Claire brings a large and strange collection of things with her to Güllen, and among them is her caged pet panther. The animal’s presence invokes Claire’s old nickname for Ill—she used to call him her “black panther.” But Ill and the cat share more than just a name—both are imprisoned by the same mistress (one in a cage, the other on the losing side of a hellish ultimatum) and they meet the same tragic end at the hands of the townspeople. Such similarities, of course, invite us to see Ill and the panther as kindred subjects, companions in suffering condemned to die at the hands of those who fear them. The panther is Ill’s animal complement—a symbol of what he ultimately becomes in the eyes of his killers, which is something less-than-human and, therefore, conscionably killable. The parallel between Ill and the panther also underscores Claire’s treatment of the people of the world as pets whom she can rename, belittle, exile, or even kill at her whim. This is behavior that, of course, the townspeople ultimately accept, despite that it dehumanizes them, too. So the panther evokes the loss of humanity among the townspeople who abandon their principles and allow themselves to be made into tools to be manipulated by Claire.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Black Panther appears in The Visit. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...Ill calling Claire his “little wildcat” and “little sorceress” and Claire calling Ill her “black panther.” Ill proceeds to shower his former lover with praise, confident that flattery will win her... (full context)
...luggage, which includes not only many suitcases, but also a coffin and a caged black panther. Claire has also brought along two small, blind eunuchs named Koby and Loby, who repeat... (full context)
...Ill challenges the officer, but the Policeman abruptly ends their conversation, explaining that Claire’s black panther has escaped and that he must hunt it down. “The whole town has to hunt... (full context)
...explains away the gun, indicating that he has only armed himself in case Claire’s escaped panther approaches him. Ill remains suspicious of the Mayor (whom he notices is also smoking a... (full context)
...The Pastor, like the Mayor, totes a shotgun with which to defend himself from Claire’s panther. When Ill shares his concerns about the potentially malevolent intentions of the townsfolk, the Pastor... (full context)