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The Catbird Seat

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Alexis Andersen

on 12 November 2013

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Transcript of The Catbird Seat

The Catbird Seat
James Thurber
Alexis Andersen

Significance of title
"The Catbird Seat" means to have the upper hand, and to use your power out of control. In this short story Mr. Martin uses his power in his work place to get his boss to believe that Mrs. Barrows has had a mental breakdown, and he believes him.
Most of Thurber's work has the theme of Men and Women, usually a strong woman and a weak man trying to live together in society. In The Catbird Seat, Mr. Martin is a weak nervous man, while Mrs. Barrows is a strong, domineering woman. The theme demonstrates that although Mrs. Barrows is ruining the firm that they work at, Mr. Martin has the upper hand and makes his boss believe that Mrs. Barrows has had a break down.
P.O.V and significance
The point of view in the story is Limited Omniscent, this means that the story was written by the narrator in the third person view. Limited omniscent is when the narrator shows you that they know little to nothing about one character but tells us mostly everything about one of the characters, like how they feel and what they see. The author points out that Mr. Martin doesn't smoke or drink but in the beginning of the story shows him buying a pack of camels at a cigar store to throw everybody off, and it is all the plot to kill Mrs. Barrows.
Symbol Or Mood
Mr. Erwin Martin - particular and remarkably efficient in his work; model employee

Mrs. Ulgine Barrows - loud, vulgar, has a lot of power

Mr. Fitweiler - the susceptible boss

Old Roberts - Personal Chief
Setting and its Impact
The setting of The Catbird Seat is set in New York in the early 1940's. This setting effects the story because it shows you how a situation can turn out when you are someone of higher power or advantage.
Conflict and its Resolution
The conflict of The Catbird Seat is that Mrs. Barrows is ruining their place of work because she has the upper hand in the work place and Mr. Martin plans on killing her.
The resolution to the story is that Mr. Martin doesn't end up killing Mrs. Barrows but instead makes his boss believe that she has had a mental breakdown and is unable to work any longer.
Writing Style
The writing most used in this short story is Irony. It's ironic that Mr. Martin's reputation as a hard working, quiet, and timid man could possibly get away with killing someone. It is also ironic that he is smoking and drinking and saying things like ‘‘I’ll be coked to the gills when I bump that old buzzard off’ which is very unlikely of him.
How the story is "an autobiography of the human race"
The Catbird Seat relates to the autobiography of the human race in the way that we all can't get along, as unfair and cruel as it is, the world is an imperfect place. Thurber shows us that men and women can't always see eye to eye in every situation and sometimes we think and also pursue things that are bad or unlikely and rash. But killing someone is not the answer, let karma play it's roll and step back and watch.
"The human heart in conflict with itself"
The Catbird Seat allows you to look into the heart of Mr. Martin and see that although he may hate Mrs. Barrows with a burning passion, he knew that killing her wasn't right and he had a change of heart. This short story shows you that although you may want to act out and do something you may regret, your heart will always point you in the right direction.
The mood of the story is almost like a dark comedy. It's funny how Mr. Martin goes to a cigar store and buys camels like he has been smoking all his life, but in the end he is only buying them in a plot to kill Mrs. Barrows, making it dark when it twists in the middle of the story.
Full transcript