Rat - Culture - Fiction

Fiction

See also: Fancy rat#Fiction

Depictions of rats in fiction are historically inaccurate and negative. The most common falsehood is the squeaking almost always heard in otherwise realistic portrayals (i.e. nonanthropomorphic). While the recordings may be of actual squeaking rats, the noise is uncommon - they may do so only if distressed, hurt, or annoyed. Normal vocalizations are very high-pitched, well outside the range of human hearing. Rats are also often cast in vicious and aggressive roles when in fact, their shyness helps keep them undiscovered for so long in an infested home.

The actual portrayals of rats vary from negative to positive with a majority in the negative and ambiguous. The rat plays a villain in several mouse societies; from Brian Jacques's Redwall and Robin Jarvis's The Deptford Mice, to the roles of Disney's Professor Ratigan and Kate DiCamillo's Roscuro and Botticelli. They have often been used as a mechanism in horror; being the titular evil in stories like The Rats or H.P. Lovecraft's The Rats in the Walls and in films like Willard and Ben. Another terrifying use of rats is as a method of torture, for instance in Room 101 in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four or The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe.

Selfish helpfulness —those willing to help for a price— has also been attributed to fictional rats. Templeton, from E. B. White's Charlotte's Web, repeatedly reminds the other characters that he is only involved because it means more food for him, and the cellar-rat of John Masefield's The Midnight Folk requires bribery to be of any assistance.

By contrast, the rats appearing in the Doctor Dolittle books tend to be highly positive and likeable characters, many of whom tell their remarkable life stories in the Mouse and Rat Club established by the animal-loving doctor.

Some fictional works use rats as the main characters. Notable examples include the society created by O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Doctor Rat, Rizzo the Rat from The Muppets, and animated films such as Pixar's Ratatouille. Mon oncle d'Amérique ("My American Uncle"), a 1980 French film, illustrates Henri Laborit's theories on evolutionary psychology and human behaviors by using short sequences in the storyline showing lab rat experiments.

In Harry Turtledove's science fiction novel Homeward Bound, humans unintentionally introduce rats to the ecology at the home world of an alien race which previously invaded Earth and introduced some of its own fauna into its environment. And A. Bertram Chandler pitted his space-bound protagonist, Commodore Grimes, against giant, intelligent rats who took over several stellar systems and enslaved their human inhabitants. "The Stainless Steel Rat" is nickname of the (human) protagonist of a series of humorous science fiction novels written by Harry Harrison.

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Famous quotes containing the word fiction:

    To value the tradition of, and the discipline required for, the craft of fiction seems today pointless. The real Arcadia is a lonely, mountainous plateau, overbouldered and strewn with the skulls of sheep slain for vellum and old bitten pinions that tried to be quills. It’s forty rough miles by mule from Athens, a city where there’s a fair, a movie house, cotton candy.
    Alexander Theroux (b. 1940)

    The purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after-effects in the reader’s mind as differing from, say, the purpose of oratory or philosophy which respectively leave people in a fighting or thoughtful mood.
    F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940)

    Coincidence is a pimp and a cardsharper in ordinary fiction but a marvelous artist in the patterns of facts recollected by a non-ordinary memorist.
    Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977)