Below are some discussion topics and activities that might be of interest to teachers regarding Rats!
1. Do the rats in the play act like real rats or are they a mixture of rats and humans? What is the reason for doing this? How does the author use the rat family in the play to satirise and echo human behaviour? Which human traits does he exaggerate for the purposes of the satire? How does this help the play dramatically? Does it help the audience to identify with the characters, or maintain a distance from them, or both?
2. Daddy Rat is a tyrant to his family. Part of Daddy’ s control over his family is physical and part is psychological. In what ways does he physically dominate his family? In what ways does he psychologically dominate his family? In human society what do we call behaviour like Daddy Rat’s?
3. What are some of the beliefs that Mummy Rat and Sonny Rat have about themselves and about Daddy Rat that helps Daddy Rat have power over them? To some extent Mummy Rat, Sonny Rat and Daddy Rat are all imprisoned by their beliefs. How can beliefs imprison us?
4. How does Mummy Rat respond when threatened by her husband? What are some of her “techniques” for handling Daddy? How has Mummy Rat changed by the end of the play? What are the factors that help change her attitude? What is Daddy Rat’ s final insult that breaks the spell that he holds over her and which causes her to leave him?
5. What is Sonny Rat’ s response to his father’ s bullying? How does Rebel Rat influence him? What is the final straw that causes Sonny Rat to turn against his father? What is Sonny’ s attitude towards his father by the end of the play?
6. How does Rebel Rat handle Daddy Rat? Why is she not frightened of him? Why is Daddy Rat intimidated by her? What is the significance of Rebel Rat’ s name? What values in the rat family does she question and challenge? What kind of society does she want?
7. Rebel Rat is one of the forces of change in the play. What are some of the other forces? How do they challenge the rat family to change? What role do they have in creating the conflicts, both between individual characters and within individual characters, that are essential to the play?
8. Another related theme in the play is freedom and the fear of freedom and change. Why is the rat family so reluctant to change? What is attractive to them about their life in the cage? What potential threats do they face outside the cage? What threat do they face by remaining inside the cage? What potential freedoms or advantages are there in leaving the cage? For whom and in which ways?
9. Despite the many warnings Daddy Rat strongly denies the reality of his situation and the danger he is in. Why does he do this? What does he have to lose by leaving the cage?
10. The use of the rat cage is both practical and symbolic in the play. How is the cage used in a practical way to create the tension that drives the play? How is the cage used symbolically to bring out the themes of the play?
11. One issue raised by the play is vivisection. How are rats used in experiments? Are these experiments justified? Are there alternatives to using live animals in experiments? What is your point of view on this subject?
12. The relationship between people and rats has not been good. Down through the ages rats have been blamed for many things, particularly for spreading disease. How true is this? In which other ways have rats been vilified by people in the past?
13. Another interesting issue raised by the play concerns colour prejudice. What colour are the rats in the cage? What is their attitude to the rats that live outside the cage? Which human trait or tendency is being satirised here?
14. Who are some of the unseen characters in the play? What is their role in the drama from a plot point of view?