his mind, he sees the prisoner’s red cloth being tossed down, against a backdrop of light. He tells himself he wants the cloth, not the light.
Botticelli’s reasoning for why Roscuro can’t go upstairs is complex: it’s not just that the light upper floors of the castle are good (rather than evil and dark like the dungeon). Rather, they also contain beings that rats want nothing to do with—and judging by Botticelli’s mouse-whisker rope, beings that rats usually dominate. Put another way, the dungeon is where rats are the supreme beings, rather than either mice or people. They have power there. But Roscuro, as a rat interested in more than darkness and suffering, has less power than his fellow rats.
Themes
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